Review of Pitkin’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

by Vern S. Poythress

[Published in the Westminster Theological Journal 39/2 (spring 1977): 418-420. Used with permission.]

(Compiler) Ronald E. Pitkin: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Volume X. Index Volume. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976. 661. $20.50.


Except for a final article by Gerhard Friedrich on the “Prehistory of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” this final volume of TDNT consists entirely of indices compiled by Ronald E. Pitkin. The tenth volume of the German edition already provided indices, but these have had to be done afresh in English because of the difference in pagination in the English edition. Moreover, an index of English keywords has also been supplied (pp. 13-59). One can only be impressed by the immense labor involved.

The heart of the index system is the second index, “Index of Greek Keywords” (pp. 66-84). This lists in alphabetical order all Greek words to which an article or a portion of an article is devoted. But for cross references to semantically and morphologically related words, one must still refer to the individual articles.

I would rather have had the Greek index located more conveniently at the very beginning of Volume X. As it is, this index is preceded by an “Index of English Keywords” (pp. 13-59). The English index is essentially an alphabetization of English language equivalents of the Greek index. Sometimes, then, two or more articles may be referred to under a single English word. Under “old,” for example, one finds “1:486–487; V:717; 717–720; 720.” On turning to those pages one finds articles on ἀρχαῖος (1:486–487) and παλαιός (V: 717–720). From my casual inspection it appears that this index is fairly full. But inevitably, one must


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sometimes fish around a bit for the right English word. For example, quite properly enough, the English word “ancient,” in contrast to “old,” leads only to ἀρχαῖος and not to παλαιός. Neither “money-bag” nor “bag” nor “ wallet” but only “purse” will turn up the article on βαλλάντιον (1:525–526). Since this English index does not list the Greek words but only the page numbers of articles, I think that the English-to-Greek index in theEnglishman’s Greek Concordance, or the systems of cross references in Young’s Concordance and Strong’s Concordance, might serve nearly as well.

The third index is an “Index of Hebrew and Aramaic Words” (pp. 85-87). This lists only words which are the subject of a whole section or more of an article. It does not cross-reference every significant occurrence of the word. On the other hand, the fourth index, “Index of Biblical References” (pp. 89-592), aims to be exhaustive, and this will make it one of the more useful items in the volume. Under Genesis 5:24, for example, there are no less than 14 citations of places where the verse is referred to in the nine volumes. This seems rich, but upon closer inspection it is seen that most of these citations are obvious (corresponding to Greek words of Genesis 5:24 and related concepts like ἀναλαμβάνω). All the rest of the citations are remote (e.g., under οὐρανός is a reference to the cloud of theophany, supposedly associated with Elijah’s rapture and from there with Enoch, IV:905). Generally speaking, the student who is advanced enough to profit from this index will also be advanced enough to do his independent research without wasting his time with it. The index includes Old Testament apocrypha, but not pseudepigrapha, Qumran, or other extrabiblical primary sources.

The final index is of “Contributors and Co-Workers,” under whose names are lists of the articles on which they worked. Then follows a final article, Geoffrey Bromiley’s translation of Gerhard Friedrich’s interesting exposition of the historical steps leading up to TWNT. This definitely gives a “Prehistory” of TWNT. Friedrich discusses the question of the comparative influence of the Koine and LXX, but does not interact more than tangentially with James Barr’s criticisms.1

For other assessments of TDNT, see the reviews in Westminster Theological Journal, 29 (1966–67), 73–76 (John H. Skilton on volumes I, II, III), and 31 (1968–69), 206–209 (Fred C. Kuehner on volume V).

The big question on everyone’s mind is this: is Volume X worth buying


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to complete a set? In most cases, I doubt it. Despite the obvious labor expended to make Volume X useful, I think it will be a rare case when the volume will save a pastor more than a few minutes of time. Occasionally it will waste his time when he uses the “Index of Biblical References.” The volume is no doubt convenient and useful to have; but is it worth $20.50? Could the money be better spent on some other tool like a concordance to the Bible, the LXX, or the Apostolic Fathers? The person already owning nine volumes should consider getting this one. But he should not regard it as a necessity or an obvious bargain.

Vern S. Poythress
Westminster Theological Seminary,

1 The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).