A dictionary is, by definition, a reference book listing terms important to a particular subject along with a discussion of their meanings and applications.
If the Bible is what Christians say it is, can there be any task more daunting than the compiling of a Bible dictionary? For we believe that the Bible is the written Word of God. We believe it is “inspired by God” (2 Tim 3:16). We believe it is not a dead letter, but “living and active” (Heb 4:12). We believe it “must be fulfilled” (Luke 22:37) and “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). What’s more, it is not subject merely to private interpretation (2 Pet 1:20), but to the discernment of the Church. For people can easily “twist” Scripture “to their own destruction” (2 Pet 3:16).
The Bible is as sharp as any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12), and thus it should be handled with care.
Yet it should indeed be handled. The Bible itself exhorts us to attend to its study (1 Tim 4:13) and praises those who “examine the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11).
We live in a time of unprecedented opportunities for Bible study. In the 1970s the Catholic Church revised its lectionary—the order of scriptural readings for the Mass. The readings now unfold in a three-year cycle and include all the books of both testaments of the Bible. The schema proved so effective in communicating the Word of God that it has been adopted and adapted by many Protestant bodies as well. Historians may one day judge the new lectionary to be the most significant ecumenical advance of the twentieth century.