Atlas of the Bible and Christianity

By Tim Dowley, ed.
Grand Rapids : Baker (1997). 160 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
9.1 (Spring 1998) : 104-106

Atlas of the Bible and Christianity is a delightful tool for studying the geographical aspects of both the Bible and church history. It contains 160 attractive, computer-generated maps and 50 full-color photos. Computer-generated block diagrams of Palestine (8), David's capture of Jerusalem (32), and the Sea of Galilee (63) illustrate the actual topography. Dowley inserts artistic representations at key points. These include a cross-section through the Gihon Spring at Jerusalem (32), a drawing of Solomon's Temple (37), and a typical medieval monastery (96). He arranges the atlas chronologically and divides it into five parts: The Geography of Palestine (8-12), Old Testament Period (13-54), New Testament Period (55-72), The Early Church (73-112), and The Modern Church (113-54). A functional index (155) and gazetteer (156-60) round out the volume.

 Dowley received his Ph.D. in church history from the University of Manchester and was also the editor for Introduction to the History of Christianity and Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity. In the Bible half of the volume (8-72) Dowley utilized the expertise of Alan Millard (Rankin Professor in Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages, University of Liverpool). The remaining editorial consultants were David Wright (Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History, University of Edinburgh) and Brian Stanley (Director of the North Atlantic Missiology Project for the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St. Edmund's College). This volume is an American and English co-edition in cooperation with Angus Hudson Ltd. in London. The English origin shows up in the employment of British spellings.

 The following select list of map titles represents the depth and breadth of Atlas of the Bible and Christianity:

  • The Natural Vegetation of Palestine (11)
  • The Battle of Ai (21)
  • Ehud and the Moabites (26)
  • The Campaigns of Tiglath-Pileser III (44)
  • The Economy of Palestine, c. 10 BCE (54)
  • Plan of the Monastic Settlement at Qumran (58)
  • Jerusalem at the Time of Christ (including the route of Jesus' last days in and around the city) (65)
  • The Siege of Jerusalem, 70 CE (71)
  • The Golden Age of the Church Fathers, 4th to 5th Centuries (76-77)
  • The Barbarian Invasions, 4th and 5th Centuries (82)
  • Nestorian Missions in Asia (88) · Christianity in Russia c. 1050 (95)
  • Heresies in Medieval Europe, 1160-1260 (104)
  • The Hussites of Bohemia, 1419-1436 (112)
  • Baptist and Methodist Churches in USA, 1850 (128)
  • Missions to Africa (133)
  • Worldwide Growth Rate of Christianity c. 1995 (138-39)
  • Bible Societies Worldwide (142-43)

Specialized areas include Islam, Pentecostalism, 19th-century missions in Asia, Celtic missions, Gothic cathedrals, medieval Jews, Franciscan monasteries, pietism in Europe, Christianity in the American colonies, and African independent churches - just to name a few.

The majority of maps exhibit a high standard of excellence. Those few items that slipped by the editors include the misalignment of background, symbols, and text on the relief map of Palestine (9). Unhappy layout choices show up in a few cases where someone might erroneously take a location title as the title for the map key (90, 91). The atlas generally gives Scripture references on the maps where such information is pertinent (18, 19, 30), but it sometimes omits them where they would have been helpful (28). A lack of time reference hampers the usability of some maps (14, 70).

 Several omissions in the atlas are unfortunate. Among them is the omission of Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and Daniel from the map of the prophets (41). In the map of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah, the Water Gate is missing (50). The maps and the gazeteer omitted En-Rogel (1 Kgs 1:9). In a few places additional explanation would help to clarify unsupported declarations. This problem occurs in the claims that land "may lie behind the confrontation between Cain and Abel" (10) and that the Vikings "helped in the tenth century to rebuff the growing threat of Islam" (91). Stating that the ark was "recaptured" (27) is one example of an inaccurate choice of terms.

The atlas' location of the Reed Sea crossing north of the Gulf of Suez (20) and denial of the unity of Isaiah (49) reveal its non-evangelical stance.

 Fortunately, the infelicities, inaccuracies, and omissions are limited. This reviewer recommends the volume for church, academic, and personal libraries.