Paul Scott Wilson, general editor (Abingdon, 2008), hb, 506pp
Let me note at the outset that due to the nature and length of this particular work I have yet to read this book in its entirety. Which is the greater lunacy? To review a book yet unread or try to “read through” a reference work? You decide. As to the current method of my madness, I am reading one article in The New Interpreter’s Handbook of Preaching (NIHP) each day. There being 226 articles by 135 contributors, it’s safe to say that I’ll be at it for awhile.
NIHP has been published in very easy-to-read type; would that every book was this easy on the eyes! The format is double-column. Wonderfully (and all too rarely in this age of cutting every corner possible), the margins are more than ample for the scribbling of notes and references to other works in your library. A number of articles make very good use of bold and italic font to aid the reader in following the divisions of, and emphasis on, the thoughts being presented. References to articles that appear elsewhere in NIHP appear in ALL CAPS and the majority of articles contain such cross-references. The paper quality is top notch, as is the binding. NIHP was clearly designed to last a lifetime of frequent use.
Every article is just the way God intended them to be – signed. Almost all articles are followed by brief bibliographies (1-15 entries) that offer excellent guidance toward solid works that explore the subject at hand. However, I was rather surprised, and greatly disappointed, to find that NIHP contains not a single index of any kind, be it an author, Scripture or subject. This wound, while anything but fatal, was, nevertheless needless and limiting. In fairness, this loss is somewhat compensated for by the inclusion of the cross references (ALL CAPS), an alphabetical list of all the articles (what a great idea!; pp.xxi-xxiii) and a detailed table of contents. Still, in my mind, there is no excuse for the exclusion of indexes in a work of this nature. Following is a listing of the eleven main table of contents divisions along with a sampling of six articles listed under each of the divisions.
1. Bible (17 topics; pp.1-63) archaeology, exegesis, four senses of Scripture, hermeneutics, suspicion, typology
2. Bible Genres (27 topics; pp.65-114) apocalyptic, conquest narratives, laments, parables, Psalms, Synoptic Gospels
3. Ethics (13 topics; pp.115-139) corporate ethics, environmental ethics, moralism, plagiarism, preaching (ethics of), self-disclosure
4. Literary Criticism (12 topics; pp.141-172) cultural hermeneutics, deconstruction, homiletical criticism, new historicism, reader/listener response, social scientific criticism
5. Poetics (19 topics; pp.173-211) film, focus and function statements, illustration and stories, imagination/creativity, metaphor and figures of speech, video clips
6. Preacher (19 topics; pp.213-251) anxiety, appearance, devotional life/lifestyle, long-range sermon planning, preacher’s week, sermon research
7. Social Location (16 topics; pp.253-289) bilingual setting, career path/life stage, preaching to children, pulpit (use of), war (preaching during), worship style
8. Experience (21 topics; pp.291-342) African-American preaching perspectives, merging church preaching, evangelistic preaching, Internet preaching databases, lectio divina, technology
9. Rhetoric (13 topics; pp.343-368) arrangement, memory, pathos/feeling, persuasion, rhetorical devices, technology and the sermon
10. Sermon (31 topics; ; pp.369-431) conclusions, funeral, preparation, sermon series, topical, without notes
11. Theology (17 topics; pp.433-506) Christology, ecclesiology, Holy Spirit and preaching, sin and evil, theology of proclamation, Trinity
There’s precious little about preaching that doesn’t get addressed in some fashion in the NIHP. And of the articles I have read thus far, though of uneven quality and clarity (as is to be expected from a work with well-over one hundred contributors), the average level of them all is quite high.
In sum, NIHP should find a welcome place in your library. Fast a few meals and acquire a copy. While not “required reading,” it is an exceedingly helpful reference. I give it a 9.1; the lack of indexes cost it .4 in ranking.