The landscape of specialized biblical and theological dictionaries produces continual growth year-by-year. These dictionaries generally boast a more focused intention on content and tend to provide a unique product as an end goal. The level of usefulness of these dictionaries can vary greatly depending on the academic or personal interest of the individual. However, because of the distinctive quality of such works the price-point is generally out of reach for the average consumer—especially for a multi-volume work like that being reviewed here. The intersection of such usefulness and availability is tellingly rare in this distinctive reference genre, and thus when it is clearly observed attention should be widely merited.
This final volume of the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity (DDL) edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson completes a landmark resource in the field of biblical studies. DDL is one of those unique cases, like that mentioned above, where the usefulness and availability of the resource intersect at almost every point. The series is jam-packed with both valuable and vital information for understanding the biblical world. Furthermore, the sheer affordability of DDL should almost guarantee that the intentions of the editors and contributors can be enjoyed by both scholar and interested laity alike.
DDL contains a number of important and unique articles related to the domestic life, technology, culture, laws, and religious practices of the ancient world. While other top-tier multi-volume dictionaries (Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, International Standard Encyclopedia of the Bible, etc.) may interact with similar topics as DDL, it would be rare to see them interacting with the same level of detail as DDL, and certainly not in the same format. This fourth volume covers articles from “Oaths & Vows” to “Wild Animals and Hunting.” While all the articles provide an abundance of information, the articles on “Same-Sex Relations,” “Slavery,” and “Time” were among the most interesting in my opinion.
The strong points of DDL overflow with at least three major benefits. First, the scope and comprehensiveness of each of the articles are unique even among some of the other top-tier dictionaries. So, while other works may occasionally have similar articles as DDL, they are generally much briefer in scope than that offered in DDL. Second, the organization of each article cultivates a much broader comprehension of the subject discussed. Each article opens with a brief summary, followed by six major sections: (1) The Old Testament, (2) The New Testament, (3) The Ancient New Eastern World, (4) The Greco-Roman World, (5) The Jewish World, and (6) The Christian World. Thus, DDL tends to trace the topic of discussion much further (approximately 2000 BC to AD 600) and across a broader scope of cultural boundaries. Lastly, each article concludes with a healthy and up-to-date bibliography that is intentionally curated to catapult the curious reader in the right direction—and this is something that is certain to awaken excitement in my fellow bibliography enthusiasts.
The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity is a phenomenal achievement in the field of biblical studies. Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson have helpfully gathered together some of the most important information about the ancient world and packaged it in such a way to make it accessible and understandable to the average reader. From the far-reaching scope of the articles to the comprehensive exploration therein, DDL is a useful and affordable resource that merits immediate attention from any serious student of the Bible. I couldn’t think of a better reason to invest in this series today. Trust me; this is a resource you will want to consult often.