Oct 9, 2010

Review of Zondervan Atlas of the Bible

Rasmussen, Carl. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Revised ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible is a revised version of the Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible which came out in 1989. While the first edition contains 256 pages, the revised edition clocks in at 303 pages. A spot check of the written portions indicated that these remain basically the same with one notable exception. The new edition has added a section on the seven churches in Revelation (pp. 235–39). While the written portion in both volumes is very similar, many of the maps, diagrams, and pictures are either new or significantly improved. The revised edition is a more attractive volume. In my opinion, this fact alone provides sufficient reason to acquire the new edition. The cover advertises that the atlas comes with a free poster of New Testament Jerusalem. However, my review copy did not come with the poster (for whatever reason) and so I cannot evaluate it. But if the poster is similar to the graphics in the book, then I am sure it would be a nice bonus.

There are four features that I liked about the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. First, as I have already noted, the maps, diagrams, and pictures are nicely done. Second, the written sections typically take conservative Evangelical positions on issues of history and dating (e.g., the early 1446 date for the Exodus). Third, the timelines at the beginning of each section provide the reader a helpful chronological orientation for the discussion and maps in the section. This is not an original feature, but it is one that I appreciated in the original edition as well. Fourth, the indices for Scripture references and persons helps to make the information in the atlas more accessible. Similarly this atlas includes a geographical dictionary and index. This too is helpful, but it can be a bit confusing since there is another section called a glossary. I would suggest combining these sections.

Unfortunately, there are three aspects of this volume that I am less enthusiastic about. First, the font size of the revised edition is noticeably smaller than the original. The smaller font may have been needed to provide more space for the additional maps, diagrams, and pictures. But I think that the smaller font makes this atlas a little harder to use. Secondly, an observation that I would make about other atlases as well is that I wish that there would be more discussion and explanation of how the realities of the geography of the Bible lands impacted the biblical events. Third, I really wish that all published atlases, including this one, would come with a CD or some other way to access the maps, diagrams, and pictures so that preachers and teachers could more easily and efficiently utilize the materials in presentations, lectures, or sermons. This would be much more helpful than providing the free poster noted above.

But these minor criticisms aside, I really like this atlas and it is probably the volume I would recommend for anyone who wants to get a solid and attractive atlas written from an Evangelical perspective.

You can browse the atlas here.

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