The Uttermost Part of the Earth: A Guide to Places in the Bible

By Richard R. Losch
Grand Rapids : Eerdmans (2005). xi + 250 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
20.2 (Fall 2009) : 276-277

In this technological age one of the enjoyable features of some in-car GPS devices is not only seeing a map, but being able to click a button and find out some basic information about the towns one is passing through. This is exceptionally helpful for anyone in an unfamiliar area. Bibles often have a set of maps, but with no other information, most readers are no better off than they would be without maps.

In this work the author has created brief narratives on nearly 100 of the more significant cities that occur in the Bible. He provides a significant amount of information (although not documented) on the locations and gives an overview of their place and significant extra-biblical information about the cities and some of the biblical significance of the sites.

Only a few basic maps (in black line format) are located at the back of the volume. The work has no detailed maps of individual cities, no maps of roadway systems to show how cities are interconnected, and only a few site photographs, most of which are of marginal value.

The caption on the photograph on p. 121 identifies it as “The Western Wall of the Temple” in Jerusalem, but the picture is actually the eastern wall and the sealed eastern gates. The entire caption reads, “The Western Wall of the temple in Jerusalem is all that remains of Solomon’s magnificent structure. Destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE and rebuilt by Herod in the first century CE, it was leveled by the Romans in 70 CE” (121). The Western W all or Wailing Wall, of course, was not part of the temple structure, but the retaining wall that Herod built to enlarge the temple mount area. Herod did not rebuild Solomon’s temple, but enlarged and beautified the temple that had been rebuilt under Ezra (Ezra 6).

Though the author has occasional footnotes, they are used only to expand on some point, not to provide reference information. In fact, he provides no bibliography or supporting documentation at all, and only occasionally makes a reference such as “many scholars believe…,” a vague citation. He makes several dubious statements about both the historicity of events (such as the account of the Battle of Ai in Joshua, 14) and the idea of non-Pauline authorship of Ephesians (91). He also displays the fascination that modern scholars have with the city of Sepphoris. Though Sepphoris was clearly an important regional capital for the Romans in the Lower Galilee (about 5 miles NW of Nazareth), it is never mentioned in the biblical text. Despite this, the author dedicates the second longest article to this city. Only the entry on Rome is longer.

The brisk, popular narrative style is severely weakened by a lack of good graphics and an absence of cartographic support for the entries. Far too many assertions lack support, and the work raises several questions on issues of fact. Many far superior works of this type are available that make it impossible to recommend this boo k at any level.