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Jun 13, 2011 David Lang

Embark on The Quest

C-Quest-sm Last fall, we were pleased to announce the release of 13 books from Carta, an Israeli publisher which specializes in Bible maps, Atlases, and books on Biblical geography and archaeology. At the time, I talked about a few of those resources in detail, such as The Sacred Bridge, a genre-redefining Bible Atlas written with the help of Accordance, and Carta's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. These resources, along with most of the books in the Carta collection, are fantastic reference works with detailed maps and illustrations you won't find anywhere else. But there is one book in the Carta collection which is less a reference work to be consulted than a book intended to be read from cover to cover: Leen Ritmeyer's The Quest. I've found this book so helpful in my research for a current writing project that I want to tell you about it now.

Look at most artistic reconstructions of the Temple Mount and you're likely to see Leen Ritmeyer's name attached to them. The architect of the Temple Mount Excavations following the Six-Day War, Ritmeyer has spent much of his life researching the mysteries of the Temple Mount and helping people visualize the ancient structures behind the present remains. The Quest is his personal chronicle of the research he has done, the challenges he has faced, and the answers he believes he has discovered.

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Although Ritmeyer is a careful researcher who weighs countless minute details in the development of his theories, I've found The Quest to be a fascinating and enjoyable read. He tends to raise the questions and problems that need to be solved, chronicle how he has explored those questions, and then finally present his conclusions. There have been times in my haste that I've wanted to jump ahead to find the answers, but Ritmeyer's writing is so engaging I find myself taking the time to read the entire discussion.

For example, Ritmeyer addresses some of the Biblical events associated with the summit of Mount Moriah, the "rock" now at the center of the golden-domed mosque known as the Dome of the Rock. How does this rock relate to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22? What about the story of David building an altar at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24)? While one can easily imagine Abraham binding Isaac on the relatively flat summit of Mount Moriah, Ritmeyer points out that the rock is too small to accommodate a threshing floor and that threshing floors are generally located just below the summit of a hill. Ritmeyer raises this problem at the beginning of chapter six, but doesn't offer the solution until the end of chapter seven. In between he discusses every feature of the rock and its significance, followed by a brief biblical survey of the First Temple's history. I must confess to skimming the detailed discussion of the rock itself, but I couldn't stop reading Ritmeyer's history of the first temple. He helped make sense of otherwise obscure references to events in the lives of Judah's various kings, revealing that the temple itself went through various periods of neglect, ransacking, restoration, and expansion throughout the First Temple period.

Another point I've found fascinating is Ritmeyer's contention that Hezekiah expanded the Temple Mount so that it measured 500-cubits square: dimensions mentioned in Ezekiel's vision of a futuristic temple complex. Ezekiel's vision would therefore have been reminiscent of the pre-exilic temple complex he would have been familiar with.

While The Quest is an important text for those studying biblical archaeology or the history of Israel, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the temple and its place in Israel's history. The project I'm working on is far from scholarly, but I want the statements I make about the temple to be based on credible research rather than baseless conjecture or questionable traditions. The Quest has given me the information I need from a credible source, with the surprising bonus that it has been an enjoyable and enlightening read. If you plan to preach through Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, the prophets, any of the post-exilic books, the Gospels, Acts, or many of the epistles (particularly Hebrews), I would highly recommend you include The Quest in your preparations.

Load it on your iPad and read it by the pool this summer. You'll be surprised how much you enjoy it.


 

Feb 7, 2011 David Lang

Worth Checking Out

Here are a few things I think you'll find worth checking out:

  • Dr. J's latest podcast offers a helpful comparison of our two most extensive Holy Land Photograph collections: the Bible Lands PhotoGuide, and the new American Colony and Eric Matson collection from Bibleplaces.com. Not only does he compare the strengths of each of these resources, he gives you a brief sampling of some of the photos they contain.
  • In pointing his readers to Dr. J's podcast, Todd Bolen of Bibleplaces.com included a comment from a user who had great things to say about having this collection available within Accordance. Also, Bolen's most recent blog post points to an interesting Jerusalem Quarterly article on the history of the American Colony Photography Department.
  • Another blog post mentioning Accordance comes from James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, who relates how he identified passages of P46 at the Chester Beatty Library using the Accordance app on his iPod.
  • This review of the The Sacred Bridge at Biblical Archaeology Review praises the atlas for its thorough and careful scholarship. The reviewer's only criticism is that the font size of the print edition is too small to read comfortably. Of course, this criticism does not apply to the Accordance edition.
  • Finally, Adam M. Lowe has been comparing the functionality and costs of various iPad Bible apps, including Accordance.

 

Nov 8, 2010 David Lang

It's in the Bible, so I Guess It's Important

Anyone who has ever tried to read through the entire Bible has inevitably found it to be an uneven experience. Some portions, like the Old Testament narratives or the Gospels and Acts are engaging, easy to read, and thoroughly entertaining. Other portions, like the New Testament epistles, Psalms, and Proverbs, are rich in theological discussion, inspirational poetry, and practical wisdom. But then there are those portions which are difficult to read and hard to get excited about: the genealogies in Genesis and Chronicles, the intricate plans for the construction of the tabernacle in Exodus, the censuses in Numbers, and the detailed instructions on how to perform various sacrifices in Leviticus. We dutifully try to read these passages, all the while thinking to ourselves, "Well, this is in the Bible, so I guess it must be important." Unfortunately, even when we do succeed in slogging through these passages, it's not always apparent what good they did us.

Still, the more we read the Bible, the more we begin to see how these tedious passages are the key to understanding many of the more interesting ones. For example, the books of Samuel speak a great deal about the tabernacle and priestly practices. Eli and his sons, and later Saul, are rejected because of religious failures which may not immediately strike us as that big a deal. And what about poor Uzzah, whose only sin seems to have been wanting to keep the ark of the covenant from falling to the ground? How can we understand these passages unless we have a firm grasp of the cultic background they address?

Depiction of the death of Uzzah from Carta's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Temple

Artistic depiction of the death of Uzzah
from Carta's Encyclopedia of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem

Or what about New Testament books like the epistle to the Hebrews? That epistle discusses the Jewish temple, priesthood, and sacrifices in great detail, comparing them and contrasting them with Jesus Christ and the Christian church. The more you know of the former the better you can grasp what the author is saying about the latter.

Depiction of Tabernacle Sacrifices from ZIBBCNT

Artistic depiction of tabernacle sacrifices from the
Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament

So it turns out that all those tedious parts of the Bible really are important and worth understanding. In fact, those who don't understand them can sometimes fall prey to the sophistry and manipulation of unscrupulous teachers who claim to have "unlocked" their meaning.

It seems that every time I flip through the channels of my television, I run across some teacher who is explaining the "symbolic" meaning of the temple or the Day of Atonement or some kind of Hebrew sacrifice. Some of this teaching is helpful, but most of it is absolute nonsense. Unfortunately, those who lap this stuff up have no way of judging the accuracy of their teachers' claims. By claiming to open up these more inscrutable passages of the Bible, these teachers establish themselves as unquestionable authorities, and that's a dangerous thing for both teacher and student alike.

In the past two weeks, we've released resources from Zondervan and Carta which carefully and accurately explain the historical, cultural, and religious background of even the most obscure Biblical passages. By utilizing these resources well, we can be better equipped to understand those passages and to counter the teachings of those who misread them. This week, I'll give you some specific examples of how those resources can help you.

 


 

Nov 5, 2010 David Lang

From Accordance to Accordance: The Sacred Bridge Comes Full Circle

C-Sacred Bridge-sm Yesterday we announced the release of thirteen new Atlases and books of historical geography from Carta. The centerpiece of that collection is without doubt The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World. Flip through a few pages of the print version and it immediately becomes apparent that The Sacred Bridge is like no other Bible Atlas ever produced.

Most Bible Atlases are aimed at the every-day student of the Bible who merely wants some basic background information. They tend to be long on colorful images and maps but relatively short on text. They'll offer a cursory narrative of Biblical history and brief descriptions of important events, but they tend not to explore any episode in great detail. The Sacred Bridge, on the other hand, is aimed at the professional scholar and serious student, and it promises to become a standard reference work in Biblical geography and history for many years to come.

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The Sacred Bridge is destined to become a standard reference because it brings together into one place the insights of a variety of specialized disciplines. It cites thousands of relevant sources so the student who wants to delve deeper into any particular question will have a clear starting point for further research. Yet authors Anson F. Rainey and R. Steven Notley go beyond merely summarizing and citing their sources. Instead, they often include the relevant passages from ancient texts along with careful translations, enabling the reader to evaluate those sources directly. For example, other atlases might mention the topographical list of Thutmose III, but The Sacred Bridge actually includes a table of each toponym showing its original hieroglyph and its later forms, then refers to that table in discussions about how linguistics can help identify "place names which may have belonged to an older, pre-Israelite stratum."

ThutmoseList

When Carta describes The Sacred Bridge as "exhaustive in scope and rich in detail," offering "comprehensive documentation of the Near Eastern background to Biblical History," they're hardly engaging in marketing hype. If anything, they're guilty of understatement!

Not only is The Sacred Bridge a remarkable scholarly achievement, it's also a great read. Both Rainey and Notley write in a clear, engaging style, so even non-scholars like myself find it easy to follow. It is quite simply like no other Atlas I've ever seen.

Obviously, we're very pleased to be the first to offer The Sacred Bridge in electronic form simply because it is such an important resource for Biblical studies. But beyond that, we're pleased to offer The Sacred Bridge because Accordance was so instrumental to its production. One can't skim The Sacred Bridge without marveling at the amount of work Rainey and Notley have put into it. Yet the authors credit Accordance with helping to streamline their work. The following is from Anson Rainey's endorsement of Accordance which you'll see featured from time to time on the Accordance home page:

Throughout the writing of my chapters for the new atlas, The Sacred Bridge, Carta's Altas of the Biblical World, I made constant use of the Accordance Program. The need to cite many passages from the Hebrew Bible, the Greek Septuagint and other sources (including the Targums) was made easy by using Accordance (then version 6). The use of several columns in a Search Window let me see the Hebrew, the Greek and some times certain English translations all in a glance. Countless hours were saved by the quick search capacity of Accordance.

Some of the reference tools were also found indispensable. The outlines and bibliographies of articles in the Anchor Bible Dictionary were a great help and saved me the need to spend hours in libraries.

My partner in this project, R. Steven Notley, also made similar and constant use of Accordance for his chapters in New Testament and Second Temple historical geography.

We're obviously very happy to have been of service to professors Rainey and Notley in their research and writing of The Sacred Bridge, and now we're excited to see The Sacred Bridge come full circle and become available as an Accordance module. There's no telling what other Accordance users will now be able to accomplish by having instant access to this ground-breaking resource.


 

Nov 4, 2010 David Lang

The Carta Collection: Better to See Once Than to Hear 100 Times

When former American president Ronald Reagan visited Moscow at the close of the Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev greeted him with the words of a Russian proverb: "It is better to see once than to hear 100 times."

In the Bible, we hear repeatedly about people, places, and practices which are foreign and unfamiliar to us. The Bible may describe the course of a battle by mentioning a few place names, but unless we are familiar with the terrain we cannot understand who held the high ground or whether the attack consisted of a frontal assault or flanking maneuver. The Bible describes the ancient Israelite sacrificial system in minute detail, but it can be hard to understand how and why certain practices were performed. Knowing the "lay of the land" and being able to picture each scene helps us to understand the Bible in color and three dimensions. If we can see once, we can more fully understand what we have read many times.

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That's why we are extremely excited to offer a new collection of first-rate atlases and visual guides to the world of the Bible from Carta. Headquartered in Jerusalem, Carta is a publishing house which specializes in producing the finest maps, atlases, and books about the history and geography of the Bible. The depth and breadth of these resources is absolutely incredible, as is the quality of the maps and images which adorn nearly every page. Now Accordance users can instantly access that wealth of material in order to "see once" and better understand the text of the Bible.

What's available in this new Carta collection?

C-Sacred Bridge-sm There are research-grade atlases like The Carta Bible Atlas (the fourth edition of the best-selling Macmillan Bible Atlas) and The Sacred Bridge. Meticulously researched and comprehensive in detail, The Sacred Bridge promises to be the Bible Atlas of record and standard work for the coming decades. Can you guess which Bible software the authors relied upon to produce such a remarkable achievement?

In addition to these scholarly works, there are atlases aimed at every student of the Bible. The New Century Handbook is an abridgment of The Sacred Bridge which offers the scholarly insight of its larger counterpart without all the scholarly detail. The Bible History Atlas by F. F. Bruce is an excellent introduction to the history and geography of the Bible aimed at beginning students.

C-Ency Temple-sm

The new Carta collection also includes a number of books which focus on the city of Jerusalem and the history of the temple. The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem offers an incredible level of detail about the ancient and modern city, while Carta's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is a treasure-trove of information and vivid illustrations of every part of the First-Century temple. Leen Ritmeyer's The Quest chronicles the archaeological exploration of the Temple Mount in rich detail and offers meticulous architectural reconstructions.

All of the books I've mentioned so far offer a wealth of information and a vast collection of illustrations, but Carta also publishes concise guides to the Biblical world, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount. These resources are perfect for quick insights and helpful images, and they're extremely affordable. These include The Illustrated Bible Atlas with Historical Notes, Carta's Historical Atlas of Jerusalem, The Holy Temple of Jerusalem, Jerusalem in the Time of Nehemiah, and Jerusalem in the Year 30 A.D..

Available only from Accordance, this new collection of resources from Carta offers the most comprehensive information about the Biblical world coupled with the highest-quality illustrations you can find. If it is better to see once than to hear 100 times, these resources from Carta will open your eyes to a world you've previously only heard about.

You can buy each of these Carta resources separately, or choose from several cost-saving combo collections. See this page to learn more, and be sure to watch Dr. J's informative new podcast about all the Carta modules.