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The Holman Illustrated Guide to Biblical Geography includes more than 200 images and over 50 maps to provide a coherent and meaningful set of pegs on which to hang the events that march across the biblical stage. For many Bible readers (and teachers), one king, one battle, one story often blurs into the next. A geographical grid provides an objective structure to make sense of the biblical narrative. Historical and cultural geography give hue and texture to what are sometimes seen as rather flat, black-and-white pages of the biblical text.
Reading the land enables us to read the Bible with greater insight. Though the truths of the Bible transcend time and place, they are rooted in them. Geographical data inform our understanding of activity in the land of the Bible, while the Bible’s own description of these events, embedded deeply in the reality of the land itself, helps us better understand the living context in which these events took place. When we develop a skill set that allows us to read the land of the Bible as fluently as we might read the text, we stand not only to gain a better appreciation of the divine-human events of Scripture, we also gain an understanding of how these events become relevant to us in our own particular living contexts.
Biblical geography has great apologetic value. The biblical writers had to be accurate when presenting geographical material. Unlike some matters of history and doctrine, their assertions about the realities of land forms and climate, or about the relation of one city to another, or about the use of strategic routes could easily be verified both by their first readers as well as by contemporary readers. Verifiable geographic information provides a solid foundation on which to place and evaluate the veracity of other truth claims in the biblical text.
Paul H. Wright is president of Jerusalem University College – Institute of Holy Land Studies, in Jerusalem, Israel. Born in the rich farmland of Illinois to a long line of farmers, teachers and Bible readers, Paul has an inborn appreciation of how geography has shaped the biblical text. He and his wife Diane have lived in Jerusalem for twenty-five years, where he has taught biblical historical geography, on-site, to thousands of students, helping them come alive to the Bible. Paul received a Ph.D. in Bible and Ancient Near East from Hebrew Union College and is ordained in the Baptist General Conference.