Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More Top Stories of 2013

Yesterday we listed the top stories related to discoveries and technology. Today we conclude with three additional categories. Yesterday’s introduction applies here as well.

Significant Stories in 2013:

Museums Return Artifacts to Turkey (and here and here)

The Level of the Dead Sea Rose (and may keep rising)

King Herod Exhibit Opening at Israel Museum (and here and here)

Israel’s Water Crisis Is Over

The Cyrus Cylinder Toured the US (and here)

Dead Sea Scrolls for Sale

IAA: Jehoash Tablet Is an Antiquity and Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Oded Golan

King Solomon’s Mines, After All

Replica of King Tut’s Tomb Planned To Save Original

Antiquities of War-torn Syria Are Being Extensively Looted

Two Major Snow Storms in Jerusalem

 

Noteworthy Posts:

Arguments Against Locating Sodom at Tall al-Hammam

Online Museum: Bible and Archaeology

Report Published for Gezer Regional Survey 

Picture of the Week: Jordan River Flooding in 1935

Why Is There Little Evidence for David’s Kingdom?

Video below the Temple Mount

Picture of the Week: Locust Plague of 1915

The Grotto of Saint Paul in Ephesus

Secret Places: 1st Century Synagogue at Magdala

 

Favorite Resources in 2013:

Satellite Bible Atlas, by William Schlegel (and here)

Views That Have Vanished (in Accordance)

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology, ed., Daniel M. Master

Everyday Life in Bible Times, by John Beck

The World of the New Testament, eds., Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald

 

Previous Years:

Top Stories of 2012 (and more)

Top Stories of 2011 (and more)

Top Stories of 2010 (and more)

Top 8 of 2008 (and more)

We wish our readers a happy new year!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Top Stories of 2013

As 2013 winds down, I thought it would be worthwhile to review the top discoveries and stories of the year in the world of biblical archaeology and geography. Not only is the review helpful in refreshing the memory, it also makes it more possible to discern what was more important and what was less.

Today we will review major discoveries, top technology-related stories, and losses. Tomorrow we will survey significant stories, noteworthy posts, and favorite resources of the year.

These lists are subjective, first by the fact that they had to be chosen for inclusion in a post on this blog this year, and second by the process of selecting the best. Readers are welcome to suggest other significant stories in the comments below. These lists are organized chronologically.

Top 10 Discoveries of 2013:

Royal Architecture Found Near Jerusalem

Large Stone Structure Discovered on the Floor of the Sea of Galilee 

Unique Ritual Bath Complex Excavated in Jerusalem

Jerusalem Quarry Discovered

Earliest Alphabetic Inscription in Jerusalem Discovered

Sphinx Fragment Discovered at Hazor 

Claim: Evidence Discovered of the Tabernacle at Shiloh and Evidence of Shiloh’s Destruction Claimed and Stone Altar Discovered at Shiloh

7th Century BC Inscription Found in City of David

Golden Treasure from Byzantine Period Discovered in Jerusalem

Large Stele of Nebuchadnezzar Discovered at Carchemish

More Discoveries of 2013:

Beautiful Mosaic from Byzantine Period Discovered near Beersheba

Hiding in Jerusalem: New Evidence for Roman Siege 

Possible Discovery of Dalmanutha

“Palace of David” Discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa (and here)

“Prophet Elisha’s House” Discovered at Tel Rehov

Roman Road Discovered near Jerusalem

Early Roman period mansion discovered on Mount Zion

Chalcolithic Temple Discovered at Eshtaol

Hasmonean Building Discovered in City of David

Top Technology-Related Stories of 2013:

Archaeological Archive of Israel Online

LiDAR facilitating research at Petra

Visit Ancient Sites with an Augmented Reality App

The BibleMap App

Google Maps Exercise for Biblical Geography and Google Earth Exercise for Biblical Geography

Losses:

Geza Vermes

John Hayes

Sean Freyne

L. Y. Rahmani

Robert J. Bull

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

J. B. Hennessy

David Livingston

The continuation of this compilation is here.

hu130710_mazar4_hi-res

Earliest alphabetic inscription discovered in Jerusalem.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Ouria Tadmor.

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Weekend Roundup

The Book and the Spade has a two-part interview with Kenneth Bailey on the biblical account of Jesus’ birth. (Direct links: part 1, part 2)

Of the James ossuary inscription, Gabriel Barkay says, “It is an authentic inscription.”

The Washington Post reports the Christians who are coming to Bethlehem and the Christians who are leaving.

Ferrell Jenkins takes a moment out to describe the blogs he reads and more.

The Israeli State Comptroller’s report on the illegal excavations on the Temple Mount has been kept secret, until now.

A report in a Knesset committee this week described Israel’s failure to protect ancient wooden beams on the Temple Mount.

Fox News suggests six unusual ways to visit the Holy Land.

Scholars are now studying graffiti left by medieval pilgrims at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

The ASOR Blog has a roundup from the broader world of archaeology.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Weekend Roundup #2

The Israel Museum has acquired the world’s “first Jewish coin.”

Eric Cline and Christopher Rollston have been selected as the new co-editors of BASOR.

Accordance Bible Software has a sale on their collection of Dead Sea Scrolls Images.

The Fall 2013 issue of the electronic newsletter DigSight is now online.

The Top 10 Discoveries of 2013 at Archaeology include Egypt’s oldest port.

Three lectures related to Egyptian history given at the Harvard Semitic Museum are now online.

War-torn Syria is being extensively looted by antiquities thieves, according to the head of UNESCO.

HT: Jack Sasson

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Weekend Roundup #1

The recent snowstorm killed six animals in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

Shmuel Browns shows what it’s like to guide in the Jerusalem snow.

Ferrell Jenkins notes that his favorite single-volume Bible dictionary is now on sale for Kindle for $4.99.

Biblical Archaeology Society is offering a new free eBook: Life in the Ancient World.

Christopher Rollston has published a preliminary report on the Ninth-Century “Moabite Pedestal Inscription” from Ataroth.

Aren Maeir gives his viewpoint on the ASOR Blog of how archaeologists should use the Bible. (I would argue that it is precisely the approach that he advocates that leads to the mess that biblical archaeology is in.)

Princeton University Press is giving away 5 copies of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World app this weekend (iPad only).

HT: Jack Sasson, Charles Savelle

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Notes on Christian Tourist Sites

This week’s edition of the Caspari Center Media Review has several stories of interest.

Of tourist sites in Nazareth:

In anticipation of the Christmas season, Zvika Boreg compiles a list of places to visit in Nazareth, including Mount Precipice, “where the people of Nazareth tried to throw Jesus to his death but he escaped, and – according to the legend – jumped from there to Mount Tabor,” and the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches of the Annunciation.

Of trash on the “Jesus Trail”:

Christian pilgrims walking the Jesus Trail are sure to encounter mounds of trash at various points along the way, writes Yair Kraus. The 65-kilometer trail runs from Nazareth to Capernaum and passes through sites that are associated with the life of Jesus. But the lack of supervision has made it possible for people to use the trail as an illegal dumping ground. Says one tour guide: “Christians think we are a third world country.” The Minister for the Protection of the Environment has asked the local municipalities to form a joint council to deal with the issue.

Of the St. John in the Wilderness Monastery that is not in the wilderness:

Dr. Adam Ackerman writes about the St. John in the Wilderness Monastery, located in the village of Ein Kerem on the outskirts of Jerusalem. According to Christian tradition, John the Baptist lived in a cave that is now hidden within the monastery, where he “fed on honey, locusts, and plant roots, and drank from the waters of the spring….” The monastery is located within a pastoral setting, which raises the question of why it is called St. John of the Desert. The monks explain that the name is “spiritual and not geographical, a ‘desert’ in the sense of a place of solitude and detachment for spiritual elevation.” Ackerman goes on to describe how John the Baptist left this place when he was twenty years old and went to the Judean desert where he “joined the cult of the Essenes ... and baptized Jesus.”

The full report is here.

Monastery of St John in Wilderness, tb020305195

Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Accordance Sale: Views That Have Vanished

Accordance Bible Software has a number of items discounted for their Christmas sale, including this one:

http://www.lifeintheholyland.com/images/bivin/bivin_cd_500.jpg

Views That Have Vanished: The Photographs of David Bivin

This collection includes more than 700 photos taken in the 1960s by David Bivin as he traveled throughout Jerusalem, Israel, the West Bank, and the broader Middle East with his Yashica-D medium-format camera. This is a special collection, as I explain here.

You save $10 off the regular price of $39.99 until the sale ends tomorrow (December 17, 11:59 pm EST). These are great photos, and Accordance adds extra value with the search capability and integration with other Bible resources.

I love this set.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Weekend Roundup

The recent snowfall in Jerusalem was the heaviest December storm since 1953. Haaretz has the latest.

Where is Mount Sinai in Arabia (Galatians 4:25)? This is the final article in Gordon Franz’s series challenging the arguments of Robert Cornuke.

Can you trace the presence of God on earth throughout history? Wayne Stiles begins with the Garden of Eden and the tabernacle and goes from there.

Emek Shaveh posts some details on the forthcoming seven-story visitors’ center to be constructed in the Givati parking lot below the Dung Gate of Jerusalem. (Scroll down for the English version.)

The Cyrus Cylinder is wrapping up its tour of the U.S. and heading for India.

Miriam Feinberg Vamosh describes life for the wealthy in New Testament times.

Ferrell Jenkins reviews the new Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible.

David Livingston, founder of the Associates for Biblical Research, died recently. In honor of his life, ABR has posted an issue of Bible and Spade devoted to his years of service.

Ferrell Jenkins asks, If not Tell Hesbân, where is Heshbon?

The National Museum of Iraq remains closed to the public. This is one Iraqi journalist’s tale of trying to get an explanation.

Wayne Stiles recommends the Top 5 Gifts for Bible Lands Study.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Jack Sasson

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Two Major Snow Storms in Jerusalem

With a foot of snow on the ground already, Jerusalem is bracing for a weekend storm that is estimated to be triple the size of the last one. The city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, said that that the city is facing “a battle against a rare storm, the likes of which we have never seen.” Some highways are closed and residents are being urged to stay home. From the Jerusalem Post:

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the next storm will likely strike in the early evening and last throughout tomorrow. "There are still hundreds of abandoned cars to deal with and it will be closed again during the next storm,” he said. “Police units are working to secure the city and will make patrols throughout the storm.”

Sprung added that residents and visitors should not leave their homes and are asked to check on and assist disabled and elderly neighbors.

“We need everyone to stay off the roads, secure their homes and wait until this next storm passes tomorrow,” she said.

[...]

Some 2,000 stranded motorists in the capital and on the highways leading to the city were rescued by police, IDF and Border Police forces.

[...]

We are currently using all means available to save the people stuck in the storm. Only after the weather calms will we be able to open all of the roadways in the city," Barkat said Friday morning, adding that the city was facing "a battle against a rare storm, the likes of which we have never seen."

The story includes more details and 8 photos of the recent storm. For scenic shots of Jerusalem in the snow some years ago, see our page here.

Photo of the Judean wilderness from the Mount of Olives
Photo from the Jerusalem volume

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Picture of the Week: Nahr el-Kalb

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

In our everyday lives, most of us feel far removed from the biblical world. The stories of Israelites and Judeans, Assyrians and Babylonians, and Jews and Romans seem like they happened long ago in a far off place. And yet every now and then you run across something that makes you think about how connected we are with those times. Our picture of the week is one such example.

We continue our series on obscure sites in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands with a photograph of some of the inscriptions at Nahr el-Kalb (a.k.a., Dog River) in Lebanon. There is a limestone cliff near the end of the river, and the inscriptions carved on that cliff are a virtual "Who's Who" of military leaders who have passed through the area in both ancient and modern times. In the map below, you can see the site's location along the coast of Lebanon between Byblos and Beirut. (Thanks again are due to A.D. Riddle for the map graphic.)


There are numerous inscriptions on this cliff, ranging from 1276 BC to AD 2000. These inscriptions commemorate the actions of Ramses II (Egyptian pharaoh in 13th c. BC), Esarhaddon (Assyrian king in 6th c. BC), Caracalla (Roman emperor in 3rd c. AD), Proculus (Phoenician governor in 4th c. AD), Barquq (Mamluq sultan in 14th c. AD), Napoleon III (French emperor in 19th c. AD [not to be confused with his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte]), and others. Not all of the inscriptions are about military victories. Some of them just commemorate road improvements or the construction of a bridge. Yet the fact that leaders from various times and places all carved inscriptions in this place over the course of over 3,000 years is quite remarkable. This site provides us with a visible link between the modern day and all of the historical periods from the time of the ancient Egyptians onward.


For example, in the photograph above (taken by A.D. Riddle) you can see four inscriptions clustered together (click on the photo to enlarge). The one on the left was originally an Egyptian stela carved by the army of Ramses II in the 13th century BC. In AD 1861, this space was re-used by Napoleon III to commemorate the French intervention in the war between the Druze and Maronites. The two inscriptions to the right of Napoleon's were carved by the ancient Assyrians (the man in the picture is looking at one and the other can be seen directly behind him). The texts of these two stelae have not endured the ravages of time, but the relief of an Assyrian king can still be seen on one of them. These inscriptions date to sometime in the Iron Age. Above the Assyrian stelea, you can see an inscription carved by the British Desert Mountain Corps during World War I, which records their military victories at Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo in 1918.

So in this one photograph we have the armies of ancient and modern nations represented. The juxtaposition of ancient Egypt and Assyria with the French and British reminds us that we are all part of an unbroken string of history. We are not so far removed from the ancients as we think.

This photograph and map, along with over 700 other images, are included in Volume 8 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, and is available here for $34 (with free shipping). Further images of the inscriptions at Nahr el-Kalb can be found here at LifeintheHolyLand.com, and photographs from nearby Byblos can be seen here on BiblePlaces.com.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Deal Signed To Replenish Dead Sea

From The Washington Post:

On Monday, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority agreed on an ambitious plan to begin refilling the ancient salt lake with briny water pumped from the Red Sea — and relieve local shortages of fresh water at the same time.

In the first stage of what could become a massive joint initiative, private investors will be asked to finance construction of a large desalination plant in Jordan, on the Gulf of Aqaba. The plant would suck billions of gallons from the Red Sea and convert it to drinking water that would be shared by Israel and Jordan. Israel, in turn, would increase the amount of water it sells to the Palestinian Authority by as much as 30 million cubic meters a year.

Billions of gallons of “reject brine” — essentially, super-salty water created by the desalination process — would be pumped via a new, 100-mile pipeline and discharged into the Dead Sea, in quantities hoped to be large enough to buy some time and slow the lake’s disappearance.

[...]

Much about the project remains to be worked out. Bids from private investors will be solicited next year, with estimated construction costs for the plant and pipeline running anywhere from $500 million to about $1 billion. The sensitive issue of fees for the water and the exact routing of the pipeline remain to be negotiated.

The first drop of brine would probably not be deposited into the Dead Sea before 2017.

Such a project has been discussed for many years, but this is the first agreement that I am aware has been signed. The Washington Post includes more details, background, and a map of the area. For more general info and photos on the Dead Sea, see this page.

Dead Sea view of lake from above PEF Marker, tb011703401

View of Dead Sea from approximate level of water 100 years ago
Photo from Judah and the Dead Sea

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Robert Deutsch is suing the Israel Antiquities Authority for $3 million.

Leen Ritmeyer points to a Washington Post article and detailed graphic of the Temple Mount.

Seth Rodriquez shares an animated map that shows who controlled the Middle East from 3000 BC to present.

The story of Eilat Mazar’s discovery of gold coins and medallion near the Temple Mount and how she kept it secret is recounted by Israel HaYom.

The Egyptian Museum is open, but King Tut is all alone, according to an update in the Washington Post.

The first winter storm in Israel brought snow to Mount Hermon and a rise in the level of the Sea of Galilee.

HT: Jack Sasson

Graphic from The Washington Post

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Friday, December 06, 2013

Jewish-Christian Conflict on Mount Zion

The Caspari Center Media Review summarizes a recent report in Maariv on antagonism between Jews and Christians on Mount Zion.

The area surrounding King David’s tomb on Mount Zion has become a conflict zone between Christians and Jews, reports Ari Galhar. The monks from Dormition Abbey, which is adjacent to the tomb, claim that the Jews who frequent the place “spit on priests and nuns, spray-paint graffiti on the walls, stand in front of the church and curse the Christians, calling out ‘Death to Christians and Jesus is a monkey,’ and hold events on Saturday evenings with loud music.” The Jews, on the other hand, claim that a secretary and priest from the Abbey, both from Germany, “harass the Jews in that place for anti-Semitic reasons, especially because of the priest’s German background.” They also claim that Christians removed two mezuzot from the entrance to the tomb and also removed prayers books, which they then threw away “in order to hurt us.”

An effort has been made to mediate between the two sides in recent weeks. One mediator explains that much of the blame can be placed on both Jewish and Christian delinquent youth who have been stirring up trouble on purpose. The church held a special meeting on Monday with representatives from the president’s office, the mayor’s office, the Ministry of Interior, and the police, where they expressed their grievances. According to the mayor’s office, the next step will be to hold a similar meeting with the Jews who frequent the tomb.

David's Tomb building from north, tb082305461

Passageway leading to David’s Tomb from Dormition Abbey
Photo from Jerusalem volume

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Picture of the Week: Serabit el-Khadim

(Post by Seth M. Rodriquez)

Our picture of the week focuses on the obscure site of Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai Peninsula.  This is not a place that you will visit on your typical tour of Egypt.  In fact, it was not a place that even many ancient Egyptians would have visited!

Located about 17 miles (27 km.) from the Gulf of Suez, Serabit el-Khadim was a mining site. Teams of miners would be sent to this region by the Pharaoh to dig up turquoise and copper. However, this was only carried out during times when there was a strong central government in Egypt.  The site was occupied on and off from the time of the 4th Dynasty (c. 2600 B.C.) to the time of the 20th Dynasty (c. 1100 B.C.) The following map, which is included in Volume 7 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, shows its position near the Gulf of Suez. (A special thanks is due to A.D. Riddle who created the original maps in the PLBL and has volunteered to customize those maps for this series of blog posts.)


Pictured below are the ruins of the Temple of Hathor that stood at this site and the scorching desert of the Sinai spreading out below it. Starting with a small shrine within a cave, this temple complex grew larger and larger over the course of several hundred years as successive Pharaohs each added their own special touch.


In The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, the temple and its development is described in the following way:

During the excavations an early high place, and a series of temples that replaced it, were revealed within a temenos (enclosure), 200 feet by 140 feet in area. The original Egyptian shrine consisted of a cave sacred to Hathor, goddess of the land and of minerals. In front of the cave a portico was constructed, and then a large court; and further shrines were added during the long Egyptian occupation of the site. Within the temenos were caves dedicated to other deities, such as the moon-god Thoth.
Mining of turquoise did not begin at Serabit el-Khadem until the time of the 12th Dynasty .... Turquoise was essential to the Egyptian jewelry industry, while copper was important for the production of tools and weapons .... The earliest Egyptian monarch to send an expedition to Sinai was Sneferu, the first king of the 4th Dynasty. Mining continued with some interruption down to the end of the 6th Dynasty, when both mines were again worked under Ammenemes III of the 12th Dynasty. Stalae set up in the temple record the various mining expeditions, of which no less than seven took place during Ammenemes III’s reign. ...
The temple of Serabit el-Khadem had been enlarged repeatedly. Continuing the process, Sethos I, founder of the 19th Dynasty, extended it. Rameses II and Merneptah are also recorded in the temple, as is Rameses III of the 20th Dynasty. At the beginning of the 21st Dynasty the mines of Sinai went out of use once more.

This map and photograph, along with over 1,000 other images, are available in Volume 7 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, available here for $34 (with free shipping).

Excerpt is taken from "Serabit el-Khadem," in The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, Logos Edition, ed. Avraham Negev (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990).

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Hasmonean Building Discovered in City of David

The holiday of Hanukkah is an appropriate time to announce the discovery of a Hasmonean-period building in Jerusalem. The structure is located in the Central Valley just south of the Dung Gate in the former Givati parking lot. The Israel Antiquities Authority describes the find in a press release.

In recent months remains of an impressive building from the Hasmonean period (second century BCE) are being unearthed in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is directing in the Giv‘ati parking lot, located in the City of David in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park. The excavations are sponsored by the "Friends of City of David".

The building stands c. 4 meters high and covers an area of c. 64 sq. m. The building’s broad walls (more than one meter thick) are made of roughly hewn limestone blocks that were arranged as headers and stretchers, a construction method characteristic of the Hasmonean period.

Although numerous pottery vessels were discovered inside the building, it was mainly the coins that surprised the researchers. These indicated the structure was erected in the early second century BCE and continued into the Hasmonean period, during which time significant changes were made inside it.

According to Dr. Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, the excavation directors on behalf to the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The importance of this discovery is primarily because of the conspicuous paucity of buildings from the Hasmonean city of Jerusalem in archaeological research, despite the many excavations that have been conducted to date. Apart from several remains of the city’s fortifications that were discovered in different parts of Jerusalem, as well as pottery and other small finds, none of the Hasmonean city’s buildings have been uncovered so far, and this discovery bridges a certain gap in Jerusalem’s settlement sequence. The Hasmonean city, which is well-known to us from the historical descriptions that appear in the works of Josephus, has suddenly acquired tangible expression”.

The story is also reported by Arutz-7 and Israel HaYom.

We’ve reported on excavations at this same area many times in the past:

Hasmonean period building uncovered in Jerusalem

Hasmonean building in Jerusalem.
Photo by Assaf Peretz, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

Aerial view of City of David, tb010703 givati parking diagram 
Jerusalem from the southwest
Click photograph for higher-resolution version.

UPDATE (12/4): Eric Welch has sent this photo taken at the excavations during the summer.

Givati

Excavations in Givati parking lot. The three chambers in the foreground correspond with the chambers on the right side of the top photo.

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Monday, December 02, 2013

Satellite Bible Atlas, Hardcover Edition

We announced this in the latest BiblePlaces Newsletter, but if you missed that, you may want to know that a new edition of the Satellite Bible Atlas is available. The hardcover edition is more durable and lays flat, making it ideal for study at home and on the field. For only $28, this is an affordable investment for all who love the Bible. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Every map covers a full page and is in full color. That allows for lots of detail and context.

3. The atlas provides maps of everything from Abraham's journey from Ur to Paul's arrival in Rome. Whatever you're reading or teaching, you will find a map that marks the location and explains the event. You'll never have to guess where something took place.

7. Purchase includes free access to all of the maps in digital (jpg) format. This makes it easy to use the maps in the classroom and on location.

You can see the full list of why I think this new atlas by Bill Schlegel is a fantastic resource here.

A wall/door map is also available for $7, but if you buy it together with the atlas, the cost is only $4.

If you’re like us, you always wonder what surprise you’ll find when you go to checkout and learn the shipping cost. For those in the U.S., shipping is free. (And for those not in the U.S., the shipping is outrageous, but that’s beyond our control. There is an Israeli distributor who can ship to some countries less expensively.)

We encourage you to consider this as a gift for a parent, child, pastor, teacher, or friend. This is a unique resource at a terrific price.

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