Beitzel, Barry J. The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Chicago: Moody, 2009. 304 pages, $49.99. Link to Moody
This recent atlas from Moody replaces Beitzel’s 1985 Moody Atlas of the Bible. Few scholars are as qualified as Beitzel in the field of biblical geography. Along with the 1985 Moody Atlas, he edited Biblica and served as the Geography Editor on the ESV Study Bible. The original Moody Atlas was highly regarded as a scholarly work yet was still readable for the layman. It was recommended by Victor H. Matthews and James C. Moyer in their 1990 round-up of recent Bible Atlases. (“Bible Atlases: Which Ones are Best?” Biblical Archaeologist 53 (1990)). Likewise, F. Duane Lindsey considered Beitzel’s “historical geography” approach to be excellent and highly recommended the volume in his 1987 review (BibSac 144 (1987): 112).
The New Moody Atlas builds on the strengths of the 1985 atlas. The new volume is about 70 pages longer despite dropping the short third chapter in the older atlas on biblical mapmaking. The table of contents has been greatly improved in this new edition with each topic in the Historical Geography chapter included.
There are 118 maps in the book, many are full page (11.2×9.6 inches). All the maps have been redrawn from the 1985 edition. These maps are conveniently numbers and are all well-textured to show elevation, although most of the versions of the map of Canaan are the same light brown color (no difference between hill country and coastal plain, for example). Given the specialized nature of most of these maps, this an understandable decision. However, when necessary, color is added (Map 40, for example, shows tribal divisions with colors). Few maps span two pages, although Map 22 spans four pages with a long map of Palestine with important cities included in the index marked. This is a beautiful map in terms of texture and color but really ought to have been printed on fold-out pages so that the student could seen the whole of the Land.
There are a remarkable number of specialty maps in this atlas. Just a few examples: Map 44 summarizes Egyptian incursions into Canaan from Thutmosis III in 1457 B.C. to Shishak in 935 B.C., along with 2 full pages of text describing the exploits of these pharaohs. Map 55 is a remarkable full page map of the Judgeship of Jephthah showing the territory of Ammon and the movements of the armies. Map 70 provides details on the battle of Qarqar along with more than a page of detailed text on the battle. Map 79 is a detailed half page map showing the movements of the Egyptian and Babylonian forces at Carchemish accompanied by nearly a page and a half of text on the importance of this battle.
Unlike the IVP Atlas, the Moody Atlas has a lengthy section on the physical geography of the Land. In addition to the normal sorts of maps for topography and climate, there are sections on the geology and hydrology of the Land. Maps of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea showing underwater elevations are unusually interesting. Beitzel has shown which cities on Galilee had Roman Harbors in the first century is quite useful.
What sets this New Moody Atlas ahead of other atlases is its excellent collection of essays on biblical history. In fact, almost 200 pages are devoted to the history of Israel through the New Testament. About 35 pages are devoted to the intertestamental period, including several pages on Alexander the Great and two full pages on the Battle of Issus. An eleven page essay on the history of Jerusalem includes maps of each major period of the city’s history, including the modern city. The essay discusses the name and topography of the city as well as a brief history of excavations. There are less than 40 pages devoted to the New Testament period, predictably the majority to Paul’s travels (12 pages). The final 8 pages of the Historical Atlas cover the fall of Jerusalem and the spread of Christianity. The Historical Atlas is well researched although the text uses to avoid cluttering the atlas pages. A Map Citation, Scripture and General Index are provided.
Illustrations are almost all photographs rather than artistic renderings. These are used sparingly compared to the IVP Atlas and appear to be mostly stock photography. A few photos are clearly old (Caesarea, p. 42, Chorazin, p.242). I find this limited use of photographs odd since Barry Beitzel is listed in the ESV Atlas as one of several who helped supply photography for that volume. While there is no need to repeat the bloated excess of Biblica (a coffee-table style atlas), additional photographs would have made this atlas even better.
The New Moody Atlas of the Bible is an excellent text for any Bible Survey course, although the volume is most valuable for a study of the Hebrew Bible. The text will appeal to Bible teachers and Pastors but it is not too technical for the laymen. The New Moody Atlas is a valuable addition to any library.