Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally From Protestant Scholastic Theology

Written by Richard A. Muller Reviewed By Brace Demarest

As the title indicates, this book contains definitions of theological terms, phrases and even doctrines alphabetized according to the Latin or Greek word or words. By way of rationale for the book, the author rightly argues that the classical Greek and Latin theological heritage has bequeathed the church a plethora of theological terms and phrases which are often unfamiliar to the modern English reader. Add to the classical heritage the scholarly writings of the Reformers and the Lutheran and Reformed divines of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who constructed elaborate theological systems, and the result is that the modern student is often confronted with theological terms whose meaning is unintelligible. Furthermore, the fact that modern theologians such as Karl Barth, Otto Weber and others have appropriated many of these classical theological terms in their writings perpetuates the problem for many a contemporary English reader. In order to render intelligible the rich doctrinal vocabulary from the past, the author has brought forth this helpful Dictionary for the English-speaking world.

The entries given in 325 pages of text vary in length from a simple English definition of the Latin or Greek theological term in less than one line to extended articles of more than four pages in the case of such key terms as persona and Trinitas. The longer entries usually include a brief history of the concept or doctrine, a discussion of alternative interpretations and a preferred explication of the theological concept. Thus the reader usually finds in the longer articles a concise but informative summary of historical and doctrinal information. In this respect the volume will prove useful as a sourcebook to which the student or specialist will turn rather frequently. A few of the numerous entries in the Dictionary, however, strike this reviewer as esoteric, and would seem to be rarely encountered by even the more serious historian or theologian (e.g. alicubitas or paraphysica). On the other hand, many of the articles contain a rich mine of doctrinal information that proves very informative (e.g. communicatio idiomatum, extra calvinisticum, imago Dei, praedestinatio, voluntas Dei, to mention a few entries). The Dictionary contains a helpful index of English terms, followed by the most important Latin and Greek equivalents.

In sum, the Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms is a very helpful tool for the serious theological student, educator or writer. It appears to fill a gap that has long existed in the English-speaking world. The non-specialist should find this work helpful, but I suspect that he or she will probably turn to one or more of the recently published dictionaries of English terms and doctrinal expressions for the needed information.

Brace Demarest

Denver Seminary, Denver, Colorado