In an era of theological education which prizes specialization over generalization, there are very few people who can speak authoritatively across the theological playing field. One such player is Anthony C. Thiselton. Professor emeritus of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, England, and one of Britain’s leading theological scholars, Thiselton has successfully written in the areas of hermeneutics, New Testament studies, and two commentaries on 1 Corinthians. Thiselton has earned the respect of pastors, teachers, theologians, and scholars worldwide.
Drawing on the concept of his previous work Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 2002; Baker, 2005), Thiselton has taken to write The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology (Eerdmans, 2015). This book contains 600 articles, from A-Z, on various people, theological concepts, Biblical words, time periods, systems of thought, etc.; all within the Christian theological sphere.
So Why This…..
At 600 articles, and just over 850 pages, there are a lot of subjects Thiselton has written about. As you read through the alphabetical list at the beginning of the book you will naturally wonder why some entries are included in such a “short” list of 600. As the title of the book indicates, this is a book written by a single author, and as such has the limitations of the one choosing the articles. Thiselton has chosen subjects that he deems the most relevant. This would no doubt vary from person to person if others had decided to write the same kind of book.
Thiselton has drawn on a lifetime of research, study, and personal judgment as to what to include in this volume. It is, as the title indicates, a companion to Christian theology. In a sense, Thiselton himself is the readers companion to guiding the reader into further study on all of the subjects he has written on.
…..And Not That?
Naturally, to include everything that is important to theology would require a multi-volume effort. Take for instance The Encyclopedia Britannica. Though no longer published, the 15th edition has 28 volumes and, with more than 4,000 contributors, it has almost 3 million articles. Even an exhaustive work like that has to say no to something. A work by a single author has to do the same.
Whatever the limitations of this work, it cannot be missed that this is a remarkable achievement. For instance again, the long-standing Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell, in its second edition has over 1,300 articles and over 300 contributors. EDEis still missing things, which Elwell notes in the preface. Thiselton has essentially achieved the work of half of the contributors to EDE; and all on his own!
Readers will undoubtedly notice that while Thiselton has provided the reader with content that is intended to service a wide range of users, the book still, in part, reflects his theological leanings. While the articles (less so with the shorter ones) are intended to be informative, Thiselton’s own theological leanings tend to surface in areas like the doctrine of God, the atonement, soteriology, evolution, justification, and sin; just to name a few. This is less a criticism and more of an observation. It would be the same no matter who wrote the book.
Regardless of whether one lines up completely with all of the finer points of Thiselton’s theology, The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology is a valuable reference tool for teachers, pastors, and Bible students worldwide. This is the kind of book that few are qualified to write, or should, and Thiselton has done it masterfully.
I received this book for free from Eerdmans for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”