Must-Have Resources for Bible Lands Study

I've boiled down an essential list for you.

Not everybody can travel to Israel. But everyone can benefit from including Bible lands in their personal Bible study. You just need some good tools.

Tabernacle model and courtyard

(Photo: Tabernacle Model. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

I have discovered that including Bible lands in my study has given me more understanding of the Bible than I ever imagined. The benefits of including Bible lands in the study of Scripture are available to everyone.

Many people have asked what resources I recommend. So I’ve created what I consider a must-have list. These are the tools I reach for first when I study—those resources that have proven most helpful to me for years.

I’ll give you the full list, and then I’ll suggest which ones to get first.

Bible Atlases

Zondervan Atlas of the BibleThe most basic resource for studying Bible lands is a good Bible atlas. Good atlases provide more than maps; they teach the importance of geography as it relates to history, archaeology, topography, climate, and soils. Several outstanding atlases are available today. These are the three I use the most.

  • Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, by Carl G. Rasmussen. This is a revision of Rasmussen’s excellent NIV Atlas of the Bible. This was the first atlas I seriously read and used, and its text is excellent. Dr. Rasmussen has spent many years teaching in Israel and his atlas gives you the benefit of this time. His Essential Atlas of the Bible is an abridged version that’s still very accessible.
  • The Satellite Bible Atlas, by Bill Schlegel. A new Bible atlas with 85 full-page color maps. The biblical events are marked on enhanced satellite imagery, accompanied by geographical and historical commentary. Your purchase includes a link to download the outstanding digital maps, which I used to search in Evernote.
  • The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World, by Anson F Rainey and R. Steven Notley.  I’ll be honest: this is my favorite. It’s pretty dense and scholarly, but it makes good use of original sources and languages. It’s also expensive, but I always appreciate the detail and insights it gives me every time I open it.
Jesus' Public Galilean Ministry

(Map of Jesus’ Public Galilean Ministry, courtesy of Satellite Bible Atlas)

Images of Bible Lands

If a picture paints a thousand words, then thousands of high-resolution pictures are even better. I use the images from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands almost daily on my blog (including the image at the top of this post!), and I have used them for years in my teaching and personal Bible study.

Western Wall prayer area filled during Sukkot

(Photo: The Western Wall, just one of thousands of images from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The best deal is the Israel Collection—which I use. But you could get one volume at a time. See the entire collection.

Here are the volumes related to Israel:

  • Jerusalem—includes more than 1500 photos of the Old City, Temple Mount, City of David, Western Wall Tunnels, West Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives.
  • Samaria and the Center—includes more than 1200 photos of the Jezreel Valley, Harod Valley, Mount Carmel, Sharon Plain, Samaria, Jordan Rift, and Benjamin.
  • Galilee and the North—includes more than 1100 photos of the Golan Heights, Huleh Basin, Galilee Hill Country, Sea of Galilee, Jordan River, and the Plain of Asher.
  • Judah and the Dead Sea—includes more than 1500 photos of the Hill Country of Judah, Judean Wilderness, Dead Sea, Shephelah, and the Philistine Plain.
  • Negev and the Wilderness—includes more than 700 images from the regions of the Biblical Negev, Negev Highlands, Nabatean Cities, Nahal Zin, Spice Route, Wilderness of Zin, Wilderness of Paran, Aravah, and the Red Sea.
  • Israel Collection—all of the above, including more than 6000 images and 100 PowerPoint presentations.

Israel Collection

Take a look at the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and see why this photo collection is so unique, so valuable, and so useful.

Books about Bible Lands Geography

If you’re interested in the land itself, these books do a great job—and have for many years.

My Essential List

Obviously, dream list would include all of these resources! But here’s the essential list in the order I suggest you get them:

  1. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, by Carl G. Rasmussen.
  2. The Satellite Bible Atlas, by Bill Schlegel.
  3. The “Israel Collection,” from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. You really should get the entire library eventually.

You can start here and add to this list on your birthday and at Christmas.

Question: What other resources have you found helpful in studying Bible lands? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • Pingback: Must-Have Resources for Israel Bible Lands Study | ChristianBlessings()

  • BiblicalRemains

    Thanks Wayne for this great list!

    To this, I would add the Atlases and Map Studies offered by Jim and John Monson over at BiblicalBackgrounds.com. You can’t beat the their free map studies for “Regions on the Run” and “Geobasics in the Land of Bible.” Additionally their method of study allows the user to become an active participant in the creation of maps as opposed to passively consuming the information in most atlases.

    Also, Paul Wright’s “Greatness, Grace and Glory; An Atlas of Biblical Biography” offers wonderful, insightful and practical application of the Historical Geography of the biblical lands to individual biblical characters.

    • I’m grateful for these additions, Larry. Thank you. No doubt, Monson’s newer materials get a student’s hands dirty in the best way. I think I left blood on my old Student Map Manual! I still refer to those studies. It really is the best way to learn– and requires the most work. I also appreciate knowing about Wright’s volume. I love the blending of geography and application. It’s nice to see Carta publishing application as well as information. Thanks again.

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  • Phil Bruce

    Thanks Wayne for the helpful article. I was not aware of the link to download maps in Satellite Bible Atlas.

  • Barry

    Hi Wayne. Thanks for getting back to me so promptly. Re resources about Israel I have found Ray Vander Laan’s material (DVDs) to be excellent. His original series “That the World May Know” led me to go to Israel myself on a pastor’s familiarization tour, and I was able to show our guide places he knew nothing about (eg the standing stones and Solomonic gate at Tel Gezer) and about which he didn’t know the significance (eg the cliff and cave at Caesarea Philippi) both introduced in this series. Ray has also developed new material easily accessed via Google.

    I have also found the following books useful:
    • Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Places. Consulting Editor John J Bimson. IVP UK 1995.
    • The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Alfred Edersheim. Hendrickson Publishers USA 1993.
    • There are a number of books available on Biblical customs, such as The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times. Ralph Gower Moody Press Chicago 2000.
    • With Jesus through Galilee According to the Fifth Gospel. Fr Bargil Pixner OSB. Corazin Publishing Israel 1992; and With Jesus in Jerusalem. Same author etc. Some interesting insights, but not all of them traditional. Pixner died in 2002 but for decades led tours of Israel for both Catholic and Protestant students at Dormition Abbey and as an archaeologist he uncovered the Essene quarter on Mt Zion.
    • There are numerous “tourist” books available in Israel, all of them well illustrated.

    Hope I’ve been able to add something of worth. Amazon may be able to help with out of print books.

    Blessings, Barry