HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History
Author: Thomas V. Brisco, Editor
Publisher: Holman Reference, new edition published in 2014
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Brisco, Thomas V., Editor. Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History (published in 1998 by Holman Reference, a division of Broadman and Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN 37234). When I enrolled in Florida College at Temple Terrace, FL, in 1972, our first year required Bible History and Geography class (“Freshman Bible”) used the Baker’s Bible Atlas by Charles F. Pfeiffer as our textbook. Fast forward some forty years, and when our son Jeremy enrolled at F. C. in 2014, that same required class used the Holman Bible Atlas by Thomas V. Brisco, who is Provost, Chief Academic Officer, and Professor of Old Testament and Archaeology at Hardin-Simmons University. He formerly served at Baylor University where he taught in the Department of Religion. Prior to that, he taught for 21 years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was also the Associate Dean for the Doctor of Philosophy Program. Dr. Brisco specializes in ancient near eastern history and archaeology particularly as these subjects relate to the historical, cultural, and geographical setting of the Bible. His archaeological field experience includes work at Tel Aphek and Tel Batash in Israel. Jeremy’s class used the original 1998 edition, but a newer version was published in 2014.
The 21 chapters of Holman Bible Atlas, which won the ECPA Gold Medallion Book Award and is considered the leading Bible atlas of today in the English language, are divided into three main parts. Part I (Chapters 1-3) details the physical geography of the Ancient Near East. Part II (Chapters 4-14) covers the Old Testament history from the beginning to the Hellenistic period. And Part III (Chapters 15-21) discusses the New Testament era from the rise of Rome to around A. D. 300. The use of 132 full-color maps, more than 100 color photographs, timelines, chart summaries, and helpful sidebars places readers in the geographical, historical, and cultural contexts of the Bible, enabling them to see the key events of the Bible and Christianity with exceptional clarity and to experience its perennially relevant message. There is a wealth of written and visual information regarding various people groups (Aramaeans, Moabites, Phoenicians, etc.), great empires (Egypt, Babylonia, Rome, etc.), and the economic life of ancient civilizations based on archaeological recoveries.
Here are just a few notes garnered from my browsing through the book. The author apparently accepts the view that the history of the Bible should be taken back to the “Paleolithic (Old Stone Age)” period that supposedly goes beyond 18,000 B.C., apparently to fit it in with human devised dating schemes. Also, he expresses (pretty much as fact) the view that Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel were two different people, calling Zarubbabel a “nephew of Sheshbazzar,” as opposed to the idea which we were always taught that these were just two different names, one Persian and the other Aramaic, for the same person. Of course, there always have been and ever will be differences of opinion among Bible scholars regarding many somewhat unclear details of Bible history. There is an index for reference, but, unfortunately, none of t he pages in the text are numbered. Personally, I happen to prefer the Baker’s Bible Atlas (it has been updated), primarily because it is more what I am used to, but also because I think that it is a little more conservative. But the Holman Bible Atlas is still a good reference.