Selecting a Bible Atlas

A few weeks ago I had a request to recommend a good Bible Atlas. In recent years I have found it difficult to recommend any “good” book unless I have extensive knowledge about the ability of the person making the request, and understand why they need the book. I have more than 15 Bible atlases in my study, and have used others, but no one of them completely satisfies when I get to looking for something special.

Some reader might be thinking, “I have maps in my Bible.” You should either stop reading or continue reading. Maps included in various Bibles can be helpful in seeing a general area, but are of little value in studying details. And, I note that many people have old Bibles that can not have the benefit of the latest research.

So, I have turned to the judgment of someone I trust in this area.

Todd Bolen is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at the Israel Bible Extension of The Master’s College in Israel. He has been teaching in Israel in the area of biblical archaeology, geography and history for the past ten years, but is currently on leave to continue his studies in the USA. Take a look at his Annotated Bibliography of Selected Books for Israel Studies. Click here.

Among the atlases briefly mentioned are the following:

The Carta Bible Atlas, by Aharoni.
The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, by Beitzel.
The Holy Land Satellite Atlas, by Cleave.
Student Map Manual: Historical Geography of the Bible Lands, by Monson.
Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible, by Rasmussen

Bolen says,

“This [Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible] is the atlas to buy to *read* – and therefore is the first choice for a beginning student who can read only one work on the geography of the land. Though the maps are not as extensive or detailed as Macmillan, the text is well-organized, well-written, and trustworthy. The first seventy pages are a geographical overview of the land, region by region. The remaining 130 pages is a historical overview of the lands of the Bible through the biblical periods.”

Bolen also has helpful lists of books on Geography, Old Testament Archaeology, Archaeology Periodicals, Jerusalem Archaeology, New Testament Background, History of Ancient Israel, Modern Israel, et al. The list was last updated October 26, 2007.

On the Bible Places Blog, Bolen comments on “Two New Bible Atlases.” The IVP Atlas of Bible History, by Paul Lawrence, and the Oxford Bible Atlas (4th ed.), by Adrian Curtis.

Here is a review of Carta’s New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible. This is an abridgement of The Sacred Bridge. Bolen says,

“Just to be clear, there are many things in this book that I disagree with. If you’re looking for something more conservative, try the NIV Atlas of the Bible, by Carl Rasmussen or the Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, by Barry Beitzel.”

Bolen also has some information on Electronic Maps for Bible Teaching here. Written in 2004, the following works are reviewed or mentioned prominently:

Carta’s Comprehensive Bible Atlas
Bible Maps from Manna
Logos Deluxe Map Set
Nelson’s 3-D Bible Mapbook
Logos Bible Atlas

Below I will list some additional information I have gathered on some other digital sources.

OpenBible.info Bible Atlas (uses satellite photos as the basis of the maps). This includes links to some photos, but many are of no value. Scripture references open to the English Standard Version.

BibleMap. In this program you start with the Bible text to locate places marked on Google satellite maps (photos) or modern road maps. Information from the outdated (1913) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is also included in the program.

Bible Geocoding claims to contain the location of every identifiable place mentioned in the Bible.

Prof. Mark V. Hoffman writes a blog called Biblical Studies and Technological Tools (From scroll to screen… codex to computer…). Scroll down on the right and click on the label for bible mapping to find information on various digital programs.

American Bible Society has some very nice Interactive Maps in flash format. These would be fine for online study, and it would be great if ABS would make them available in a larger format. The maps require Flash which I was unable to use in Firefox, but I did see the maps in Internet Explorer.

In preaching, and in much teaching, I find that a map showing the general area is adequate for the purpose. I use these various maps in my PowerPoint presentations, but none of these really get at the issue of topography and geography. I use some of the Manna Bible Maps by my friend Matt Hennecke. Scott Richardson, a friend and former student, has prepared some good general purpose Bible Study Maps that I sometimes use in PowerPoint.

For more detailed work I often use the NASA satellite photos and work up maps that will allow me to show not only the place name, but also the terrain and travel routes. Here is an example of what I am talking about.

Satellite View of Area of Paul’s First Journey

Even though I note that several preachers seem excited about some of the programs using satellite imagery, I wonder if a person who has not visited the lands of the Bible can really use these to good advantage.

Visit BiblicalStudies.Info, click on Scholarly, then Maps of Bible Lands, for some additional sources of maps. These vary in quality but may be useful for some purposes.

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3 responses to “Selecting a Bible Atlas

  1. Pingback: Bibles and Airports » Selecting a Bible Atlas Ferrell’s Travel Blog

  2. Pingback: Maps and Geography in Biblical Studies « Ferrell’s Travel Blog

  3. Pingback: A New, Smaller Bible Atlas « Ferrell’s Travel Blog

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