Seeing What I've Written About
When I was in seminary, I took an Old Testament survey course with Dr. Elmer Smick. During his lectures, he would sometimes establish the setting of a biblical narrative by describing its location in Israel. I vividly remember him gazing into the distance as though picturing the places he had visited, describing how this hill overlooked that valley, how that valley was an important trade route, and so on. It awakened in me a desire to travel there myself some day.
A number of years later, I was tasked with creating our Bible Lands PhotoGuide. I was given hundreds of digital photos of Israel, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and other places I had never been and told to select the best photos, then write descriptions of each site and captions for each photo. In order to accomplish this task, I pored over dictionaries, print atlases, tourist guidebooks, and anything else I could find to help me decide which photos best illustrated the biblical significance of each site.
Painstaking as the process was, writing the PhotoGuide taught me more about the Bible than any of my seminary classes ever had. Studying all these photographs made the Bible come alive for me even more than it had when listening to Dr. Smick's descriptions. As I began to grasp their historical and geographical setting, Biblical narratives which had seemed relatively disembodied now became fleshed out. That's one reason, by the way, that I'm such a fan of resources which delve into biblical backgrounds, such as the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentaries on the Old and New Testaments, the IVP Background Commentaries on the OT and NT, all the richly illustrated atlases and books by Carta, The Context of Scripture, the Archaeological Study Bible, and the Historic Views of the Holy Land photo collection. These resources really do enable you to see details which the Biblical authors largely assumed their readers would understand.
Where Dr. Smick had piqued my interest in traveling to Israel, developing the PhotoGuide was like a virtual tour that only increased my desire to go there in person. Now, just under twenty years after I sat in Dr. Smick's class and roughly a decade after writing the PhotoGuide, I'm looking forward to seeing the land of Israel for myself. For the next couple of weeks, my wife and I will be touring Israel with a group that includes several other members of the Accordance team. I couldn't be more excited to see many of the places I've written about, and it will be fun to share the experience with some of my colleagues. In preparation for this two-week hiatus from blogging, I've stock-piled a number of short posts containing tips for how to use Accordance more efficiently. I hope you find this series helpful. Expect the first post in that series on Monday.
Tomorrow, I'll describe how I used Accordance to create a visual itinerary my children could follow while we're away.