Zondervan Atlas of the Bible
Phillips, Elaine, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. By Carl G. Rasmussen. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010, 303 pp., $39.99.
The first edition of this text, the Zondervan NTV Atlas of the Bible (1989), has been a stellar resource for students and teachers of historical geography. This revision only improves on that well-established excellent publication. In fact, much of the prose remains the same and where it has changed, the general tenor is either to streamline somewhat unwieldy sections or to add new and salient information. One small indication of the streamlining is the omission of metric equivalents for distances. Likewise, in the overview sections on Mesopotamia and Egypt, descriptions of extra-biblical texts have been curtailed considerably. Cosmetically, the type-face is easier on the eye, long paragraphs have been broken up, and the maps are much clearer as colors convey the contours.
After a general introduction to the Middle East, the first section of the book addresses the geography of Israel and Jordan at length, with additional overviews of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, and Mesopotamia. This initial material helps the reader understand how the climate, weather, agriculture, and travel routes "work" in each of Israel's regional contexts. These regional studies start with Bashan in the northeast, work south through the Negev and then cross back over into Transjordan. The second portion of the book focuses on biblical history, starting with the Table of Nations (Genesis 10) and carrying through to the seven churches of Revelation. This last is an addition to the first edition, which is not surprising given the author's expansion of his own field instruction into Turkey. Rasmussen presents a brief history of each city in Western Asia Minor along with historical contexts, routes, temples, and characteristics of these cities in conjunction with their descriptions in the letters.
Each unit in the historical sections has a chronological bar chart at the top that correlates events across the major power centers during that particular period. For example, the section on the Divided Kingdom commences with corresponding parallel bar charts for Syria/Mesopotamia, Israel, Judah, and Egypt. While this is a carry-over from the first edition, the bars for each geo-political entity are more clearly delineated. Finally, special units devoted to Jerusalem and to the sub-disciplines within historical geography are a plus.
Excellent tools close the atlas: an updated bibliography; an expanded glossary; indices for persons and Scripture passages; and the "Geographical Dictionary and Index" (a friendly title change from the somewhat erudite "Gazeteer" of the first edition). The footnotes are gone, which also contributes to the streamlining process. Finally, the book includes a free NT Jerusalem map!
One of the more refreshing aspects of the atlas is Rasmussen's unabashed affirmation of the historicity of the narratives, whether they are the pre-patriarchal and patriarchal stories in Genesis or the instances of "twos" in Matthew. The significant gate structures at Gezer, Megiddo, and Hazor are presumed to be Solomonic. A consistent focus of the historical section is retelling of the biblical events with an emphasis on locations.
The author opts for an early date for the Exodus from Egypt, giving credence to the chronological indicator in 1 Kings 6:1. (The explanation of the chronology as it is figured from 1 Kings 6:1 and the matter of relative and absolute dates appear in a box set off from the main text - a change from the first edition.) There is thus a greater focus on Egypt's 18th dynasty in this section. Since the first edition, the author has revised the dates in Egyptian chronology by about 20 years, which does change identification of the suggested pharaoh of the Exodus. …