Accordance Blog
Jun 19, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Developing the PhotoGuide

When we first developed the Accordance Bible Atlas, we knew we needed to include a resource that would give information about the more important site and region names on the map. The other module developer (there were only two of us at the time) was occupied with developing the data for the Atlas, so I was tasked with developing this tool which would come to be called Place Names.

Each of the sites on the Atlas are given an importance ranking on a scale from 1 (least important) to 5 (most important). This ranking is used to determine which sites should be hidden when you zoom out from the map. We decided to use the sites of importance 3 or above as the ones we would cover in the Place Names module. Once I had this list of sites, I then had to research each site and write up a description of its location, history, and overall significance.

The main challenge of developing the Place Names module was the deadline. The Atlas was nearing completion and Place Names had to be finished before it could be released. To meet that deadline, the site descriptions had to be kept pretty basic and concise.

Some time after the release of the Atlas, I was approached with the idea of expanding the work I had done on Place Names into a new resource that would include photos of each site. This new resource would eventually come to be called the Bible Lands PhotoGuide.

I was given a large archive of photographs of Biblical places I had never personally visited, and I had to decide which photos best illustrated each site.

My research often began with the Bible dictionaries I had available in Accordance. Anchor Bible Dictionary was especially good about giving information about the archaeological discoveries at each site, but it had relatively few photos and illustrations. Going from a description of a Bronze Age wall discovered at a site to actually identifying that wall in a photo was next to impossible. I soon was combing through coffee table books and magazines on Biblical archaeology, tourist guide books which might illustrate how a site looks today—anything I could find that would give me clues as to what I was looking at. It would have been easy to annotate each photo with something like "Ruins at Miletus," but I wanted users of the PhotoGuide to be able to see the outline of the ancient harbor and the surrounding bay which have long since silted up. It's that level of detail which sets the PhotoGuide apart from the typical illustrated Bible dictionary.

Miletus

At times it was frustrating finding the information I needed, but I learned more about the Bible doing the research for the PhotoGuide than I ever learned in seminary. If you haven't explored the PhotoGuide in depth, begin reading through its articles on sites mentioned in your current passage of study. You'll be surprised how much it can deepen your understanding of the Bible.


 

May 5, 2014 David Lang

Measuring the March to Moriah

Yesterday in my Sunday School class, I was teaching on Genesis 22, the story of Abraham's binding of Isaac. One of the elements of that narrative is the description of their journey to the land of Moriah.

It is clear from the surrounding context that Abraham and Isaac began their journey at Beer-sheba, and the narrative records that "on the third day" Abraham saw their destination in the distance. Since 2 Chronicles 3:1 identifies the temple mount in Jerusalem as "Mount Moriah," it appears that Jerusalem was their intended destination. If that was really the case that they were traveling from Beersheba to Jerusalem, would Abraham really have seen Mount Moriah at a distance "on the third day"?

The Accordance Bible Atlas makes it easy to measure distances from one point to another: simply hold down the option key (on Mac) or alt key (on Windows), then click and drag from one point to another. The distance will be calculated and displayed in the top right corner of the map window as well as in the Instant Details. As long as you keep holding down the option/alt key, you can even click and then drag in a different direction.

Measuring

Using 20 miles as the average distance they could have walked per day, I dragged until I reached 20 miles, which put them a little south of Hebron. Twenty miles more placed them just north of Bethlehem, and Jerusalem was only 4 or 5 miles beyond that. Thus, Abraham would indeed have seen Mount Moriah at a distance at some point on their third day of traveling.

Have you used this feature of the Accordance Atlas yet? Share any interesting discoveries you've made about biblical distances in the comments on this post.


 

May 1, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Scholars Don't Care About Maps

atlas 2-cdIn a previous Throwback Thursday post, I told you about a meeting way back in 1995 that helped get us thinking about developing a Bible Atlas that would prove to be years ahead of its time. Two years later, we had developed a limited prototype covering little more than the region of Galilee, and we were about to focus all of our attention on completing development of the Atlas. Having just released Accordance 3.0, with ground-breaking features such as Greek and Hebrew text-to-speech and diagramming, we had plenty to show at that year's Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, but we were so excited about the Atlas prototype we couldn't resist showing it off as well.

By 1997, the success of Windows 95 and Apple's own missteps had sent it into something of a death spiral. At the same time, the power and ease-of-use Accordance offered had earned it a reputation as the software to have for serious study, and many Bible scholars were buying Macs just to be able to use Accordance. This meant that we had a lot of people coming by the booth wanting to see what Accordance could do, yet with serious misgivings about the future of the Mac platform. The Atlas was a great way to show that there were still some really cool things you could only do on a Mac.

At that year's SBL, we were using a projector to show Accordance on a big screen. We naturally showed Accordance with Greek and Hebrew text in parallel, the new Diagram window, and other features of Accordance 3.0. We also showed some of the map images from the new Atlas prototype. Our hope was that these would grab the attention of conference attendees and draw them into the booth to learn more about Accordance. I saw this as a no-brainer, but someone from outside our company questioned the wisdom of using maps to attract attention. Apparently believing that serious scholars would regard such flash as fluff, he told us, "Scholars don't care about maps."

Now, as a very part-time seminary student at the time, I was admittedly no Bible scholar, but I found myself completely dumbfounded by this assertion that scholars don't care about maps. Even those engaged in high-level linguistic study presumably had to teach the occasional introductory survey course, and surely maps would come in handy then, right? I therefore ignored the unsolicited advice not to show the Atlas and kept the maps on the screen.

Sure enough, the Atlas prototype drew a lot of people in, and when we demonstrated what you could already do with the prototype people were absolutely blown away. We released the Atlas in July of 1998, right about the time Steve Jobs was back at Apple unveiling a colorful new all-in-one desktop computer called the iMac. That year's annual meeting of SBL was fun. We had people coming into the booth just to see our new iMac, and when we showed them the new Bible Atlas they seemed to forget any questions they might have had about the Mac's long-term viability.

Since that time, our interactive Bible Atlas has been one of our best-selling products and among our users' favorite features. If you've been missing out on all the fun, be sure to check out our Graphics Bundle.

That is, of course, unless you're one of those scholars who just doesn't care about maps!


 

Apr 3, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Demoer and Demoee

In my last Throwback Thursday post, I talked about the development of the very first Tool modules for Accordance 2.0. Although version 2.0 was not yet ready for release in November of 1995, we were planning to offer a preview of all the new features to attendees at the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in Philadelphia. I did not accompany my employers to ETS, since it was a smaller conference and they could manage the booth without me. I flew in to join them for the start of the larger SBL meeting. I had used that extra time at home to whip out a couple more prototype modules, so I arrived at SBL with some Accordance tools to demonstrate which my employers hadn't even seen yet.

Today when we attend a conference, we bring laptops and relatively portable flat-screen monitors. Back in 1995, laptops were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. They were expensive, and they had significant drawbacks such as tiny screens or limited speed compared to desktop computers. Fortunately, airline passengers could check more baggage back then. I had to lug my desktop Mac in one box and my 14-inch CRT monitor in another, along with my suitcase, to the airport and hope it all made it to Philadelphia without getting broken, lost, or stolen. Then I had to schlep all that stuff to the hotel and exhibit hall to get it set up. Once it was all set up, I had to be without my computer for the duration of the show.

At that time, we exhibited Accordance under the auspices of the GRAMCORD Institute, which served as the exclusive distributor of Accordance. Basically, we formed the Macintosh side of the GRAMCORD booth.

I actually found an old photo on the GRAMCORD website of Dr. Rex Koivisto, our associate Greek scholar (right), demonstrating Accordance 2.0 to Frederick Danker (the D in BDAG, center) at that very conference. If you look closely at the background, you can see me seated with my back to the camera, demonstrating Accordance to someone else. This was my very first time demoing Accordance to the public, and it was fun to be able to show scholars and students some of the cool stuff we had been working on.

Today when I demonstrate Accordance at ETS and SBL, I can only show a tiny portion of what Accordance can do. It is therefore rare that we offer a sneak peek at any not-yet-released features. Back then, however, we were the new kid on the block, doing our best to show people Accordance's potential as a Bible study platform. In those early days, we would demonstrate what the current version of Accordance could do, then offer a look at what was coming in the next version.

In the evenings, I got to be part of meetings where we would discuss new feature ideas or new resources we hoped to license, such as the massive Anchor Bible Dictionary. It was all pretty heady stuff for a young kid still in seminary.

One of the most memorable moments of this conference was when I got to tag along to a meeting with a gentleman who had high-resolution atlas data of Israel. As with laptops, such data was far less ubiquitous back then, and this gentleman was looking to establish partnerships to develop computer applications that could utilize his data. This gentleman did not have a booth in the exhibit hall. Instead, he had booked a hotel suite where he was meeting with potential partners. I remember entering his suite and seeing a Silicon Graphics workstation on the desk. Beside it was a large set of goggles. It was in this meeting that I went from the demoer to the demoee. The gentleman handed me the goggles and joked that I should be careful not to drop them, since they cost a substantial amount of money. If I remember correctly, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000. Needless to say, I was very careful not to break them!

Looking through the goggles I saw a three-dimensional image of some portion of Israel. These days I might actually recognize it, but back then it was just an unfamiliar series of hills and valleys. If I remember correctly, it was just a wireframe image, but it was at a resolution that required some serious computing power to generate. Next I was shown a simulated 3D flyover. This was done without the goggles, and I seem to recall that it used actual satellite imagery rather than a mere wireframe. This felt snappier than the wireframe image as well, but that was because it was essentially a pre-rendered animation rather than a 3D image being rendered on the fly. The downside of this was that you couldn't really navigate the flyover to go wherever you wanted; you merely went where the animator had decided to take you.

This was all very cutting-edge stuff, and I must have seemed like a kid in a candy store. Our discussions centered around how we might use this data to provide Mac users with a 3D Bible Atlas. After all, there were far more people with Macs than with graphics workstations. Apple had recently begun incorporating 3D technologies into the Mac operating system, so the possibilities were tantalizing, but we also knew it would be challenging to deliver acceptable 3D performance on a personal computer.

That meeting helped get us thinking about adding an Atlas component to Accordance, but that wouldn't actually happen until Accordance 3.5 was released in July of 1998. I'll tell you the rest of the story behind the Accordance Bible Atlas in a future Throwback Thursday post.

I returned home from that first SBL Conference exhausted but excited about the future of Accordance. At that point I was still only working for Accordance part-time, but I was now officially hooked. I was getting to be a part of the creation of something truly cutting edge, and I had seen how Accordance was changing the lives of its users. Since 1995, I have exhibited Accordance at SBL every year except 1996 (when my second son was born). To this day, I return home from SBL each year both exhausted and excited about the future.

How about you? Were any of you at the 1995 SBL or ETS meetings in Philadelphia? If so, did you stop by for a demo of Accordance?


 

Mar 5, 2014 David Lang

Creating a Custom Map for Genesis 19

This past Sunday I covered the end of Genesis 19 for my Sunday School class. Describing the aftermath of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, this passage relates how Abraham gazed out from the vicinity of Hebron to see smoke rising from the Dead Sea plain. He does not know that Lot has escaped to the small town of Zoar with his daughters. The passage then describes how Lot and his daughters leave Zoar to live in a nearby cave. There each of Lot's daughters conceives a son through incest with their father. These sons go on to father the nations of Moab and Ammon.

Because this passage contains a lot of geographical information, I wanted to create a map that would show the location of Hebron, Sodom and Gomorrah, Zoar, and the territory settled by the nations of Moab and Ammon. In creating that map, I used a number of little tricks and powerful features you may not have seen before. The following video tutorial will show you how I created this map. Watch it, and you'll learn my favorite trick for zooming in, how to highlight a site without searching for it, how to create a custom region layer, how to display two region layers on the map at the same time, and how to create a 3D map. I hope you find it helpful.

 


 

Aug 9, 2013 David Lang

Sergius Paulus and Pisidian Antioch

Last week, my wife and kids participated in Vacation Bible School at our church. This has had two ongoing effects on our family. First, they brought back a cold which has inexorably worked its way through every member of the family! Second, since the VBS curriculum took several lessons from the life of Paul, they have come back with a lot of questions about Paul's conversion, his missionary journeys, and his imprisonment. We have therefore been spending time in family devotions surveying the chapters in Acts which deal with Paul's life and ministry.

The other day we were reading through Acts 13, which relates the events of Paul's first missionary journey. After the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul at Paphos, Paul and Barnabas suddenly leave the island of Cyprus and head to Pisidian Antioch in what is now southwest Turkey. To show them this sudden change of location, as well as to explain the difference between this Antioch and the one at the beginning of the chapter, I naturally turned to the Accordance Bible Atlas.

Sergius1

Now, I have an icon for the Atlas in my workspace Toolbar, so I simply opened a map by choosing a map background from the pop-up menu associated with that icon. (I like the Light Browns background.) Once the map was open, I chose Paul's First Journey from the Route Layer pop-up menu.

Sergius2

Now I could show them how Paul and Barnabas started from Syrian Antioch, sailed to Cyprus (where Barnabas was from), crossed the island until they reached Paphos, then sailed to Attalia, passed through Perga, and arrived at Antioch of Pisidia. I then asked my family why Paul and Barnabas would decide to go there.

I have to admit that I asked the question before I was entirely sure the point I wanted to make was correct. You see, I vaguely remembered from somewhere that there is a connection between Sergius Paulus, the proconsul converted at Paphos, and the city of Pisidian Antioch. So while my family was pondering the question, I double-clicked the name Antioch on the map to look it up in my Bible Lands PhotoGuide.

Sergius3

Sure enough, a quick skim of that article reminded me that an inscription with the name Sergius Paulus had been found at Pisidian Antioch. This suggests that Sergius Paulus may have urged Paul and Barnabas to take their message to Pisidian Antioch because he had some personal connection there.

Sergius4 While explaining this to my family, it occurred to me that it would be clearer if I could actually show them the inscription. Unfortunately, the PhotoGuide does not include a photograph of the inscription itself. So I decided to search the rest of my library for any pictures of the Sergius Paulus inscription. I clicked the magnifying glass inside the Search All field of the Workspace toolbar and chose Image from the pop-up menu. Then I entered the word "Sergius" and hit return. Instantly I found several pictures of the Sergius Paulus inscription—in the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, the Biblical Archaeology Review archive, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the New Testament, and Gundry's Survey of the New Testament.

Sergius5

Now that I had brought this interesting archaeological discovery to their attention, I needed to answer that all-important question: so what? I explained that for me, the so what is that Paul and Barnabas began their missionary work by going places where they had a natural connection: to Barnabas' native land of Cyprus, then to Pisidian Antioch because of its connection to Sergius Paulus. They didn't just go haphazardly from town to town, but chose their destinations strategically, going through whichever doors were most open to them.

Our family Bible study started out as an attempt to clarify the details about Paul's life, but thanks to Accordance, I was able to (re)discover an interesting detail that led to a meaningful application.


 

Dec 20, 2012 David Lang

Why is Rachel Weeping at Ramah? Part 3

In this series of posts, we've been exploring why Matthew sees the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem as "fulfilling" Jeremiah 31:15, which speaks of Rachel weeping for her lost children at Ramah. In part one of this series, we saw that the connection between Bethlehem and Ramah has to do with Rachel's death in childbirth on the way to Bethlehem. It appears from 1 Samuel that she died and was buried in the vicinity of Ramah. In part two of this series, we looked at the geographical and historical context of Jeremiah 31:15. There we discovered that in Jeremiah's day, Rachel was weeping because it was from Ramah that the conquering Babylonians were deporting the captive Jews from Jerusalem. In this post, we'll conclude by putting all the pieces together so we can understand the point Matthew was trying to make.

When I taught this to my Sunday School class, I explained that Matthew is not merely quoting clear predictive prophecies about the Messiah. Rather, he is associating the events in Jesus' life with a wide range of events in the history of Israel. I said it's a bit like that word-association thing psychologists do:

Psychologist: "What do you think of when I say 'Bethlehem'?"
Matthew: "Rachel's death."
P: "And what does that make you think of?"
M: "Her tomb at Ramah."
P: "And 'Ramah'?"
M: "Rachel weeping for her lost children!"

If we understand this dynamic, then we can appreciate the parallels Matthew wants his readers to draw.

In Genesis, Rachel dies giving birth while on the road to Bethlehem. In the midst of her suffering, the midwife tries to comfort her with the news that she is having another son. In this way, her child is both her cause of weeping and her hope for the future.

In Jeremiah's day, Rachel weeps over her children once more, this time because they are being led into captivity and exile near the very spot where she is buried. She is then comforted with the promise that her children will return. Once again, her offspring are both her cause of weeping and her hope for the future.

In Matthew's day, Rachel weeps yet again: this time over the slaughter of the children at Bethlehem. No words of comfort are given her in Matthew, but the very next verse speaks of Herod's death and the return of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to the land of Israel. Just as in Jeremiah's day, the situation seems bleak, but the hope of salvation lives on.

There are, of course, additional historical parallels in this passage. When the wicked king Herod orders the slaughter of innocent children to protect his rule, we naturally think of the Egyptian pharaoh who ordered the slaughter of Hebrew children. One child, Moses, escaped the slaughter and went on to deliver his people from captivity and exile. In the same way, Jesus escapes the slaughter of the innocents—ironically, by going into exile in Egypt. Like the Israelites, he is led into Egypt by a man named Joseph, a man whom God speaks to in dreams. Like the Jews for whom Rachel wept in Jeremiah's day, this child knows the experience of living in exile, and like the Israelites of Moses' day, he goes through his own exodus from Egypt. Just as Rachel was comforted with the promise that her children would be restored, and just as Moses' birth was a sign that the Israelites' deliverance was near, so Matthew's readers are meant to understand that the long-awaited Messiah has been born and the hope of salvation is close at hand.

Obviously, there's a lot more going on in Matthew's infancy narrative than most modern readers realize. If you want help in bringing out these kinds of connections, here are some resources you'll find helpful:

You may find this surprising, but the main resource I used in preparing my Sunday School lesson was our Bible Lands PhotoGuide. It's tempting to think of the PhotoGuide as primarily a collection of pictures, but it's actually one of the best places for clear, concise information about biblical sites. The photos are really just the icing on the cake. The PhotoGuide article on Ramah gave me all the relevant passages needed to explain the connection between Ramah and Bethlehem, so that constituted the bulk of my research.

Beale&Carson-cover-sm Of course, this passage was focused specifically on a place name, so the PhotoGuide was an obvious place to begin. For other New Testament passages that deal with quotations from or allusions to the Old Testament, I find Beale and Carson's Commentary on the New Testament Use of The Old Testament to be particularly helpful. While most good commentaries will deal with the interpretive issues this commentary focuses on, it is precisely this commentary's focus which makes it so valuable. Rather than having to skim commentary which deals with the use of the Old Testament as one of a dozen important aspects of a passage, Beale and Carson put that one issue front and center.

Other resources which help to explain the links between the Old and New Testaments are the various Bible Background Commentaries available from Zondervan and IVP. These are not as narrowly focused on OT and NT parallels as Beale and Carson, but they'll generally draw your attention to those parallels, along with providing information on the historical background of a passage.

While explaining why Rachel was weeping at Ramah required having my Sunday School class look at a number of different passages together with several maps, they were able to follow my explanation without getting overwhelmed by the details. On the contrary, they were excited to see how all these passages fit together. I hope you've found this series helpful—and maybe even a little exciting—as well.


 

Dec 19, 2012 David Lang

Why is Rachel Weeping at Ramah? Part 2

In yesterday's post, I began relating how I used Accordance to teach a Sunday School class on why Matthew saw the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem as the "fulfillment" of what Jeremiah wrote about Rachel weeping at Ramah. In that post, we saw that Bethlehem and Ramah, at eleven miles apart, are not exactly neighboring towns. The connection between them is not one of proximity, but of historical memory. Genesis 35 tells us that Rachel died in childbirth on the road from Bethel to Bethlehem, and 1 Samuel appears to indicate that she was buried in the vicinity of Ramah. Thus, Matthew pictures Rachel weeping in her grave at Ramah over the horrific events taking place in Bethlehem—the destination she died looking toward.

RachelRamah1

In today's post, I want to look at the original context of Jeremiah's image of Rachel weeping at Ramah. After all, it was Jeremiah, not Matthew, who first spoke of Rachel weeping there. In Jeremiah's day, was Rachel weeping over something that had happened in Bethlehem?

To answer that question, I had my Sunday School class look at Jeremiah 31:15-17. Verse 15 contains the lament quoted in Matthew, followed by the LORD's command to Rachel to stop weeping. Rachel is comforted with the promise that she will receive the "reward" of her "work," and her "children will return from the enemy's land."

In Jeremiah, Rachel weeps because her children are no more, but this is apparently the result of exile rather than infanticide. I next had my class turn to Jeremiah 40:1, which speaks of Jeremiah being found among the captives being held at Ramah prior to their deportation to Babylon. You see, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, Ramah became the staging area from which the Babylonians actually sent the people of Judah into exile.

To illustrate this for my class, I turned once more to the Accordance Bible Atlas. I changed the Route layer displayed on the Map from Ancient Highways to Fall of Jerusalem and Exile. I then let the animated route play as I explained that the Babylonians attacked Judah not from the east, which would have required taking an army through the desert, but from the north, through Syria and Samaria. They later carried the Jewish captives into the Babylonian exile by the same route.

RachelRamah3

Wanting to show my class that Ramah was just north of Jerusalem on the main road leading north, I decided to display the Ancient Highways route layer again. Yet I also wanted to show that this was the very route the Babylonians would have taken, so I wanted to keep the Fall of Jerusalem and Exile layer on the map at the same time.

But how to do it? Both of these layers appear in the same pop-up menu of the Atlas, which means choosing one will necessarily remove the other. That is, unless you know the trick! If you hold down the Shift key on your keyboard while selecting a second layer, both layers will be displayed on the map at the same time. So that's just what I did.

Now I had another problem. When I selected the additional layer, the animation of the Fall of Jerusalem and Exile layer started all over again, and I didn't want to waste class time waiting for it to finish. So I used another power-user trick: I simply held down the Option key while clicking the Animate checkbox. Doing this skips the animation and immediately shows the finished route. Now I could simply zoom in on the area between Bethel and Bethlehem to show the following.

RachelRamah4

As you can see, the blue line representing the exiles (see the legend just above the map) does not exactly pass through Ramah or follow the road nearest to Ramah. That's because most of the animated route layers are designed simply to give a general sense of movement rather than to follow specific roads. Still, it's easy to see why Ramah would have been used as a staging point for the deportation of the Jerusalem captives.

In this way, Jeremiah imagines Rachel weeping at Ramah because she is watching the deportation of her descendants from the very place where she is buried. In response, the LORD tells her not to weep, because her hope for the future lies in the eventual deliverance and restoration of her children.

As you can see, using the Accordance Bible Atlas really helped to explain the geographical and historical context of these passages. Its flexible interface made it easy to modify the map to show the information I wanted to show, and knowing a few modifier key tricks really helped streamline my presentation.

In my next post, I'll finish this series by talking about how Matthew connects the story of the slaughter of the innocents to these Old Testament passages (and others) to make his case that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.


 

Dec 18, 2012 David Lang

Why is Rachel Weeping at Ramah?

In Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, he points to specific events as the "fulfillment" of several Old Testament "prophecies." For the past several weeks, I've been exposing my Sunday School class to these Old Testament passages in their original context to show how Matthew's narrative is much more nuanced and profound than most of us realize. I wrote about doing this with the Immanuel prophecy in a previous post. This past Sunday, I talked about how Matthew saw the slaughter of the innocents as the fulfillment of Jeremiah's imagery of Rachel weeping at Ramah.

The subject of Sunday's lesson was all too painfully illustrated by the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and I hesitate to discuss it for that reason. While the wanton killing of small children is always shocking, it is, sadly, nothing new. It wasn't new in Matthew's day, either, and he tapped into the memory of a still more ancient infanticide to make his point.

I began by asking my class why Rachel would be weeping at Ramah over the slaughter of children at Bethlehem. Are these two towns close to each other?

To answer that question, I selected "Ramah" in Matthew 2:18 and chose my favorite Map background (Light Browns) from the Map submenu of the Amplify toolbar icon. This opened a map with two sites named Ramah highlighted in red. I didn't bother pointing out the northern Ramah, but quickly zoomed in on the one between Bethel and Jerusalem.

RachelRamah1

I then pointed out that Ramah and Bethlehem are not all that close. Ramah is north of Jerusalem, while Bethlehem is south of it. There are about 11 miles between them—a fact I just happened to mention, but I could easily have shown my class by option-dragging from one site to the other and pointing out how the distance is shown in the Instant Details panel. (See the image above.)

If these were not neighboring towns, why would Rachel weeping at Ramah have anything to do with the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem? To explain the connection between these two towns, I presented several seemingly disconnected passages. First, we looked at Genesis 35:16–20, in which Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin somewhere along the road from Bethel to Bethlehem. In her suffering, she is comforted with the news that she is having another son.

RachelRamah2 Genesis 35 says that Rachel was buried on the way to Bethlehem, and tradition locates her tomb about a mile north of Bethlehem. I even showed my class a photo from the PhotoGuide of Rachel's Tomb. But then I explained that there are reasons to believe that Rachel was not quite so close to Bethlehem when she died. I had my class turn to 1 Samuel 7:17, which describes Ramah as the center of Samuel's prophetic activity. Then we looked at 1 Samuel 10:2, in which Samuel tells Saul that he will meet two men at Rachel's Tomb shortly after he leaves the town (of Ramah). This would seem to indicate that Rachel actually died in the vicinity of Ramah.

If true, that would certainly explain the connection Matthew saw between Ramah and Bethlehem: Rachel died near the one while traveling toward the other. Thus, she weeps at Ramah because she is buried there, and she weeps over what is happening in Bethlehem because it's as if she is still looking in that direction.

There's still more to this story, but I'll have to finish it in another post. In my next post, we'll look at why Jeremiah spoke of Rachel weeping at Ramah. In the process, I'll show you several little-known tricks to using the Accordance Bible Atlas.


 

Jul 2, 2012 David Lang

Using Accordance to Teach a Bible Study, Part 2

In my previous post, I began showing how I taught a Bible study using the Slide Show feature of Accordance. This feature lets you present any workspace with tabs as a series of "slides," with each tab constituting one "slide." The only caveat is that all the tabs have to be in a single zone, so you may have to drag one into another before you use this feature.

In setting up the workspace I would present as a slide show, I began by assembling the various passages I would be reading. My main passage was the story of Elijah's showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, but I also wanted to read a few related passages. I set each passage up in its own tab so I could quickly turn to each one without scrolling or navigating. Again, see my previous post for details on how to do that.

Next I wanted to add some visuals: a map showing the location of Mount Carmel (the setting of this story), photos of the location, images of Baal, etc.

To get the map, I simply selected the word "Carmel" in my main passage and clicked the Map button on the Resource palette. A map opened with Mount Carmel highlighted. Because this story took place during the period of the Divided Kingdom, I chose to overlay the Divided Kingdoms region layer on my map.

SlideShow3

Now, here's where I used a little power-user trick. Because I had searched for Mount Carmel, the name Carmel was highlighted on my map in red. When I added the Divided Kingdoms region layer, the kingdom of Israel was shaded pink, and the combination made the Carmel label difficult to read. So I decided to change the red text to black.

To do that, I simply chose Set Map Display from the Display menu. In the dialog that appeared, I chose Extra Region Names from the main pop-up menu, then changed the Color pop-up from Red to Black.

SlideShow4

By the way, the Extra Site Names and Extra Region Names in the main pop-up refer to site and region labels which have been added to the map as the result of a search. They are "extra" in the sense that they appear on the map regardless of whether or not they are actually included in the currently displayed map layers. Accordance gives you the ability to customize those extra labels independent of other map elements.

When I clicked OK to close the Map Display settings dialog, my map now looked like this:

SlideShow5

During the course of the Bible study, while I was presenting the map, I realized that I wanted to remove the Divided Kingdoms region layer so people could better focus on the topography. If I had anticipated that need, I could have set up a second map tab with a different set of layers and simply switched to it. Because I hadn't done that ahead of time, I had to exit Slide Show mode in the middle of the Bible study, tweak the map to look the way I wanted, and then enter Slide Show mode again. Fortunately, exiting Slide Show mode is as easy as hitting the escape key, and entering it again merely requires choosing Slide Show from the Window menu. The entire process only took a few seconds.

If you use the Slide Show feature a lot, you should also learn the keyboard shortcut command-option-S, which will toggle the Slide Show on and off.

In my next post, I'll demonstrate how I gathered the images I wanted to present in my slide show.