Biblical Archaeology Review 38:5, September/October 2012

ReViews: Assessing Biblical Atlases

The New Moody Atlas of the Bible

By Barry J. Beitzel (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 304 pp., 118 maps, $49.99 (hardcover)

Zondervan Atlas of the Bible

By Carl G. Rasmussen (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 303 pp., $39.99 (hardcover)

Biblical atlases make fine gifts. Both the Moody and Zondervan atlases include attractive shaded relief maps and landscape photographs—illustrations that are likely to encourage browsing. But as reference works, they are becoming increasingly obsolete. Much like dictionaries, thesauruses and encyclopedias, it is usually easier to search for information online then to flip pages in a book. I can no longer recommend a Biblical atlas as a textbook for a college course or an adult study group.

Most Biblical atlases begin with physical geography—the mountains, the rivers, the climate, the roads, the location of cities and the nature of agriculture. Then comes historical geography: peoples, regions, military actions and geopolitical changes over time. But students become fidgety with such content. What’s wrong? Basically these students want to learn more about the Bible. Descriptive geography is not their main focus.

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