Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:583 (Jul 1989)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The Harper Atlas of the Bible. Edited by James B. Pritchard. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1987. 254 pp. $49.95.

“Grand tradition…colorful style…comprehensive coverage…latest research…stunning and comprehensive two-page spreads”—those are the terms with which the publishers announce the volume they describe as “the most authoritative and comprehensive Bible atlas available.” Boasting a research team of 50 scholars (including F. F. Bruce, Trude Dothan, Anson Rainey, and Yigael Yadin) under the direction of general editor James B. Pritchard (probably best known for his Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament), Harper has produced, with the help of the Times of London, a Bible atlas with visual appeal and comprehensive coverage of the biblical landscape and its inhabitants from the beginnings of Natufian culture (about 10, 000 B.C.) through Byzantine Palestine (after A.D. 600).

The basic format of the atlas is a two-page spread elucidating cartographically, pictorially, and textually the major periods and events of biblical history. Each spread includes a large map complemented by smaller maps, charts, diagrams, photographs, drawings, and text. The supporting material includes items such as city plans, archaeological site reconstructions, military campaigns and battle maps, and house and building plans. Interspersed at relevant historical periods are illustrated treatments of such topics as daily life in ancient Egypt, flora and fauna of the Levant, tombs and burial practices, crafts and industries, warfare, and city planning.

The overall appearance of the map spreads is impressive. Many of the large area maps give a simulated astronaut’s-eye view of the biblical landscape. Though that often makes the map impressive, it sometimes produces visual confusion. Some of the projection angles and multiple-map overlays produce a dizzying, omni-theatre appearance that detracts from the purpose of using historical maps—to achieve clarity in the relationship between geography and history. Perhaps the cartographic designers are to be excused for some excesses in their attempts to present unusual and visually stunning landscapes, but never before has this reviewer become air-sick from looking at a map. Some of the maps are so cluttered with insets

of supplementary material that the whole spread becomes confusing. The progression of events within a time period or military campaign is sometimes represented by a series of partially superimposed maps that in some cases are visually unforgivable if not incomprehensible (such as the fourfold map overlay on pages 104–5 tracing Israel’s relations with Aram).

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