Tag Archives: Todd Bolen

Following the Blogs

Available today only in Kindle format: How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot. This is not the only book you need on this subject, but it is a good beginning source.

Todd Bolen’s Bible Places Blog is the best source for keeping up with news and recent materials related to Bible Places. I am a fan of the Weekend Roundup, with links to a variety of helpful materials. Today’s post reports that that rooms of Emperor Augustus on the Palatine Hill in Rome are now open to the public. Read here.

House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill, Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill, Rome. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Charles Savelle provides a regular flow of links to helpful tools for serious Bible teachers and students at his BibleX (Bible Exposition). He recently pointed us to material on the Didache, The Dating of Deuteronomy and the Suzerain-Vassal Treaty Forms, and The Importance of Biblical Geography. I check this site regularly.

I enjoy following Bible Lands Explorer, the blog of Mark Ziese. Mark is a unique writer. His most recent post points us to a Brazilian newspaper for which he provided photos of the Jesus Trail. You may not be able to read the Portuguese newspaper, but there is a nice slide show of Mark’s photos.

Reading Acts. The blog by Phillip J. Long has some helpful articles for Bible students. Check some of these recent posts:

Ancient History Encyclopedia. This is a nice site including an encyclopedia that is primarily intended for high school level. Includes Index, Timeline, Maps, Photos, Videos, etc. Check the article on Roman Roads here.

ePlace. Research materials provided by Asbury Theological Seminary. Includes TREN collection of professional conference papers, dissertations, et al.

The Journal of Inductive Biblical Studies. This journal is built on the well-known work of Kuist, Traina, and others who wrote on Inductive Bible Study.

Daily Dose of Greek. Sign up for a 2-minute video Daily Dose of Greek by Rob Plumber, professor of Greek and New Testament at Southern Baptist Seminary.

Mark Hoffman, Biblical Studies and Technological Tools, recently posted two helpful lists of Greek lexical forms. Click here.

Resources to Help You Defend the Deity of Jesus. A list of resources by J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity.

HT: Brooks Cochran

Good reading for the weekend


There has been much discussion in the past few weeks about the Noah movie. In last Saturday’s roundup, Todd Bolen called attention to the blog of Dr. Brian Mattson. In a post entitled “Sympathy for the Devil” Mattson comments about the movie. He reminds us of the following important point: The Bible is not the text for this movie. Several writers, and speakers, have pointed out that about the only things in common between the Noah movie and the Noah/Flood story of the Bible are a man named Noah, an ark, and water.

Mattson claims and documents the philosophical background of the director of the movie in Gnosticism and Kabbalah. I am certain that many people will see the movie and have no awareness of that, just as many ready Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, and John’s epistles without understanding how they are responding to early Gnostic doctrines.

Here is the link to Mattson’s articles:

The Wife of Jesus, again.

It is almost Easter, so we can expect a rerun on various strange views about Jesus. I first called attention to this speculation about the wife of Jesus back in September, 2012, here. Todd Bolen recently commented on the same material that is now getting new attention. Here, he provides links to the article in the New York Times, and the Harvard Theological Review article by Dr. Karen King (available for download). The Times of Israel article is available here.

Papyrus fragment possibly claiming that Jesus has a wife. Photo: Harvard University, Dr. Karen L. King.

The GJW (Gospel of Jesus Wife) papyrus fragment possibly claiming that Jesus had a wife. Photo: Harvard University, Dr. Karen L. King.

Bolen summarizes the pertinent material, showing that the document tells us nothing about 1st century events:

An initial radiocarbon analysis dated the fragment to 404–209 BC; a second analysis gave a mean date of AD 741. King concludes with a date in the 7th or 8th centuries AD. As far as being a reliable witness to 1st century events, it is not. The author notes that the fragment should be studied in light of the Muslim view that prophets were usually married.

In King’s reading, “The main point of the GJW (Gospel of Jesus Wife) fragment is simply to affirm that women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.”

Larry Hurtado has written three posts about the papyrus document. Begin here and then scroll back for the other two.

Wild Boar at Caesarea Philippi

Carl Rasmussen’s recent Israel student group encountered a herd of about 15 wild boar at Caesarea Philippi. He provides some nice photos to back up his claim, and discusses the various Biblical references about swine. Access the HolyLandPhotos’ Blog here.

Using Google Books

Rob Bradshaw is making many books and journals available in PDF format. I check his BiblicalStudies.org.uk site regularly for materials that might be helpful in my study. Recently he called attention to a short video by Tim Bulkeley on how to access Bible commentaries without a library. The helpful, brief video is here.





No camels during the Patriarchal Age?

That’s what they are saying. It is a popular theme of those who want to put Bible believers in their place. Camels are mentioned repeatedly in Genesis 12-37, a section of Scripture set during the Middle Bronze Age (about 2100–1550 B.C.). Many of the well-known Bible characters of the Patriarchal Age are mentioned as riding camels.

A few days ago I was beginning to locate my sources to respond to the recent article in the New York Times, and in Time. While I was working on Visualizing Isaiah, Todd Bolen came out with two great articles on the subject. I include these links for the two people who read my blog but do not read the Bible Places Blog.

First, you should read the post about the Domestication of the Camel.

Then read.

Both are these posts are well documented with scholarly links you can track down to your own satisfaction. Don’t be unprepared the next time this subject comes up.

Camels at Abel-meholah, possibly the home of the prophet Elisha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Camels at Abel-meholah, possible home of the prophet Elisha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Rekhesh may be Anaharath

The Jewish Press reported here on the discovery of a Canaanite cult altar at Tel Rekhesh, an archaeological mound east of Mount Tabor. Archaeologists from the University of Tenri, Japan, and the Institute of Archaeology of Galilee Kinneret Academic College, have been working together at the site for the past six years. I have had the site on my “wish list” for the past three years, but have not yet visited the it.

The reports says,

The same excavations also revealed large parts of a Jewish farmhouse dating back to the Second Temple. Researchers were able to establish that this was a place of Jewish dwellers based on typical stone tools, oil lamps and coins minted in the city of Tiberias.

“The diggers received a big surprise,” said Chairman of the Institute of Archaeology of Galilee Kinneret Academic College Dr. Mrdechai [Mordechai] Avi’am. “In the ruins of the second floor of the farmhouse, they discovered a Canaanite cult statue, similar to a statue that stood in the sanctuary of a temple which is yet to be located.”

“Similar stones have been discovered in a number of Canaanite sites, such as Hazor,” Dr. Avi’am said. “The same stone was later used as part of a doorframe in one of the rooms of the Jewish structure. This is the unique development of archaeological hills in Israel, where successive generations mingle ritual objects on their way from the world of the Canaanite mythology to monotheism.”

This region is located in the territory allotted to the tribe of Issachar (Joshua 19:17-23). Y. Aharoni identified Tel Rekhesh with the Biblical site of Anaharath (Joshua 19:19).

Location of Anaharath. BibleAtlas.org.

Location of Anaharath. BibleAtlas.org.

In a page About the Site, the web page says,

Some of the findings from the site, collected by local people, are now exhibited in the archaeological museum in the Kibbutz Ein-Dor, some 5 km from Tel Rekhesh.  The collection includes a fragment of Egyptian stela, a clay model of a temple, and complete pottery from various periods.

The photo below is one I made earlier this year. At least seven of the artifacts displayed in this case are identified as being from Tel Rekhesh. Most of them are used in food preparation. The shrine in the center (“model of a temple”) is a replica. I failed to get a photo of the Egyptian stela fragment.

At least 7 of the artifacts displayed in this case at The Ein Dor Archaeological Museum are from Tel Rekesh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At least 7 of the artifacts displayed in this case at The Ein Dor [En-dor, Endor] Archaeological Museum are from Tel Rekesh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Click to enlarge.

The web site for the Tel Rekhesh project is available here, but the content is not current. Todd Bolen includes a photo of Tel Rekhesh in the Tabor River valley here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Major revision of the Pictorial Library of the Bible Lands

Todd Bolen announces the release of a total revision of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. This revised and expanded edition is the culmination of 9 years of work. The previous version contained 6000 photographs in 10 volumes. According to the announcement,

This new edition consists of 18 volumes with nearly 18,000 photographs, adding hundreds of new sites and re-visiting the old favorites.

Here are just a few features of the new edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

  • Eight new volumes: (Lebanon, Eastern and Central Turkey, The Greek Islands, and more. New subjects include Cultural Images, Signs, and Trees, Plants, and Flowers.
  • New Photos: For example, more than 1000 new photos have been added to the Jerusalem volume.
  • New Photographers. In addition to the photos by Todd Bolen, the work of more than 40 photographers are included in this new set.
  • New Maps. New, original maps have been created to identify the sites.
  • New Indexes. Every photograph is indexed in a list of more than 400 pages.
  • You get the hi-res photos and the photos already in PowerPoint. You can use the presentation as it is or include individual slides in your own lesson.
  • And more…
Pictorial Library Complete Collection. BiblePlaces.Com.

Front cover of the new Pictorial Library Complete Collection.

For those who already own the previous collection, Bible Places is offering the new 18-volume set for the upgrade price of $179. The entire set for new purchasers is $389.

Would you prefer to make your own photos? Try buying a good digital SLR camera starting at about $1500, flying to Israel (not to mention Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, the Greek Islands, Italy, et al.), renting a car for a few weeks, buying the gas. Oh, and don’t forget to hire a private plane for a few hours so you can get some good aerial photos. That might cost at least $389. 🙂 And what if the lighting conditions were not right for a good photos the day you were at a site? What if you don’t have time to get your photos organized and write a description of each one? Need I go on to make a point? Did I mention that living and teaching in Israel for a decade helps?

Every church should have a set of this material for the teachers to use in their teaching. Over the years I have found that some short-sighted groups (churches) will not make such an expenditure. The other choice is to buy the set for yourself.

I hear several lessons a week, and every one of them could be improved by the use of photos from this wonderful collection.

Learn more about the new Pictorial Library of Bible Lands in the following places:

Charles Savelle has a good interview with Todd Bolen at the BibleX blog here.

I have profited much from the work of Todd Bolen and am delighted to count him as a friend and to recommend this collection of photographs to every teacher of the Bible.

Follow the BiblePlaces.com Blog here.

Top archaeological discoveries of 2008

Todd Bolen has posted his “Top 8 of 2008: Archaeological Discoveries Related to the Bible” at the BiblePlaces Blog. Take a look.

BiblePlaces Newsletter

Todd Bolen’s BiblePlaces Newletter for December is now available. It includes a wonderful aerial photo of the Elah Valley. The main feature is a series of (Google) satellite photos of Jerusalem with the natural features (hills, valleys, springs, quarters of the city, etc.) identified. If you teach any lesson dealing with the city of Jerusalem you need these PowerPoint slides.

You should subscribe to the BiblePlaces Newsletter, but if you have not yet done so you may access the current issue here. The subscription link is at the bottom of the page.

The photo below shows one of the modern gates of Jerusalem. It is labeled Stephen’s Gate on one of the slides mentioned above. Murphy-O’Connor says that Suliman called it the Bab el-Ghor (the Jordan Valley Gate). In Hebrew it is called the Lions’ Gate, but you may notice that the animals to the left of the gate are panthers. Murphy-O’Connor says this was “the heraldic emblem of the Mamluk sultan Baybar (1260-77). This is the only gate of the Old City on the east side that is currently open.

Lions Gate or St. Stephen Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lions' Gate or St. Stephen's Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rivers in the Desert

Todd Bolen, over at BiblePlaces Blog, calls attention to an article in the Jerusalem Post about an American tourist who was killed in a Flash Flood at En Gedi. He calls attention, in one of the links, to some photos I made April 2, 2006 of a flash flood in the Wilderness of Judea. Afterwards I wrote an article about it for Biblical Insights. Read Todd’s blog and then read my article below. Todd also includes a beautiful photo of Nahal David at a more tranquil time.


Rivers in the Desert is the title of Nelson Glueck’s 1959 history of the Negev. These rivers also may be seen in the Judean wilderness and in the Sinai. Thomas Levy followed up on some of Glueck’s research in a Biblical Archaeology Review article in 1990.

Wilderness of Judea Waterfall - April 2, 2006. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If one travels in the desert during the summer months he will see a dry, desolate bad land with only an isolated tamarisk tree or shrub where the last water of the winter rain flowed. In the winter it can be different. Israel has two dominant seasons: winter and summer. The summer is dry and the winter is wet. The early rains begin about mid-October and continue till the late rains of early April. See Deuteronomy 11:14 and Joel 2:23.

he wilderness of Judea receives very little rain, but the area is affected by the rains that fall in the central mountain range (Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives; Bethlehem; Hebron). We sometimes describe the road that runs along that range as the water parting route. The rain that falls must seek its lowest level. From an elevation of about 2500 feet above sea level the water flows east through the wadis to an elevation of more than 1300 feet below sea level at the Dead Sea.

Levy reminds us that “Nahal, incidentally, is Hebrew for a dry river bed or valley that flows at most a few times a year. In Arabic, the word is wadi. The two words are used interchangeably in Israel today.” The wadi is similar to the arroyo of the American southwest.

Wilderness of Judea Waterfall - April 2, 2006. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Several members of my group told me of being awakened during the morning of April 2 by the severe storms in Jerusalem. At breakfast I explained to the group that this would be no problem for our planned sightseeing; we would just go to the Dead Sea and Masada. Eli, our guide, told the group that when we came out of the new tunnel that now cuts through the mountain between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives, it would probably be dry. In fact it was still raining on us almost all the way to the Jordan Valley.

Our driver decided to pull off the highway onto the old road that overlooks the Wadi Kelt (Qilt) on the way down to Jericho. On the south side of the wadi there is an overlook allowing a view of the Monastery of Saint George of Koziba. There we saw one of the most fascinating sights that can be imagined. It rained an astounding 4.41 inches in Jerusalem. This is about three times what the city normally gets for the entire month of April.

In this normal desert land there was a tremendous waterfall pouring down the side of the cliff into the wadi. Our guide said, and another experienced guide is reported to have told his group, that he had never seen it like this. That evening Todd Bolen and his wife were my guests for dinner at the hotel. Todd has lived and taught in Israel for the past ten years. He has provided us with excellent photos in his Pictorial Archive of Bible Lands (see bibleplaces.com). He was excited about the photos I had taken that day and included three of them on his blog. He was headed for Galilee the next day. He reported seeing hail at En Gev on the Sea of Galilee. The Jerusalem Post ran a photo of the flooded road at the Megiddo junction, and reported that five people had died as a result of the heavy rains.

Not only could we not get to Masada that day, but we could not go to Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. A couple of days later when we visited these sites we saw the damage to the road in multiple places where the wadis descended to the Dead Sea. Debris could be seen in the Dead Sea.

Wadi Qelt (Kelt) in the Wilderness of Judea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In forty years of travel in the Bible Lands, this was one of my most exciting days for photography. I am delighted to share it with you.

The photo below is of a typical dry wadi in the Wilderness of Judea.

A dry wadi in the Wilderness of Judea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Selecting a Bible Atlas

A few weeks ago I had a request to recommend a good Bible Atlas. In recent years I have found it difficult to recommend any “good” book unless I have extensive knowledge about the ability of the person making the request, and understand why they need the book. I have more than 15 Bible atlases in my study, and have used others, but no one of them completely satisfies when I get to looking for something special.

Some reader might be thinking, “I have maps in my Bible.” You should either stop reading or continue reading. Maps included in various Bibles can be helpful in seeing a general area, but are of little value in studying details. And, I note that many people have old Bibles that can not have the benefit of the latest research.

So, I have turned to the judgment of someone I trust in this area.

Todd Bolen is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at the Israel Bible Extension of The Master’s College in Israel. He has been teaching in Israel in the area of biblical archaeology, geography and history for the past ten years, but is currently on leave to continue his studies in the USA. Take a look at his Annotated Bibliography of Selected Books for Israel Studies. Click here.

Among the atlases briefly mentioned are the following:

The Carta Bible Atlas, by Aharoni.
The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, by Beitzel.
The Holy Land Satellite Atlas, by Cleave.
Student Map Manual: Historical Geography of the Bible Lands, by Monson.
Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible, by Rasmussen

Bolen says,

“This [Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible] is the atlas to buy to *read* – and therefore is the first choice for a beginning student who can read only one work on the geography of the land. Though the maps are not as extensive or detailed as Macmillan, the text is well-organized, well-written, and trustworthy. The first seventy pages are a geographical overview of the land, region by region. The remaining 130 pages is a historical overview of the lands of the Bible through the biblical periods.”

Bolen also has helpful lists of books on Geography, Old Testament Archaeology, Archaeology Periodicals, Jerusalem Archaeology, New Testament Background, History of Ancient Israel, Modern Israel, et al. The list was last updated October 26, 2007.

On the Bible Places Blog, Bolen comments on “Two New Bible Atlases.” The IVP Atlas of Bible History, by Paul Lawrence, and the Oxford Bible Atlas (4th ed.), by Adrian Curtis.

Here is a review of Carta’s New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible. This is an abridgement of The Sacred Bridge. Bolen says,

“Just to be clear, there are many things in this book that I disagree with. If you’re looking for something more conservative, try the NIV Atlas of the Bible, by Carl Rasmussen or the Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, by Barry Beitzel.”

Bolen also has some information on Electronic Maps for Bible Teaching here. Written in 2004, the following works are reviewed or mentioned prominently:

Carta’s Comprehensive Bible Atlas
Bible Maps from Manna
Logos Deluxe Map Set
Nelson’s 3-D Bible Mapbook
Logos Bible Atlas

Below I will list some additional information I have gathered on some other digital sources.

OpenBible.info Bible Atlas (uses satellite photos as the basis of the maps). This includes links to some photos, but many are of no value. Scripture references open to the English Standard Version.

BibleMap. In this program you start with the Bible text to locate places marked on Google satellite maps (photos) or modern road maps. Information from the outdated (1913) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is also included in the program.

Bible Geocoding claims to contain the location of every identifiable place mentioned in the Bible.

Prof. Mark V. Hoffman writes a blog called Biblical Studies and Technological Tools (From scroll to screen… codex to computer…). Scroll down on the right and click on the label for bible mapping to find information on various digital programs.

American Bible Society has some very nice Interactive Maps in flash format. These would be fine for online study, and it would be great if ABS would make them available in a larger format. The maps require Flash which I was unable to use in Firefox, but I did see the maps in Internet Explorer.

In preaching, and in much teaching, I find that a map showing the general area is adequate for the purpose. I use these various maps in my PowerPoint presentations, but none of these really get at the issue of topography and geography. I use some of the Manna Bible Maps by my friend Matt Hennecke. Scott Richardson, a friend and former student, has prepared some good general purpose Bible Study Maps that I sometimes use in PowerPoint.

For more detailed work I often use the NASA satellite photos and work up maps that will allow me to show not only the place name, but also the terrain and travel routes. Here is an example of what I am talking about.

Satellite View of Area of Paul’s First Journey

Even though I note that several preachers seem excited about some of the programs using satellite imagery, I wonder if a person who has not visited the lands of the Bible can really use these to good advantage.

Visit BiblicalStudies.Info, click on Scholarly, then Maps of Bible Lands, for some additional sources of maps. These vary in quality but may be useful for some purposes.

Todd Bolen and the BiblePlaces Newsletter

Just when I had about given up,
what to my wondering eyes did appear,
but a BiblePlaces Newsletter with 8 tiny photos of Jerusalem and Judah in Snow. (with apologies to no one!)

When Todd Bolen left Israel to come to the USA to pursue doctoral work I surmised that he would soon become too busy to continue with his Newsletter. He has done a fine job of keeping the Bible Places Blog up to date with notices of important archaeological news from Israel.

I have encouraged many people to subscribe to Todd’s BiblePlaces Newsletter and to buy his wonderful Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. After nearly forty trips to Israel, I still find that I am sometimes lacking the exact photo I need. I often find just the right one in this collection.

In the December BiblePlaces Newsletter there are 8 beautiful photos of Jerusalem and Judah in the snow. Todd was in the country about 10 years and had the opportunity to get photos at the right time.

Here is a small photo of the Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley. From the Newsletter you may download high resolutions copies of all eight photos. For those who use PowerPoint the photos are also available in PowerPoint format.

Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley in Snow

Here is Todd’s comment on the photo:

Looking northeast from the City of David, one gets an impressive view of the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. Several stories occurred within the view of this photo, including David’s fleeing from Absalom (2 Sam 15:30) and Jesus’ crossing the Kidron Valley on his way to Gethsemane (John 18:1). The church in the center left of the photo is built over the traditional Gethsemane and the impressive tomb monument in the lower right is incorrectly known as the “Pillar of Absalom.”

To see the BiblePlaces Newsletter, December, 2007, click here. Opportunity to subscribe to the Newsletter is available at the bottom of the page. You can also learn how to order the Pictorial Library there.

Thanks, Todd. Your work has been a blessing to many.