Book Review: Barry J. Beitzel, ed. Lexham Geographical Commentary on the Acts through Revelation

Beitzel, Barry J., ed. Lexham Geographical Commentary on the Acts through Revelation. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2019. 763 pp.; Hb.  $39.99  Link to Lexham Press

Barry Beitzel has a well-deserved reputation in scholarship for his contributions to biblical geography. He edited The New Moody Atlas of the Bible (Moody, 2009; reviewed here). He edited the first volume of this projected five volume series, Lexham Geographical Commentary on the Gospels (Lexham, 2017, see my review here). This new volume is a joy to read, and will be an excellent addition the library of any student of the New Testament.

Lexham Geographic CommentaryThis new volume contains fifty-three essays written by nineteen New Testament scholars. More than half of these articles cover the book of Acts and the remaining articles discuss locations were Paul or Peter did ministry and the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. See the end of this review for a list of chapter topics.

Each chapter begins with a list of Scripture covered in the section, so it is possible to read through at least the first half of the book alongside a reading of the book of Acts. This is not always possible since some locations appear in various parts of the book such as Jerusalem or Caesarea. For example, Paul Wright’s chapter on Caesarea Maritima (chapter 16) lists all of the occurrences of the location in the book of Acts. A text box at the head of the article offers three or four key points covered in the chapter. The text flows in parallel columns and the chapters are richly illustrated. All non-English words appear in transliteration; distances are given in miles and kilometers. Each section concludes with a bibliography citing key journal and other dictionary articles.

The articles in these volumes are highly detailed and well-documented. Several would make excellent academic journal articles. Eckhard Schnabel contributes several chapters. His two-volume Early Christian Mission (IVP Academic, 2004) and Jesus in Jerusalem: The Last Days (Eerdmans, 2018) are two of the most detailed academic works on the geography of the Gospels and Acts. David deSilva contributed articles on The Social and Geographical World of Psidian Antioch, Rome, Roman Corinth, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and Sardis. Mark Wilson contributes several articles on locations in modern Turkey (the Geography of Galatia, Peter’s Communities in Asia Minor, the Geography of Patmos, and the Social and Geographical World of Thyatira and Philadelphia).

The chapters are illustrated with photographs, diagrams and charts. Some photographs are licensed through WikiCommons, some are from Beitzel himself, and David deSilva contributed many. A few of these are familiar diagrams found in other Logos resources or Logos map sets. I noticed some of the city maps of the seven churches in Revelation were designed by Tutku Tours. The book is printed on an uncoated paper which does not glare and is easier to make notes on compared to a book like the Zondervan Bible Backgrounds commentary.

Some chapters cover material that strictly speaking is not a part of the book of Acts or the Epistles. For example, Ekhard Schnabel has a brief article on Paul in Spain and Crete based on the very thin evidence that Paul actually did ministry in these locations. J. Carl Laney contributed an article on Paul’s travel after the book of Acts based on the Pastoral Epistles and several church traditions. Each location where Paul did ministry has a chapter, including Colossae even though he did not establish that church.

A few other highlights: Barry Beitzel has a lengthy and detailed article on the meaning of “Arabia” in classical literature in order to answer the question of what Paul meant in Galatians 1:17 when he spent time in Arabia. Benjamin Foreman has an article on the Social and Geographical Significance of Alexandria, Egypt, a location only mentioned in the book of Acts as the home of Apollos (Acts 18:24-28). He discusses the Jewish presence in Alexandria and some of the traditions associated with how Christianity came to this important city in the Roman world. A. H. Cadwallader contributes an article on Onesimus and the world of Philemon, which is more less on slavery in the Roman world. Schnabel has an article on Paul’s travel in Macedonia and Achaia, including the distance traveled by foot between different locations and suggested time to travel. This article also includes a footnote in which Schnabel disagrees with one of his earlier conclusions.

Perhaps the most unusual article concerns Philippi, Michael Thate’s “Paulus Geographicus? The Spatial (Somatic) World of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.” The article is not particularly about the geographical location of the city of Philippi, but about how bodies were understood in the Greco-Roman world, specifically in the Macedonian city of Philippi. As he puts it, this is a theo-graphical article rather than a geographical article. Unfortunately, this is the only article in the book devoted to Philippi. I would have liked an additional article on the social and geographical word of Rome Philippi as similar to other locations of Paul’s ministry.

The final seven chapters concern geographical locations in the book of Revelation, six of the seven churches plus an article on the geography of the island of Patmos. (Ephesus was covered in the order of the Pauline letters.) Each of these chapters gives the pre-history of the cities, as well as something of the religious and social situation at the time John wrote the book of Revelation.

The book includes with seventeen-pages of color charts and additional maps, a detailed list of the contributors, a subject index, a Scripture index and a list of image credits.

Logos Version. Since the book was published simultaneously for the Logos Bible Software library, I had the opportunity to use the book in that format. Clicking a photograph open the Logos Media library so the image can be copied and pasted into Word or PowerPoint (or any other software). The Media tool gives the description of the image as well as photo credits. Maps open in the Logos Atlas tool and can be copied and pasted. Using these tools to enhance your teaching and preaching is an added incentive to purchase the electronic version. 

As typical in a Logos resource, clicking a Scripture references will open your preferred Bible to the text, or you can float over the reference to peek at the text. This works also for ancient sources if you have unlocked them for your library. For example, I can click on a cited reference to Pliny’s Natural History and open the version I have unlocked in the Logos library. This is true for any resource, Josephus, Philo, Strabo’s Geography, etc. At the end of a chapter the Logos version as a “see also” section which does not appear in the print format of the book. This section includes links to the Logos Atlas tool, Logos FactBook places and events, other articles in the Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation and any videos in the Media Library related to the section. The bibliography sections open additional Logos resources if unlocked. The Logos version of the book is obviously more interactive than a printed book and can be updated and corrected as necessary.

One disappointment in the Logos version of the book is the lack of page numbers. Usually a Logos book is tagged with real page numbers so I can cite the resource properly. The only index available is Scripture. The original Geographical Commentary on the Gospels has a page number index, perhaps Logos will update this book in the future.

All things being equal, I much prefer a real physical book. And this is an excellent looking book. But there are some definite advantages to using this book as part of Logos Bible Software.

Conclusion. The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the gospels is a joy to read. The articles are stimulating and well-illustrated.  This book will make an excellent addition to the library of any student of the Bible. A hardback book with 763 pages illustrated with color photographs, maps and charts is worth more than the $39.95 list price. The Lexham website inaccurately lists the publication date as 2017. The Geographic Commentary will continue in 2020 with volumes on the Pentateuch, Historical Books and Poetry and Prophecy are due in 2020.

 

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

Contents of Lexham Geographical Commentary on the Acts through Revelation

  • Typological Geography and the Progress of the Gospel in Acts
  • The Topography of Jerusalem in the Book of Acts
  • The Threefold Expansion of the Early Church: Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria
  • Jesus’ Missionary Commission and the Ends of the Earth
  • A Sabbath-Day’s Journey from the Mount of Olives
  • The Location of Pentecost and Geographical Implications in Acts 2
  • Early Church Demographics
  • Geography of the Nations in Jerusalem for Pentecost
  • The Jerusalem Temple in the Book of Acts
  • The Geography of Worship: From Temple to Synagogue to Church
  • The Persecution of the Earliest Christians in Geographical Perspective
  • The Theodotus Synagogue Inscription and Its Relationship to the Book of Acts
  • Samaria: Too Wicked to Redeem?
  • The Roman Road System around the Mediterranean
  • The Desert Road between Jerusalem and Gaza
  • The Geography of Caesarea Maritima
  • The Road from Jerusalem to Damascus
  • Paul’s Missionary Work in Syria, Nabatea, Judea, and Cilicia
  • Peter’s Ministry in Caesarea Maritima
  • Peter and the Centurion Cornelius: Roman Soldiers in the New Testament
  • The Geographic Importance of Antioch on the Orontes
  • Famines in the Land
  • The Death of Herod Agrippa I in Caesarea Maritima
  • Paul’s Missionary Work in Cyprus, Galatia, and Pamphylia
  • Barnabas, John Mark, and Their Ministry on Cyprus
  • The Social and Geographical World of Pisidian Antioch
  • Paul’s Missionary Work in Macedonia and Achaia
  • Paul at the Areopagus in Athens
  • What Has Athens to Do with Jerusalem? Paul’s Areopagus Speech in Context
  • The Social and Geographical Significance of Alexandria
  • Paul’s Missionary Work in the Provinces of Asia and Illyricum
  • Paul as a Prisoner in Judea and Rome
  • Paul’s Journey to Rome
  • The Social and Geographical World of Rome
  • Paul in Spain and Crete
  • Paul’s Travels After Acts
  • The Social and Geographical World of Roman Corinth
  • The Geography of Galatia
  • Paul’s Early Ministry in Syria and Cilicia: The Silent Years
  • The Meaning of “Arabia” in Classical Literature and the New Testament
  • The Social and Geographical World of Ephesus
  • Paulus Geographicus? The Spatial (Somatic) World of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
  • The Social and Geographical World of Colossae
  • The Social and Geographical World of Thessalonica
  • Onesimus and the Social and Geographical World of Philemon
  • Peter’s Christian Communities in Asia Minor
  • Geography of the Island of Patmos
  • The Social and Geographical World of Smyrna
  • The Social and Geographical World of Pergamum
  • The Social and Geographical World of Thyatira
  • The Social and Geographical World of Sardis
  • The Social and Geographical World of Philadelphia
  • The Social and Geographical World of Laodicea

 

Book Review: Todd Bolen, Acts: Photo Companion to the Bible

Bolen, Todd. Acts: Photo Companion to the Bible. BiblePlaces.com, 2019.

Todd Bolen has been producing high quality resources for Bible teachers for many years on his website Bible Places.com. I first became aware of Bolens’s Pictorial Library of Biblical Lands at an ETS in 2003. I have used these photographs in virtually every class I teach in order to add some colorful graphics to an otherwise dull PowerPoint presentation. Even though I have some critiques of the collection below, if you are teaching the Book of Acts, then the Photo Companion to the Bible is an essential collection of images to use to illustrate your lectures and sermons. If you are a student of the Bible, you can read the text of the Bible and page through the slides in order to place the text into a physical context.

I reviewed his Gospels Photo Companion to the Bible soon after it was released in 2017. At that time Todd told me the Acts Companion was “coming soon.” But as he told me in a recent email, it took a while longer than expected. This is not surprising since the collection contains more than 4,000 photos in twenty-eight PowerPoint sets. The slide set for Acts 13 has 250 slides, Acts 20 has 180 slides. This includes every place Paul and the apostles traveled and every photograph is identified and explained. In some cases, additional material appears in the slide, such as citations to journal articles.

Along with photographs detailing the Paul’s missionary journeys, many inscriptions are included (the Gallio Inscription, the Temple balustrade, the Politarchs inscriptions, Roman calendars, etc.). In addition there are high quality photographs of coins, artifacts, models, scrolls from museums. There are maps tracing Paul’s travels created by A. D. Riddle of RiddleMaps.com.

Since these are PowerPoint slides, the editors provide annotations explaining the image and the location of the photograph. There is also a code in the notes indicating the source of the image. Many are from Bolen, but there are other contributors (and I noticed a few wiki commons images as well). This is very helpful for identifying the location of museum photographs or some of the historical photographs.

I looked over most of the data sets, but for this review I will focus on Acts 13, 250 slides in all. Each slide has a phrase from the Bible across the top, the reference is in the bottom right corner. A brief description appears in the bottom right corner, and a few lines of explanation appear in the slide notes along with the image credit. Since Acts 13 begins in Syrian Antioch, there are a few slides from the modern city of Antakya in south-east Turkey, including a photograph of the ancient hippodrome taken between 1934 and 1939. There are plenty of photographs of Roman remains on Cyprus including the gymnasium at Salamis and Villa of Theseus at Paphos.

To illustrate Paul’s encounter with Bar-Jesus, there are two Aramaic curse bowls,   one from Babylon and the other from the eleventh century A.D. There are two Latin inscription was found near Pisidian Antioch with the name Sergius Paulus, one is a public domain image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Perge is well illustrated, including the rock-cut pass between Magydus and Perga on the Via Sebaste and later Via Sebaste after Döşeme pass. After Paul leaves Pisidian Antioch, he travels to Iconium, as illustrated by a photo of a Roman bridge on the Via Sebaste east of Yunuslar between Pisidian Antioch and Iconium. Many of these photographs of Roman roads are from Mark Wilson, one of the best sources for Paul’s travels in Asia Minor. He also contributed a photograph of an inscription mentioning Galatia and Pamphylia, from Perga. The slide cites Wilson’s recent article, “The Denouement of Claudian Pamphylia-Lycia and its Implications for the Audience of Galatians,” Novum Testamentum 60 (2018): 337–60. This is the kind of detail I appreciate in these slides, there are others with citations of journal articles, such as the God-fearer mosaic from the synagogue of Sardis (dated to c. AD 365), citing John H. Kroll, “The Greek Inscriptions of the Sardis Synagogue,” Harvard Theological Review 94/1 (2001): 9.

For Acts 13:50, “But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence” there is a photo of a statue of Plancia Magna from Perga (2nd century A.D.) followed by an inscription at Perge with her name. Plancia Magna was a wealthy and powerful women in Perge, although certainly not a believer. This statue shows there indeed were prominent women who had significant power in a city like Perge.

There are some slides which do not seem particularly on topic. “Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch” (Acts 13:1) is illustrated with a wonderful Tiberias. Why? Herod moved his capital from Sepphoris to Tiberias. Barnabas and Saul speak in the synagogues in Cyprus (Acts 13:5), this is illustrated by the synagogue at Magdala. To be fair, there are not many first century synagogues and Magdala is an excellent example, but is not a synagogue from Acts 13.

Others strike me as unnecessary. For example, there is a picture of mist surrounding Nimrod’s fortress in Israel to illustrate “Immediately a mist and darkness fell on him” and a photo of a blind man in Jerusalem for “He went around seeking people to lead him by the hand.” When John Mark returns to Jerusalem, there are several slide of Jerusalem including the Syrian Orthodox site for the upper room. For Acts 13:17, “The God of this people Israel chose our forefathers” there is a photograph of Abraham’s well in Beersheba and several beautiful photographs from Egypt since 13:17 mentions Egypt. In fact, most of the slides illustrating Paul’s sermon are not necessary, but since the goal is to have something for every verse, they are included here. I would have rather had 75 more slides of Roman roads between Perge and Pisidian Antioch.

Evaluation. For many people, using Google Image Search to find pictures for their lectures is second nature. It is easy to do and there are often good photographs available without any usage restrictions. So why purchase this set of photographs from Todd Bolan?

First, these photographs often do not appear on the web. For most of the collection, Bolen has taken the photographs himself and he owns the copyright. These are not snapshots from someone’s Holy Land Tour taken with their iPhone.

Second, there are several types of photographs which are difficult to obtain yourself, such as aerial photography. Bolen has also included many historic photographs from the American Colony and Eric Matson collections released by Bible Places in 2009.

Third, if you are just grabbing a few photographs from the web for your teaching, perhaps you are violating copyright law. The copyright notice is as follows:

The purchaser is granted permission to use this work in face-to-face teaching, video-recorded sermons, class notes, church newsletters, and like contexts. Separate permission must be obtained from BiblePlaces.com to use this material in books, magazines, commercial products, websites, and online courses. Slide notes should be treated as any other copyrighted written material, with credit given when quoting from these notes. For copyright inquiries, please email Todd Bolen at tbolen94@bibleplaces.com.

Yes, I know we all do it and it is doubtful you will get in trouble for snagging someone’s vacation pictures from Flickr. But some universities and churches are trying to limit resources to “fair use” copyright images. The Photo Companion to the Bible allows for legal images which can be freely edited for your own needs.

If you purchase the Photo Companion, you can download it immediately with the promise of free lifetime updates as well as get a DVD copy. One important thing to consider is the copyright permissions which come with the Photo Companion to the Bible. All the images are free for use for any purpose (teaching, sermons, etc.), although if they are used in a publication, you will need to obtain permission. I have seen Bolen’s photographs in many books from major publishers, which speaks to the quality of this resource.

If you visit the website, there are samples of Matthew 4 and John 2 so you can get an idea what the collection looks like. Finally, here is a five minute video promoting the Photo Companion.

NB: Thanks to Todd Bolen at BiblePlaces.com for kindly providing me with a review copy of this resource. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

 

Book Review: Barry J. Beitzel ed. Lexham Geographical Commentary on the Gospels

Beitzel, Barry J. and Kristopher A. Lyle, eds. Lexham Geographical Commentary on the Gospels. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2017. 583 pp.; Hb.  $49.99  Link to Lexham Press

As Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Barry Beitzel has a well-deserved reputation in scholarship for his contributions to biblical geography. He edited the The New Moody Atlas of the Bible (Moody, 2009; reviewed here). His new edited volume contains forty-eight essays written by fifteen New Testament scholars who have contributed to the field of New Testament geography.

The chapters are roughly chronological, beginning with the infancy narratives, baptism and temptation before moving on to the ministry of Jesus. The book could function as a “Harmony of the Gospels” since each of the forty-eight chapters include Gospel parallel passages when available. A chapter on John 4 appears early in Jesus’s ministry, chapters on John 7:37-39 and John 9 are placed in a series of chapters on the teaching of Jesus.

Some of the essays in this book concern geographical problems. For example, Benjamin Foreman’s essay on the location of the baptism of Jesus. Todd Bolen assess the evidence for the location of the “drowned pigs” in Matthew 8:28-42 (Gadara? Gerasa? Gergesa? Kursi?). Benjamin Foreman examines evidence for the burial of Jesus, comparing the Holy Sepulcher to the Garden Tomb and concludes the Holy Sepulcher is more likely even if there is value is far more spiritually uplifting to for Protestants. But most of the essays describe locations which are less controversial, such as Perry Phillips on the Well at Sychar or Todd Bolen’s contribution on the Temple, “Magnificent Stones and Wonderful Buildings of the Temple Complex.”

Other essays in this collection deal with elements of cultural in the background of various stories in the Gospels. Elaine Phillips’s article on domestic architecture in Capernaum, Carl Laney on “Fishing the Sea of Galilee” and Chris McKinney’s “Pig Husbandry in Israel during the New Testament.” Aubrey Taylor’s chapter on the “Historical Basis of the Parable of the Pounds” deals with Roman taxation. (As a side note, this chapter does not have a single illustration in the print version of the book.)

A few of the chapters make a connection between a geographical location and a theological issue. Gordon Franz contributes a fascinating essay on the Valley of Hinnom as a metaphor for Hell. In this revised paper first read at the national Evangelical Theological Society meeting in 1987, Franz points out the earliest reference to Hinnom as a garbage dump comes from A. D. 1200. He therefore argues the word is not based on a Second Temple reality (a garbage dump), but it refers to a place of eschatological judgment (325).

Each article in this Geographical Commentary is well researched and written. Each has detailed bibliography pointing interested readers to detailed studies on the topic considered. The book can be used as reference or as a running commentary as one is reading through one of the Gospels. Since the articles are rich in details, the book would be an excellent companion for someone traveling to Israel for a study tour.

iPad Screen Shot

Logos Bible Software Version

Like most Lexham publications, this book was published in both print and Logos Library formats. The electronic version of the book makes full use of the Logos system, including indexed searching and linking key words to other resources. For example, all biblical text is linked to your preferred Bible, or users can hover over the reference to read the text.

The electronic version of this book has many more images and graphic than the book and cab include videos. For example, in the five-page section entitled “Millstones in Capernaum” (Matthew 17:24-18:14), the print edition has two photographs. The Logos format book has a map of Galilee, an info-graphic of the synagogue at Capernaum, and links to two videos, a walk-through of Capernaum which plays in the Logos software itself and a link to a seven-minute video, “Capernaum: Jesus’ Base of Operations in Galilee” on FaithlifeTV.com. This video is from The Cultural Context of the Bible series with David A. deSilva (although the narration sounds like it was produced with speech-to-text software). Maps, photographs and other graphics can be copied and pasted into your own documents (Word and PowerPoint, be sure to cite your source!). Many of the inforgraphics and other resources appear in many other Faithlife resources.

The electronic version includes all the same footnotes and bibliography as the print version, and includes a “see also” section which lists all the links appearing in the section. One advantage to the electronic version is the ability to cut/paste these references into a document, or to copy them to BibTex for use in bibliography management software. Usually Logos resources are tagged to open a resource if you owe the book, but I noticed Anchor Bible Dictionary articles are not tagged to open the article within Logos.

One feature missing in the electronic version is page numbers. Since the Logos version was published first and was initially intended as a fully interactive multimedia resource, there was no need for page numbers. Now that a “real book” has been published, Logos could enhance the value of this resource by adding page number tags to the text in the electronic version. Since Logos Bible Software does an excellent job assisting users to properly cite their sources, it would be an improvement to sync the print pages to the text in the electronic book. One other minor quibble, there are a few repeated graphics; this is forgivable in the electronic version but a waste of limited space in the print version (the millstone on page 112 and 311).

Conclusion

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the gospels is a joy to read. The articles are stimulating and well-illustrated.  This book will make an excellent addition to the library of any student of the Bible, but especially for those visiting Israel. Lexham has a second volume on Acts through Revelation in production; hopefully additional volumes on the Old Testament will follow.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Book Review: Todd Bolen, The Gospels: Photo Companion to the Bible

Todd Bolen has been producing high quality resources for Bible teachers for many years on his website Bible Places.com. I first became aware of Bolens’s Pictorial Library of Biblical Lands at an ETS in 2003. At the time this was eight CDs or one DVD of high quality photographs of Israel and Asia Minor. I have used these photographs in virtually every class I teach to add some graphics to an otherwise dull PowerPoint presentation. I added the American Colony and Eric Matson collections in 2009, and there are several other historical sets available on Bolen’s site.

This new resource from BiblePlaces.com is something of a mash-up of all of Bolen’s previous collections plus a great deal more. Each volume of the Photo Companion to the Bible covers a Gospel chapter by chapter as a PowerPoint collection. Photographs are arranged by verse, with several slides per verse in many cases. For example, for Mark there are 16 PowerPoint files, each set has more than 100 images.

Some readers might wonder if it is worth purchasing these DVDs since they are used to using Google Image Search to find pictures for their lectures. First, these photographs often do not appear on the web. For most of the collection, BiblePlaces.com has taken these photographs themselves and they own the copyright. These are not snapshots from someone’s Holy Land Tour taken with their iPhone. I have noticed the photographs were often taken when there are few tourists in the way.

Second, if you are just grabbing a few photographs from the web for your teaching, perhaps you are violating copyright law. Yes, I know we all do it and it is doubtful you will get in trouble for snagging someone’s vacation pictures from Flickr. But some churches (and certain colleges) do try to limit resources to “fair use” copyright images.  The copyright notice is as follows:

The purchaser is granted permission to use this work in face-to-face teaching, video-recorded sermons, class notes, church newsletters, and like contexts. Separate permission must be obtained from BiblePlaces.com to use this material in books, magazines, commercial products, websites, and online courses. Slide notes should be treated as any other copyrighted written material, with credit given when quoting from these notes. For copyright inquiries, please email Todd Bolen at tbolen94@bibleplaces.com.

The Photo Companion to the Bible allows for legal images which can be edited for your own needs. (Here is a list of contributors for proper attribution.) I have seen Bolen’s photographs in many books from major publishers, which speaks to the quality of this resource.

There are several types of photographs are in each collection. For most passages, slides contain geographical photographs from Bolen’s earlier collections and new aerial photographs. Sometimes the aerial photographs are labeled pointing out key locations in the photographs. If the Old Testament is quoted, Bolen has a photograph of the relevant text in the Dead Sea Scrolls, or often a Yemenite Torah scroll photographed at The Master’s Seminary. The quoted texted is highlighted by a rectangle.

Since these are PowerPoint slides, the editors provide annotations explaining the image and the location of the photograph. This is very helpful for identifying the location of museum photographs or some of the historical photographs. Since there are often many slides on the same topic, these descriptions are critical to the usefulness of the Photo Companion to the Bible. For example, in the Mark 16 set, there are many photographs of the Garden Tome and the Holy Sepulcher, as would be expected. But the slides include many other examples of ancient Jewish tombs. Since these are less well known, the annotations will help a teacher select the right image for their own presentation.

For this review, I browsed several chapters for each Gospel, but I will comment in more detail on the file for Mark 10 (chosen more or less at random). There are 134 slides in this file, including many views of Galilee taken at different times and angles. I particular enjoy seeing the historical photographs alongside modern photos. Sometimes the location looks the same after 100 years, but in some cases you can see the impact of modern Israeli culture and (unfortunately) the tourist industry.

In addition, the collection includes the following:

  • Michelangelo’s Moses from the Church of St. Peter in Chains in Rome is included for 10:3, “He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’”
  • A divorce document, in Old Assyrian, from Karum Kanesh, from the in the Ankara Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
  • For Mark 10:14, “Let the little children come to me,” there are slides of modern Israeli children in the Jewish quarter of the Old City and an American Colony photograph of a group of children in Kiriath Anavim in the Judean hills west of Jerusalem dated August 6, 1939.
  • For the rich young man approaches Jesus in Mark 10:17, there is a photograph from the Istanbul Archaeological Museum of a Roman man from Magnesia on the Maeander dated to the first century AD.
  • For the commandments in Mark 10:19, there is a photograph of the Ten Commandments from the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zionl Exodus 20 from a Yemenite Torah scroll; a Sumerian tablet with the verdict concerning murder, from Girsu, 2112–2004 BC from the from Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient; an Egyptian warning to robbers on tomb scene of courtier Biu, 6th dynasty, ca. 2400–2250 BC; a cuneiform record of trial before king of Hazor, 18th–17th centuries BC from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
  • Since the man was rich, there is a photograph of a mansion in Second Temple period Jerusalem from the Wohl Museum and several examples of wealth from other museums including the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
  • For the famous saying about a camel going through the eye of a needle, there are three pictures of camels and three pictures of ancient needles, and two pictures of the closed Jaffa Gate (even though this is a historic photograph from before 1920, it is not the gate Jesus would have had in mind, and there was no “needle gate” anyway).

This ought to be enough to illustrate the types of things provided for each chapter of the Gospels. Occasionally I wondered at the usefulness of a particular photo, but what seems odd to me might be an excellent image for someone else.

If you purchase the Photo Companion, you can download it immediately with the promise of free lifetime updates as well as get a DVD copy.

There is a nice overview of the four volumes of the Photo Companion to the Bible currently available on BiblePlaces.com. There are two sample chapters (Matthew 4
and John 2), both are the full 100+ set of slides in the full product. Finally, here is a five minute video promoting the Photo Companion. The Photo Companion to the Bible is an essential resource for anyone teaching or preaching the Gospels. This database of images will enhance your presentations and help make the world of the Gospels come alive for your students. Short of visiting Israel several times on your own, this Photo Companion will also help anyone reading through the Gospels visualize the places Jesus lived.

NB: Thanks to Todd Bolen at BiblePlaces.com for kindly providing me with a review copy of this resource. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

 

 

Atlases for Touring Israel (Part 2)

There are a number of Carta Guides that I wish I owned (Masada, En Gedi, Qumran, all by Hanan Eshel), but the handiest for my tours has been the Carta Guide to National Parks and Nature Reserves.  This is a handy sized 447 page text with slick pages and plenty of color illustrations.  Each site listed has a road map and directions, a summary of services (WC, snack bar, picnic area, hiking trails, etc.)  A set of icons on the title page for each site indicates whether the location is a Jewish, Christian or Muslim site, a recreational site or an antiquities. The title section includes a phone number and best times to visit, along with a notice of fee (if any).  Each heading includes a brief line drawn from the Hebrew Bible associated with the site.

The Guide is divided into regions which are color-coded in the outside margins.  Beginning in the north with Mount Hermon the Guide works its way south to the final entry, Eliat.  Several regional maps appear at the beginning of the Guide and are marked with page numbers in the guide.  Each sub-region is arranged geographically so that it is sometimes difficult to find a location within a region.  The sub-sections do not strike me as logically arranged.  Hermon and Gamla are in the first (northernmost) section, but Tel Dan is in the second, despite the fact that Dan is well north of Gamla.  Fortunately there is a detailed table of contents, but no alphabetical index.

Each location is illustrated with a few photographs (250 in all), although these seem dated to me. The Roman Theater at Beit She’an certainly is more than ten years old (p. 211) and the Masada photographs do not reflect reconstructions from the last ten years.  A few photographs were taken on hazy days (Nahal Gamla, p. 53 and Arbel Cliff, p. 167), but for the most part these are helpful illustrations.  The Guide includes a site plan where applicable with points of interest clearly marked (50 total in the Guide).

Since the Guide has entries for 60 national parks, it includes information on the flora and fauna of Israel.  While this is not “biblical,” it is often necessary information when visiting a site to point out items of interest.  (For some reason people always ask me what is planted in some farmer’s field or what the name of some shrubbery is.)  Nature reserves are accompanied by hiking maps, although it is always best to obtain a more recent map when arriving at the park. Several Nature Reserves conclude with a short “Outside the Park” pointing out local places to eat or other memorials or parks.  For example, For Ein Feshkha, the Guide points out the trail to Rosh Tzukim as well as five nearby monasteries.

Because the Guide is for National Parks and Nature Reserves, there are quite a few interesting locations that are not in the Guide. For example, The road down Ma’ale ‘Akrabim (Scorpion’s Pass) has several sites of interest (Roman toll buildings, Ein Hazvot / Tamar) as well as several hiking trails.  Mount Hor is in the area as well.  Since none of these are on the official list of national parks, they are omitted from this guide.

For my Israel tours I purchase an Israel National Parks pass which allows unlimited entry to national parks listed on the card for two weeks.  This allows us to visit some sites that are not usually included in tours, such as Korazin and Kursi in Galilee; Bet Guverin and Tel Arad in the south.  With the Carta Guide, I can check on a location to see if there is any interest for a biblical tour and get a quick summary of what I ought to be looking for when we explore the site.   This Guide could be used along with the National Parks pass for a self-guided trip around Israel.

Atlases for Touring Israel (Part 1)

I have been blessed to travel to Israel three times leading student groups, with a new trip planned for May of 2010.  Each trip I took several books to help me as the group leader, but these books can be used by anyone traveling in Israel.  There are many of these on the market, but these are the books that I will carry with me to Israel.  Today I will review the most valuable of these guides, with a shorter “round up” of other books I have found helpful for guide trips to Israel.

The best guide to Israel for a Christian tour is The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (Fifth Edition; Oxford, 2008, 544 pages, $37.95, Kindle Version $13.50). I cannot imagine visiting Israel on a tour without this book in my travel bag.  The book is divided into two parts.  The first 173 pages covers Jerusalem, rest of the book covers archaeological sites in the rest of the Land.  As should be obvious from the title of the book, this is a guide to archaeological sites, not a guide for pilgrims.  While most of the Holy Sites are included, they are described in terms of their history and archaeology rather than their religious significance.

Two general features are found throughout the text.  Murphy-O’Connor has “rated” sites with either two stars, one star or no stars in order to indicate locations that must be seen on a visit to Israel.  This is a highly subjective system and should not to imply that a non-starred site can be  skipped.  His point is that starred locations are should not be missed.  For example, Qumran and Masada receive two stars, Megiddo and Capernaum receive one star, and En Gedi no star.  To me, there is no way I could lead a tour group without visiting all of these sites.  While En Gedi is always a favorite with my groups, most people are disappointed with Qumran (although the buffet is great!)

A second feature is the use of side-bars with text from ancient authorities (Inscriptions, Josephus, Maimonides, the Bible, etc.)  These ancient descriptions are helpful when reading the archeological descriptions.  In some cases, side-bars explain key terms (Who were the Mamluks?)

The section on Jerusalem is divided by area of the Old City, beginning with the walls and gates and progressing through the quarters of the Old City to Haram esh-Sarif (Temple Mount), excavations at the Western Wall plaza, Mount Sion, The City of David, the Kidron, the Tombs in the Valley, and the Mount of Olives.  Murphy-O’Connor covers a few locations outside the Old City as well.  There are dozens of line-drawn maps and charts of archaeological sites along with black and white photographs and other illustrations.  These small maps can be used to orient oneself when visiting a location.  For example, the map of the Western and Southern wall excavations has 23 points of interest marked on the map, all of which receive a brief description ion the text.  Virtually everything of interest is marked on these small yet clear maps.

An extra value of the guide is the inclusion of hours of operation for locations as well as telephone numbers.  Murphy-O’Connor provides advice on whether arrangements need to be made for a group or if there is  I am amazed at the minor locations which are briefly included in the Guide, including places like the Convent of the Olive Tree and the Monastery of the Flagellation.

The second section is a “Guide to the Land” and is arranged alphabetically.  Like the section on the Old City, this section combines useful information on make the most of one’s visit to Israel with excellent illustrations and maps.  The map of Masada is particularly good considering it is on a single page.  Most archaeology sites describe has a site map indicating points of interest.  This section also has entries for regions (Golan, Negev), Peoples (Druze, Samaritans, Nabateans) and historical events (Crusades).

If there is any criticism to be of this book is that it is out of date already.  Work in the City of David has been constant for the last few years, rendering this handbook a bit out of date.  The material on the Southern Wall excavations is still good since that area has not has any recent excavations.  My copy of the Oxford Archaeological Guide is well worn and marked with notes made on my tours.  I have photocopied maps from the Guide and taped them into my Moleskin journal for note-taking from other sources.

I eagerly await the Sixth Edition of this essential Guide to the archaeology of Israel!

New Testament Atlases

Bill Heroman kindly included a link to the recent atlas reviews in his June Semi-Carnival.  In my review conclusion, I complained (gently) that the New Testament gets the short end of things in these atlases, with the Pauline sites dismissed in a few pages.  Bill pointed me to the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, edited by Richard J. A. Talbert.  This is obviously an excellent resource for maps of interest to students of the book of Acts and the classical world in general.  I did not include it for several reasons, but primarily because the four review atlases were recent releases (three from 2010) and these four are most likely to used by pastors and laymen.  At $248 ($375 with CD-ROM), the Barrington is a serious tool to be found in serious libraries.  This points out the problem for a New Testament atlas: how would it differ from a classical world atlas?  Presumably an emphasis on Palestine and Jerusalem, but for Acts the major cities are well documented by standard historical atlases.  I have owned the microscopic Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography (originally printed in 1907) for years but still find some of these maps to be useful.

I also appreciate Bill’s comment that this recent spate of Bible Atlases blur the line between an atlas and a Bible dictionary, or at the very least a Bible Handbook.  Usually this falls into the category of a “Historical Atlas” which covers the history of the Old Testament and intertestamental period sequentially.  I suspect this is to make the book a better choice for a Bible Survey course, which increases sales.

One or two items came to mind as I thought about New Testament geographies. Since I am unlikely to  find a purely NT atlas, books like these will have to fill this gap.

I have used Peter Walker’s In the Steps of Paul: An Illustrated Guide to the Apostle’s Life and Journeys (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008, 213 pages, $19.99) for an undergrad Acts class.  This book is a follow-up to his 1997 In the Steps of Jesus: An Illustrated Guide to the Places of the Holy Land and attempts to deal with locations outside Palestine and Jerusalem since they were covered in the first volume.  These two books are richly illustrated with maps from Total Media Services and photography provided from the author, Todd Bolen, and a number of stock services.  In the Steps of Paul focuses a chapter on the major cities visited by Paul in the order of their appearance in the book of Acts.  Walker provides a sketch of the history of the city usually accompanied by a time-line and city map.  It is helpful that his time-lines extend to the modern period and include the excavations of ancient cities.  The bulk of the chapter is a sketch of Paul’s interaction with the particular city, using both Acts and the epistles.  The chapters conclude with a section on the “city today.”  This is a very handy guide of what to see if you visit the cities of Paul, including both earlier Roman and later Christian points of interest. Walker’s In the Steps of Paul in a good guide to the text of Acts and the general history of the cities Paul visited.  It is neither an atlas nor a guidebook, although it has elements of both. Still, these two volumes are both refreshing to read and can be used by both pastors and laymen to orient their thinking geographically when reading Acts.

On the other end of the spectrum is the massive two-volume work by Ekhard Schnabel, Early Christian Mission (Downer’s Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004, 1928 pages, 2 Volumes, $90.00).  While this is not an atlas, I have made a great deal of use of the second volume which covers Paul and the Early Church. For each of the sites mentioned in Acts, Schnabel provides a historical sketch worthy of any dictionary or encyclopedia.  These brief sections are fully conversant with the literature of classical historical scholarship, but they are intended to support his running commentary on the book of Acts.  This volume includes 39 maps and charts illustrating the text.  Some of these are the “usual suspects” (Palestine, the Roman World), but others are unique.  For example, to illustrate how the ancient world understood itself, Schnabel includes the world map of Eratosthenes as well as a world map according to Jubilees. Basic city maps of many of the major cities Paul visited are also included (Antioch, Caesarea, Damascus, etc.)  These are far from the quality one would expect in an atlas.  The map of Rome is so small it is nearly useless.  But as illustrations of the excellent text they serve well.

This massive work is neither a biblical commentary nor a Bible Dictionary, although it combines elements of commentary and dictionary to describe the world the Gospels and Acts.  In my view, it is indispensable for the study of Acts. It is no atlas, but the information is in the book to be discovered.

Bible Atlas Review: Conclusion

Over the last two weeks I have posted reviews of four major Bible Atlases released in the last few months.  All four of the atlases reviewed are excellent and each would be an important addition to any library.  Each has strengths and weaknesses, but each is worth owning and using in personal Bible study.

Best Maps: ESV Bible Atlas.  The maps in this volume are detailed and clear, and the Regional Maps section goes well beyond the other volumes reviewed. The maps are detailed and complete, including Italy, Macedonia and Achia, Western and Southern Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Sinai and Egypt.  These maps span two large pages and are printed to the interior edge of the page so nothing is missing.

Best Photography: Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. I think I was drawn to the photography in this Atlas because more than once I saw a picture which I took on one of my trips to Israel.  The atlas treats us to some unusual angles of traditional sites as well as photos one does not often see in an atlas.  I found myself browsing through this Atlas for the pictures more than the others.

Best Illustrations: ESV Bible Atlas. The drawings of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple in various periods provide a concrete view of scholarly speculation.  The IVP Atlas has excellent illustrations as well, but the ESV illustrations are more rich in details.

Best Articles: ESV Bible Atlas and The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Both of these volumes are worth considering for a college level Old Testament survey course.  The Zondervan Atlas is nearly as good, but the depth of the ESV and Moody atlases is hard to beat.  I might give the edge to the Moody Atlas since it includes a great deal of documentation and footnotes.

Best Layman Atlas: The IVP Atlas. The maps are clear and the art well-presented.  The articles are brief and contained to a pair of pages.  I can imagine someone using this Atlas while reading through Joshua or Judges and tracking events on the maps.  The IVP Atlas is not “dumbed-down” by any means, but will likely be a favorite for the casual reader.

Best Scholarly Atlas: ESV Bible Atlas. While the New Moody Atlas is close, there is simply more details provided in the ESV Atlas.

What is missing from these Atlases?  As I said a few times in the reviews, I like to compare the map of David’s to Solomon’s Jerusalem, to Nehemiah’s Jerusalem, and then to the New Testament period.   This is harder to do with these maps on separate pages.  I would have liked two facing pages with all four periods on it.  What ever happened to the plastic overlays that used to appear in Atlases and encyclopedias? I suppose they have been dropped to keep price down, but they could be useful for demonstrating the growth of the city of Jerusalem.

Another general problem with Bible Atlases is that they seem to be limited in the New Testament period.  A few pages for the world of Jesus and then a few more for the Pauline mission.  I know that the “biblical world” tends to refer to the Canaan, but there is far more that could be done on the Roman world in which Paul ministered.  Some of this is in Ephesus, Corinth and Rome could be given more details and maps.  All the atlases include a section on the seven churches of Revelation, but these  cities were already a part of the Pauline mission.  Dismissing the geography and history of Asia Minor in two or three pages covering the seven cities seems to me too limited.  I would like to see an atlas that was focuses solely on the New Testament geographically and historically.

These four volumes are all excellent contributions to the study of the geography of the Bible. I think that the ESV Bible Atlas and the New Moody Bible Atlas would make excellent textbooks for an Old Testament survey course, although all four would serve well.

Bible Atlas Review: Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (Revised Edition)

Carl G. Rasmussen.  Zondervan Atlas of the Bible.  Revised Edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 303 pages, $39.95.

Like the New Moody Atlas of the Bible, the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible is a new version of an extremely useful atlas.   The text of the atlas remains nearly the name, but all of the maps have been replaced and the entire volume is richly illustrated with photographs and helpful time-lines. Oddly, there is only a few side-bars explaining key terms or giving king lists. The book came with a poster-size topography map of Jerusalem, although it is useful it is little more than an advertisement for the Atlas.

According to the introduction to the Atlas, the maps were prepared by International Mapping rather than Carta (as in the earlier edition).  Since International Mapping provides maps for several other Zondervan publications, there is a familiar “look and feel” to these maps.  For example, Gary Burge’s recent The Bible and the Land has similar maps.  The coloring scheme used is excellent and the maps are easy to read.  In addition to the standard orientation (north at the top), there are a number of maps which give an almost 3D perspective.  For example, the map of Galilee is rotated about 45 degrees so that the elevation of the hill country and the Huleh Valley is clearly visible (p.36).  On these perspective maps, “stick pins” are used to indicate towns alá Google Maps.

The first major section is the standard Atlas.  In these 81 pages, Rasmussen deals with the physical geography of Palestine, but also (briefly) Egypt, Syria-Lebanon, and Mesopotamia.  Rassmussen includes a photo of Jerusalem during a Hamsin and three days after, vividly portraying the difference in air quality and oppressive heat well, especially to anyone who has endured these conditions in May!  These maps include a geological chart, climate maps and charts by region, and several cross-sectional maps which help the reader understand the topographical extremes of the region.

The second section is a Historical Atlas covering the history of Israel, the intertestamental period and the New Testament. Nearly every page is illustrated with a map, chart, or photograph.  The text is suitable for a College-level Old Testament class but is readable for the layman as well.  Rasmussen holds an early date for the Exodus, although he does not have a map indicating possible routes for the Exodus. About 24 pages are devoted to the intertestamental period and twelve pages to the life of Christ.  The section entitled “expansion of the church in Palestine” is odd, since the bulk of these 8 pages are about the Jewish Revolt and fall of Jerusalem. The journeys of Paul are covered in a disappointing ten pages.   A few pages cover the seven churches of Revelation.  The final thirteen pages of the historical section are devoted to the city of Jerusalem, including four topographical maps. The maps showing Jerusalem in the Old and New Testaments are full page and only lightly detailed.  While I wish these were on facing pages so they could be easily compared, they are good reference maps for city walls and other areas of interest in the period.

The photographs are what set this Atlas apart.  The photographs are up-to-date and in many cases quite stunning.  There are several photographs which depict recent archaeology: the bronze age gate at Tel Dan (p. 96), a small photo of the southern Wall excavations (p.216), the Pool of Siloam (p. 249). Often the photographs represent locations which are not on the normal Holy Lands tour and are clearly not stock photography.  Page 52 and an excellent photograph of the Nari Crust and limestone in the Shephelah, which is at Bet Guverin (although Bet Guverin is not mentioned in the caption).  Page 41 has a view of Galilee from the Arbel Cliffs, then the next page has a shot of the Cliffs from the valley floor.  The photo of the Valley of Elah from Kh. Qeiyafa on page 53 is particularly helpful since most photographs of Elah are taken from the valley floor.  Page 136 has a shot of En-Gedi which depicts the high cliffs and palms, but avoids the standard tourist snapshot of the waterfall at the back of the canyon.

If there is anything frustrating about the maps is that there is not enough information given about a few of them.  For example, page 117 has an partially reconstructed four-room house, but there is no indication where this house is located.  There are three excellent photographs of the temple at Ain Dara in Syria, the first of which is labeled as having “strong design parallels with the Solomonic temple in Jerusalem,” but nothing in the text of the atlas describes these parallels nor are the obvious from the photographs. Another photo from Bet Guvrin is used to illustrate the Hellenistic era, although the location is not given (p.185).  The photo on page 107 illustrates “Sinai / Negev Wilderness in which Israel spent 40 years,” although there is no indication of where the photograph was taken.

That last section of the book is a brief essay on the “Disciplines of Historical Geography.”  This essay orients the reader to the problems of philology, toponymy, and archeology as the relate to writing a historical geography.  I think that this section ought to be read by anyone who uses an atlas; placing in the back gives the impression of an “afterthought” or appendix.

The book includes a scripture index, persons index, and a very helpful geographical dictionary and index.  This last index includes every biblical place and gives a brief description of the location, scripture where it is found, and the modern place name.  In many cases, a six digit grid reference is provided for locating sites on a standard map.

Overall the Revised Zondervan Atlas of the Bible is an excellent atlas, use for both pastor and student interested in the history and geography of the Bible.  The layman will enjoy the user-friendly layout and photography.   In general the detailed historical section make this a more useful tool than the IVP Atlas, but less complete that the ESV Bible Atlas or New Moody Atlas.

Bible Atlas Review: The ESV Bible Atlas

John D. Currid and David P. Barrett.  Crossway ESV Bible Atlas.  Wheaton:  Crossway, 2010. 352 pages, $55.00.

The ESV Bible Atlas is a companion to the popular ESV Study Bible.  David Barrett oversaw the maps and John Currid was the Old Testament Archaeology editor for the ESVSB.  In many cases identical maps appear in both volumes.  Because of the quality of paper used in the Atlas, the same maps are easier to read and in some cases larger. For example, “The Setting of the Judges” map (ESVSB 434 / ESVA 4-15) is slightly larger, while the map “The Judges of Israel” on the next page is the same size.  It appears that the contours of the maps show mountains have been toned down for the Atlas.  But this atlas is far more than maps drawn from the Study Bible.  Dozens of specialty maps are inserted into the Historical Geography and the Regional Maps are completely new for this volume.

The volume is divided into four sections.  First, a 44 page introduction covers basic geographical regions, climate, and economy, and archaeology of the Bible. The section concludes with two pages of modern Israel maps with archaeology sites marked.

The largest section of this 352 page atlas is part two, Historical Geography (150 pages).  Like the New Moody Atlas, this historical approach is a richly illustration overview of biblical history.  There are twelve sub-sections: Before Abraham, Patriarchs, Sojourn in Egypt, Wilderness and Conquest, United Monarchy, Divided Monarchy, the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic, Maccabean and Roman eras. Each is illustrated with larger maps covering the whole period and a number of smaller maps, illustrations, and photographs.  Unlike the New Moody Atlas, this section is not well documented.  The text is far more detailed than the IVP Atlas but will not overwhelm the laymen with details.  One unusual feature of this section is a series of computer generated maps which attempt to show the geography from “ground” level.  I am not sure these are particularly effective, but the do provide a different view.

The illustrations in the Historical Geography are excellent, although many are the same as ESVSB.  For example, the various illustrations of Jerusalem are identical: the time of David, (ESVSB 550 = ESVA 127), Solomon (ESVSB 595 = ESVA 131), etc. The illustrations in the Atlas, however, are on a single page and therefore easier to read since there is no center margin running through the picture.  The illustration of the temple is identical to the Study Bible, but twice the size (ESVA 134-35). Likewise the illustration of Zerubabbel’s Temple is much larger than the ESVSB.  I found the artistic renderings of Jerusalem fascinating and appreciate the larger size in the atlas, but I wish they appeared in a single section so I could compare the development of the city over time.

As expected, the ESV Bible Atlas has a wide variety of photographs illustrating the Historical Section.  Many of these photograph come from Todd Bolen (www.bibleplaces.com) and are for the most part recent pictures. Page 143 shows Jeroboam’s altar at Tel Dan as a wooden frame and a bit less development than my visits to the site, but there are no photographs that are obviously too old to be useful.  Often photographs cover a half page and are well chosen to illustrate the text on the page.  I was particular impressed with the photos of Gamla, a site often ignored in atlases (or tours, for that matter).  A lively photo of the oldest synagogue found in Israel appears on page 253 along with an excellent artistic reconstruction on the next page (also in ESVSB, 1956).

Part three is Regional Geography (37 pages) and is more like a traditional atlas.  These elevation maps are beautifully done using Lambert Conformal Conic projections.  Mountains and valleys are clearly visible and a color scale for elevation.  Palestine appears as a two-page map followed buy two-page maps of Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Gilead, Moab and single page maps of Edom and Philistia.  Three maps of Jerusalem are included (David, Nehemiah, and New Testament period).  Each has been overlaid with Charles Wilson’s Ordinance Map via Todd Bolen.

Part four is a collection of time-lines and a wide variety of useful indexes.  One in particular merits attention.  The authors have included an 11 page index of biblical place names followed by their present day place names, location on the Palestine 1923 grid, longitude and latitude data, and the location on the regional maps in the atlas itself.  Location data can be typed into Google maps so you can examine the satellite map of modern Israel for the location.  For example, type “E 34.8490, N 31.5650″ into Google Maps and you will see the region around tel Lachish.  Using Google Earth, one can see tags for the Lachish letters with links to photographs of the site.  Try E “35.1850, N 32.5850″ for Megiddo, there are dozens of tags and links!  One drawback is only biblical places appear in this index, so Qumran, for example, does not have a listing.  But this extra information makes for an incredible learning experience.

Two things set this Atlas apart from the competitors.  The book contains a CDROM with 127 maps from Atlas and ESVSB.  The largest is 1575×2298 pixel map of the near east in the late Bronze Age (map 3.1).  The map of the Roman Empire is a whopping 2240×1463 pixels.  These maps are indexed by chapter and a web page is provided with descriptions and links to the maps.  These maps can be easily added to Powerpoint for use in the classroom.  A second added feature is a poster of the Land measuring 22×16 inches.  The inclusion of an index of cities on the map itself make this a handy tool for quickly locating key places.

If you already own the ESV Study Bible, is there enough new material in the ESV Bible Atlas to justify the extra expense?  Absolutely.  The Historical section is a worthy introduction to biblical History and the Regional Atlas goes far beyond the maps included in the Study Bible.  For the laymen or pastor, these two resources are an excellent foundation for serious Bible study.