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The editors of The Oxford Companion to the Bible describe their work as "an authoritative reference for key persons, places, events, concepts, institutions, and realities of biblical times" and as a guide to the current "interpretation of these topics by modern scholars." They present the Bible (the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha) in light of the latest, yet often contradictory, opinions from "anthropology, sociology, and literary criticism," producing a handbook that is "consciously pluralistic" and "inclusive." The Companion's intended audience ranges from the lay reader to ministers and rabbis to academics, although one guesses from its availability in chain bookstores and from various book clubs that it is aimed primarily at the general public.

Compiled by Princeton Seminary's Bruce M. Metzger and Stonehill College's Michael D. Coogan, the Companion's more than 700 entries are the work of Jewish and Christian biblical scholars from 20 countries. The authors rely throughout on the gender-sensitive New Revised Standard version of the Bible ("Let us make humankind in our image"), and its general tone and content place the Companion comfortably within the modernist, skeptical mentality. It proceeds consciously from the Enlightenment tradition, which, as the editors remind the reader, dispensed once and for all...

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