I remember my first “real” Bible that I received as a middle schooler. It was marketed toward students and had applicable study questions scattered among the text. But one of my favorite parts of this Bible were the full-color maps at the beginning. I was able to imagine the world of the Ancient Israelites, track Jesus’ miracles, and follow Paul’s missionary travels along dotted lines. Those maps helped the Bible come alive as I was able to cross-reference them on our family’s globe.
The Basic Bible Atlas by John A. Beck takes me back to those early maps of my childhood. This comprehensive atlas was designed for those of us interested in historic biblical narratives but who aren’t pursuing a theology degree. I appreciate how map-forward Beck’s commentary is. Divided into sections starting with the Creation, Fall, and Rescue Plan Stories, moving into United and Divided Kingdom Stories, and continuing into the life of Jesus and the early church, the maps are at the forefront of the book. Beck comments on socioeconomic norms and challenges of the times and weaves history into the biblical context.
I appreciate that Beck focuses mostly on history and attainable facts around the region at a point in time. It is set up like a guide into the region and its changes over the centuries. Beck helps well-known stories add new dimension within the parts of the map he chooses to focus on.
It’s not an overwhelming volume. As a 160 page paperback, I found it nice enough to keep on our coffee table without being so daunting that I didn’t pick it up to read through. I kept it in an easily-accessible spot, as I found myself reading a few sections at a time. This book could be read through, cover to cover but it is equally useful as a reference book, read out of order and as needed.
If you’re looking for a supplement to your Bible’s maps, if you have an interest in the geography of the region, or if you’re looking to deepen your understanding of the historic contexts of the Bible, I’d recommend The Basic Bible Atlas as an addition to your shelves––or coffee table!
Do maps help you create context? What are your favorite “additional” parts to modern Bibles?
I received this book free from the publisher via Baker Books Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion.