The Lion Handbook to the Bible was originally intended as a revision of the Inter-Varsity Press’s New Bible Handbook, first edited by G. T. Manley. However the new editors, husband and wife David and Pat Alexander, wanted to make the new book fully illustrated which IVP felt was not a project they could develop. The Alexanders struck out on their own and established their own publishing company, Lion, to promote the new book which was first published in 1973 and has been continuously in print ever since, selling over three million copies worldwide.
The book has been revised several times. In 1983 the changes for the second edition were concerned mainly with the new Bibles that had appeared in English, the 1999 third edition was a complete re-write and re-design with many new maps being specially commissioned and with the panel of contributors being extended. The latest edition, the fourth, came in 2009 and is the first without David Alexander who died in 2002 and also the first from the new company created by the merger of Lion and Angus Hudson in 2003. All four editions continue to serve Bible students and even the earlier ones are of value if you remember when they were written. Do not turn to the first edition and expect to read about the New International Version, for example, and even the latest edition is no longer completely up to date regarding, say, recent archaeological discoveries.
The great strength of The Lion Handbook to the Bible is its illustrations. David Alexander was a talented photographer and his high standards have been maintained. The many maps and diagrams are just as useful in conveying a great amount of information in an attractive and accessible way and younger readers will have to take my word as to what a breath of fresh air the first Lion Handbook was in 1973 for a generation that had never seen a book about the Bible that looked interesting. However it is content that is crucial. If a book looks great but is full of rubbish then it is of no value whatsoever. The Lion Handbook is generally reliable and offers us something on all the books of the Bible as well as many related subjects with articles being written by a panel of well qualified experts. All three of the earlier editions are easy to find secondhand, in both the paper and hardback editions. A quick check on www.abebooks.co.uk (on 23rd February 2015) found examples of all of them at under £5 (and some with free postage). However you will probably have to spend more on the 2009 edition which currently retails at £20. One note of caution: avoid the Concise Handbook (now out of print) as it is too concise to be of much use and lacks nearly all the illustrations.
Editors: Pat and David Alexander
Published: Lion-Hudson, Oxford, 2009
Dimensions: 816 pages: 151 x 216mm See: http://www.lionhudson.com/display.asp?K=9780745953700
This article is from BiBloS, a teaching resource of the British Bible School. To read more articles or download the whole of Issue 2, click here.