Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pulpit Review: ESV Bible Atlas

Currid, John D. and David P. Barrett. ESV Bible Atlas. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 349 Pages. Cloth with CD and Poster. $49.99. (P)

"Capitalizing on recent advances in satellite imaging and geographic information systems, the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas offers Bible readers a comprehensive, up-to-date resource that blends technical sophistication with readability, visual appeal, and historical and biblical accuracy.

"All the key methods of presenting Bible geography and history are here, including more than 175 full-color maps, 70 photographs, 3-D re-creations of biblical objects and sites, indexes, timelines, and 65,000 words of narrative description. The atlas uniquely features regional maps detailing biblically significant areas such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, Italy, and Greece. It also includes a CD with searchable indexes and digital maps, and a removable, 16.5 x 22-inch map of Palestine.

"This carefully crafted reference tool not only sets a new standard in Bible atlases but will help ESV readers more clearly understand the world of the Bible and the meaning of Scripture" (publisher's website).

Yes, the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas is $50. Would you rather have a theologically-compromised so-called Bible Atlas from a budget bookseller, or something you wouldn't be afraid for your children (or, if you are a pastor, congregation members) to read all by themselves? You will appreciate the durable hardcover, too. Add in the enclosed map and digital maps, and $50 is truly a bargain for an heirloom volume!

An atlas, like any Bible reference, helps provide the context for the Biblical text. See the wilderness where Christ was tempted (27). Consider the Hebrew Calendar and religious festivals (33). See a Roman road without making the trip (39). Compare ancient and modern political borders (45). Ponder the location of the Garden of Eden (52). And see the Biblical world as Abraham did (72, cf. Google Earth). Admire the beauty of the Tabernacle (94-95), Solomon's Temple (134-135) the Temple in Ezekiel's vision (176-177), and the Temple Mount in the Time of Jesus (216-217).

Too many Bible references find nothing new in Christianity, bowing to the "history of religions" school of thought. This atlas assumes that the Bible is true and trustworthy and that other religions, legends, and histories are pale imitations or reflections of the actual Biblical historical record (e.g., 83, et al).

When was the Exodus? Consider the data on 91 and elsewhere. Why were the golden calves of Jeroboam located where they were? See 143. What was happening in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Palestine at the same time? See the timelines (305ff).

I appreciated the regional maps for the added detail essential for the journey of Abram, the Exodus, Jesus' Ministry, or the Missionary Journeys of Paul. The accompanying CD-Rom includes a wealth of color and black and white images for use in Bible Study. (For other uses beyond the home and congregation, please contact the publisher). Across the board, maps are beautiful and clear. Here are two other samples:

How many different ways can you say, "stunning"? I loved the color maps and charts in the ESV Study Bible, but not always its theological perspective. The Crossway ESV Bible Atlas is a wonderful companion to any Bible, ESV Bible, or particularly The Lutheran Study Bible.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.