Review of The IVP Concise Atlas of Bible History @ivpacademic

We live in a rather visual culture. We like shiny objects helping to render the words on the page as tidy images. We are all truly children who like to have picture books in front of us. This is nothing to be ashamed about, but something to understand and use. We like images because they help us learn and understand! Colorfully detailed images, after all, are but an evolution of the images used as letters.

When reading Scripture either for ourselves or for others, it is nice to have images before us in order to focus our minds on the text. I remember sitting in worship when I was much, much younger and always flipping to the maps at the back of the bible. At one point I realized some bibles even had images of the canon, church history, and the Temple. To be completely honest, it was those images that always fascinated me. Sure, I love the maps, but the diagrams and other drawings of ancient temples and other objects related to stories in Scripture drew my attention to the words on the page more than a loud, fiery sermon. It helped me to visualized what Moses was planning in Leviticus and where Jesus stood in Matthew.

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This is why I am drawn to the IVP Concise Atlas of Bible History. It is an absolute gem in visualizing the geographical narrative of Scripture. The Atlas presents, as edited by Richard Johnson, in full-color an abbreviated version of the older and larger Atlas. However, the user of this work gets a portable volume geared to the graduate student as well as small groups in an inexpensive and concise book. It includes a hundred maps, chronological charts, and panoramic reconstructions. However, it is not merely a picture book.

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Without following a literalist reading, the IVP Concise Atlas of Bible History follows the narrative of Scripture, beginning in Genesis ending with the spread of Christianity (c. 337 CE).  An interesting find is the inclusion of the history of the Jewish Revolt as well as including a discussion on Jews in Egypt. Thus, the narrative of Scripture grows naturally to include narratives about those who first narrated Scripture. The only thing lacking is a serious use of the Deuterocanonical books (or, Apocrypha) although 1 and 2 Maccabees are employed to showcase some history. As far as history goes, the Atlas likewise brings together some of the latest archaeological finds. Over all, the history is sufficient, although the editors stretch it when examining the archaeological evidence of the Patriarchs (24–5).

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The Atlas begins with a brief introduction detailing the scheme of the book. They intend to present the narrative of Scripture in a historical, geographical, and theological detail while allowing “that some details are difficult to understand” given the divide between then and now. It then moves into discussing the nature of the Bible, as well as early narratives (Creation and the Flood) and other pertinent subjects (Egypt, Joseph, and Moses) before we get into Scripture proper beginning with the events of Exodus. The history of Israel is presented from the days of the united Kingdom until Exile and the return. Efforts are made to keep the story following the scriptural narrative with verse citations. The sections on the New Testament break down the years of the ministry of Jesus as well as Paul’s missionary journeys. This is not an attempt at critical history but simply follows the narrative of Scripture.

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This is a fantastic resource for seminary and graduate students as well as small groups. Indeed, every church library should have one!

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Post By Joel Watts (10,074 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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4 thoughts on Review of The IVP Concise Atlas of Bible History @ivpacademic

  1. While they can be helpful, illustrations can also come to define a subject so completely as to obscure potential and equally viable alternatives. Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ painting serves as an excellent example in this regard.

      • Typically, floor plans also include elevations. Shortly thereafter, the vertical plane renderings become artist conceptions. Then, the artist conceptions become animations. In short, it is the story of how Disney hijacked the fairy tale and, in the process, destroyed childhood imagination.

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