May 29, 2012

Interview with Todd Bolen

Many readers are likely familiar with Todd Bolen, although some of you may not know it. His pictures have appeared in numerous publications including the Archaeological Study Bible and the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament. Todd has lived and taught in Israel and led numerous tours there (including one that I was on). He runs the website, is a fellow blogger and a Ph.D. candidate at Dallas Theological Seminary. His most recent project is the revised and updated photo resource, Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. I am very thankful to Todd for taking the time to answer a few questions.

1. How does understanding the geography and archaeology of the Holy Lands contribute to the practice of Bible exposition?

Bible exposition is the practice of explaining a portion of Scripture, and to do correctly that one needs to know as much as possible about the text and the backgrounds of that text. The authors wrote to contemporaries who knew their land and their culture. Because we live thousands of years and thousands of miles away, we study geography and archaeology in order to try to reduce the distance between them and us. The more that we can “get into their world,” the more likely we will correctly understand what they wrote.

2. You have just released a revised and expanded edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (PLBL). How have you used pictures like those in the PLBL in your own teaching and preaching ministry?

I started creating the Pictorial Library for my use. I was teaching college courses in Israel and while I often had the sites themselves as backdrops, I needed visual aids for the classroom lectures. Initially I used a slide projector and dreamed of a day when I wouldn’t have to sort slides for each lecture. I completed the first, rather modest, edition of the Pictorial Library in the year 2000 and I’ve been working on this new edition for the last 9 years. I taught a new course at church this spring and having the (almost finished) Pictorial Library available saved me a lot of time. Having a library of digital images allows me to illustrate sites, scenes, and cultural activities with ease.

3. The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands contains more than 17,500 images. Do you have any suggestions for relatively new Bible teachers on how best to use these images without getting overwhelmed?

I would suggest using the collection as a library, drawing out whatever images are useful for the situation. I recommend copying the disks to the hard drive and using a search program such as Picasa to quickly identify images by location and keyword. The PowerPoint presentations are easy to access as well, and you can open up the desired presentation and copy whatever slides you need into your own teaching PowerPoint.

4. How can a Bible teacher be more effective by using the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands?

Photos can help teachers in so many ways. They can help to create an atmosphere, such as what the Sea of Galilee looked like before and during a storm. They can communicate a concept better than words, such as revealing the size of the enormous Temple Mount instead of stating that it is 300 meters long or the size of 24 football fields. They can transport the viewer to the site itself, such as the Elah Valley where David confronted Goliath. They can demonstrate a practice, such as how a shepherd would shear his sheep. They can also correct misperceptions, such as what the Judean wilderness looks like where Jesus fasted and was tempted.


Unknown said...

For the past decade I have used Todd's pictures with great effect in my courses at Dallas Theological Seminary as well as in my preaching/teaching opportunities. Any Bible teacher or preacher who uses PowerPoint will benefit greatly using this wonderful too.

Unknown said...

For over a decade I have used Todd's pictures in my lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary as well as in other preaching/teaching opportunities. If you are a Bible teacher/preacher who uses 'PowerPoint' then this resource will be an excellent help to illustrate the text.