(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Ancient Rome was a large and magnificent city, and while there are lots of impressive structures to be seen today, there are many ruins scattered around and under the modern city. The Atlas of Ancient Rome, quite an extraordinary work in its own right, takes up the task of illustrating the ancient city with plans, reconstructions, and other drawings. This two-volume set is a translation of an original Italian work edited by Andrea Carandini.

The first volume contains “Text and Images” and clocks in at 640 pages. The opening chapters include topics such as “The Natural Landscape” and “The Historical Landscape” and “Building Techniques.” These are followed by 14 chapters corresponding to the 14 Regiones of the ancient city. Each chapter covers the diachronic development of the city for that particular zone, so that, for example, you can without great difficulty focus your study specifically on Rome in the Age of Augustus or specifically on Flavian Rome. In volume one, you will also find a couple dozen beautiful and illuminating reconstruction drawings. I try to show off some of these reconstructions in the following video, and you can also view samples at the atlas’s dedicated webpage.

The atlas is not cheap. The publisher’s price is $200, and Amazon lists it for $169. Is it worth it? Volume one is quite impressive, but $169 is a stretch. My initial instinct was to set aside the second volume for later because it contains “Tables and Indexes.” I assumed “Tables and Indexes” would amount to lots of boring text giving statistics and other data. But when I cracked the cover on volume two, I realized that boy, had I got it wrong. Of the 464 pages, only about 45 page are black-and-white text. It turns out volume two is page after page after page of remarkable full-color plans, diagrams, and maps. Below is a short video in which I flip through some pages to give an idea of the content. You really have to hold it in your hands. After this, the price tag started to make more sense.

I am not a scholar of Rome, but I highly suspect that if your interest in the city goes deeper than the surface, then this two-volume set is a must-have. If you do not fit that description, then you will still probably want to encourage your library to get a copy.

Carandini, Andrea, ed.
2017 The Atlas of Ancient Rome. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Related sites:

YouTube video highlighting Atlas’s features, by Princeton University Press
Princeton University Press’s description of Atlas
Atlas’s dedicated webpage


(Post by A.D. Riddle)

On my last trip to the Middle East, I was able to spend some time in London at the British Museum. At the bookshop inside the museum, I discovered a guidebook to the museum. It is not new, but it was new to me. The book is entitled Through the British Museum with the Bible, and if you are planning to spend time in the British Museum anytime soon, I highly recommend this guide. The British Museum is awesomely vast, and you could get lost in it for days. This guide (and others like it) will help you get more out of your time there, and make sure you do not miss the important stuff.

Through the British Museum with the Bible is authored by Brian Edwards and Clive Anderson and is already in its 5th edition.

What do I like about this guidebook? First, unlike other Bible guides for the British Museum, this one is actually the correct size for a guidebook. That is to say, it easily fits in a pocket so that you can have it with you while remaining hands-free. It is also written as a guidebook, providing such information as (1) the gallery and display case where an object is located, (2) brief but sufficient descriptions to understand the object and how it connects to the Bible, and (3) a photo of the object which helps in locating it quickly.

Second, Through the British Museum with the Bible covers a larger number of objects than the other two guides by Mitchell and Masters, listed below. This means it should be useful for more than a single day at the museum.

The other two guides mentioned above are:

(1)  T. C. Mitchell’s The Bible in the British Museum: Interpreting the Evidence (2004). This book covers 72 objects in the British Museum. It is slightly heavier with text, and might be better read before and after your visit to the museum. In my opinion, it is too much reading to do while you are actually in the museum.

(2)  Peter Masters’ Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum, 2nd edition (2016). [I am told the 2nd edition reflects changes in gallery and case numbers as the museum has rotated objects, but is essentially the same content as the 1st edition (2004).] This is a very good guidebook as well.

As I was preparing this blog post, I discovered there is a long history of writing books that relate objects in the British Museum to the text of the Bible. Some of these earlier books can be found online for free.

Kitchin, James George.
     1890     The Bible Student in the British Museum: A Descriptive Guide to the                      Principal Antiquities Which Illustrate and Confirm the Sacred                              History. London: Cassell & Co.

Kinns, Samuel.
     1891     Graven in the Rock, or, The Historical Accuracy of the Bible                                  Confirmed by Reference to the Assyrian and Egyptian Monuments                      in the British Museum and Elsewhere. London: Cassell & Co.

Habershon, Ada R.
     1909     The Bible and the British Museum. London: Morgan and Scott.

Jannaway, Frank G.
     1922     The British Museum With Bible In Hand. London: Sampson, Low,                      Marston & Co.

As a final note, Through the British Museum with the Bible is published by DayOne Publications. As I peruse their website, I see a number of other books that might appeal to readers of this blog. Some examples include: Evidence for the Bible, by the same authors Clive Anderson and Brian Edwards; travel guides for Israel, Jordan, Rome, and Egypt; and books on church history. You might find their website worth a visit.

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Several years ago, I checked out a book at the library to read to my kids. It turned out to be a delightful story of a young boy who helps his father harvest resin from trees in Arabia. The connection with Jesus’ birth is sort of a surprise twist at the end of the book, so if you read it to your kids, be sure not to give away that this is a Christmas story—they will get it by the time they reach the last page.

The book is entitled, The Third Gift, by Linda Sue Park (Boston: Clarion, 2011). The Third Gift was probably intended for ages 4-10 (best guess with input from my kids), but the beautiful illustrations (by Bagram Ibatoulline) and the Middle Eastern setting made it interesting for me as well, and it gives you a different perspective for thinking about a very familiar account from the book of Matthew. The “Author’s Note” on the last two pages summarizes the history of our modern perceptions about the biblical story, and re-connects the event with its original geographical and cultural setting. Recommended if you have young ones around for the holidays.

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(Post by A.D. Riddle)

In 2011, Routledge published Wall Maps for the Ancient World, a series of seven maps which were created by the Ancient World Mapping Center (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

According to the center’s blog, the maps have gone out of print and now the rights have reverted back to the Ancient World Mapping Center. Yesterday, they announced they are making digital versions of the maps available to download. Most of the maps will be of interest to Bible students and readers of this blog. The announcement noted additionally that the digital version of map 6 “World of the New Testament” incorporates some minor corrections.

You can read more about the maps and download them here.

[UPDATE: Yesterday, we experienced troubles trying to download the maps. We contacted AWMC and they are working to resolve the issues. In the meantime, AWMC has removed their blog post about release of the maps. You can continue to read the same information on this other page, but to download the maps, you might want to use this temporary link we have created.]

[UPDATE 2: AMWC has reposted their original announcement, but now it includes instructions to email [email protected] and they will send a link to download one or more files.]

The seven maps are:

1.  Egypt and the Near East, 3000 to 1200 BCE. Scale: 1:1,750,000.
2.  Egypt and the Near East, 1200 to 500 BCE. Scale: 1:1,750,000.
3.  Greece and the Aegean in the Fifth Century BCE. Scale: 1:750,000.
4.  Greece and Persia in the Time of Alexander the Great. Scale: 1:4,000,000.
5.  Italy in the Mid-First Century CE. Scale: 1:775,000.
6.  The World of the New Testament and the Journeys of Paul. Scale: 1:1,750,000. Inset “New Testament Palestine” (Scale 1:350,000).
7.  The Roman Empire around 200 CE. Scale: 1:3,000,000.

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Available beginning today is an impressive-looking title published by Baker Academic, Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, edited by Jonathan S. Greer, John W. Hilber, and John H. Walton.

The book contains 65 essays (in 640 pages) by many well-known scholars in archaeology, and biblical and Ancient Near East studies, but it also includes several younger scholars who are just beginning their careers in these various disciplines. Perusing the range of topics, it seems that little has been overlooked—iconography, geography, literature, archaeology. The opening chapters addressing historical geography and physical geography will have special appeal to readers of this blog. Essays even extend beyond the title’s “Old Testament” to include Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic period, and the Hasmonean kingdom.

This authoritative volume brings together a team of world-class scholars to cover the full range of Old Testament backgrounds studies in a concise, up-to-date, and comprehensive manner. With expertise in various subdisciplines of Old Testament backgrounds, the authors illuminate the cultural, social, and historical contexts of the world behind the Old Testament. They introduce readers to a wide range of background materials, covering history, geography, archaeology, and ancient Near Eastern textual and iconographic studies.

Meant to be used alongside traditional literature-based canonical surveys, this one-stop introduction to Old Testament backgrounds fills a gap in typical introduction to the Bible courses. It contains over 100 illustrations, including photographs, line drawings, maps, charts, and tables, which will facilitate its use in the classroom.

Here is the full table of contents:

Introduction (Jonathan S. Greer, John W. Hilber, and John H. Walton)
Part One: Elements of the Drama
I. The Stage: Historical Geography
1. Introduction to Historical Geography (Paul H. Wright)
2. Regions and Routes in the Levant (Carl G. Rasmussen)
3. Climate and Environment of the Levant (Elizabeth Arnold)
4. Plants and Animals of the Land of Israel (Daniel Fuks and Nimrod Marom)
II. The Sets and Props: Archaeology
5. Introduction to Biblical Archaeology (Seymour Gitin)
6. Archaeology of the Late Bronze Age (Joe Uziel)
7. Archaeology of the Iron Age I (Aren M. Maeir)
8. Archaeology of the Iron Age II (Amihai Mazar)
9. Archaeology of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods (Constance E. C. Gane)
10. Archaeology of the Hellenistic Period (Jordan Ryan)
III. The Scripts: Ancient Near Eastern Literature
11. Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Literature (Adam E. Miglio)
12. Hebrew Inscriptions (Judith M. Hadley)
13. Mesopotamian Literature (Dave C. Deuel)
14. Egyptian Literature (Nili Shupak)
15. Hittite Literature (Alice Mouton)
16. Northwest Semitic Inscriptions (Margaret E. Cohen)
17. Ugaritic Literature (William D. Barker)
18. Early Jewish Literature (Ryan Stokes)
IV. The Frames: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography
19. Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Iconography (Izak Cornelius)
20. Egyptian Iconography (Laura Wright)
21. Mesopotamian and Anatolian Iconography (Daniel Bodi)
22. Canaanite/Israelite Iconography (Brent A. Strawn)

Part Two: Acts and Scenes of the Drama
V. Acts: Integrated Approaches to Broad Historical Contexts
23. The Ancestral Period (Richard S. Hess)
24. The Egyptian Sojourn and the Exodus (David A. Falk)
25. The Settlement Period (Pekka Pitkänen)
26. The United Monarchy (Steven M. Ortiz)
27. The Divided Monarchy: Israel (Jens Bruun Kofoed)
28. The Divided Monarchy: Judah (Eric L. Welch)
29. The Exile and the Exilic Communities (Deirdre N. Fulton)
30. Persian Period Yehud (Kenneth A. Ristau)
31. The Maccabean Revolt and the Hasmonean Kingdom (Joel Willitts)
VI. Scenes: Integrated Approaches to Event-Based Historical Contexts
32. Akhenaten and the Amarna Period (Mark D. Janzen)
33. The Late Bronze Age Collapse and the Sea Peoples’ Migrations (Gregory D. Mumford)
34. Sheshonq’s Levantine Conquest and Biblical History (Yigal Levin)
35. The Battle of Qarqar and Assyrian Aspirations (Mark W. Chavalas)
36. The Mesha Inscription and Relations with Moab and Edom (Juan Manuel Tebes)
37. The Tell Dan Inscription, Jehu’s Revolt, and Aramaean Campaigns in Israel and Judah (K. Lawson Younger Jr.)
38. Sennacherib’s Invasion of Judah and Neo-Assyrian Expansion (Kyle H. Keimer)
39. Eighth-Century Levantine Earthquakes and Natural Disasters (Ryan N. Roberts)
40. The Battle of Carchemish and Seventh-Century Regional Politics (Sara L. Hoffman)
41. Alexander the Great and Levantine Hellenism (D. Brent Sandy)

Part Three: Themes of the Drama
VII. God: Integrated Approaches to Themes in Israelite Religion 
42. Monotheism in Ancient Israel (Matthew J. Lynch)
43. Biblical Texts Studied in Comparison with Other Ancient Near Eastern Documents (John H. Walton)
44. The Temple in Context (John H. Walton)
45. Priests in the Ancient Near East (Gerald Klingbeil)
46. Worship, Sacrifice, and Festivals in the Ancient Near East (Roy E. Gane)
47. Family Religion in Ancient Israel (Andrew R. Davis)
48. Prophecy, Divination, and Magic in the Ancient Near East (John W. Hilber)
49. Death and Burial in the Iron Age Levant (Christopher B. Hays)
VIII. Family: Integrated Approaches to Themes in Family Networks
50. Tribes and Nomads in the Iron Age Levant (Thomas D. Petter)
51. Women in Ancient Israel (Carol Meyers)
52. Family, Children, and Inheritance in the Biblical World (Victor H. Matthews)
IX. Sustenance: Integrated Approaches to Themes in Economic Contexts
53. Seasons, Crops, and Water in the Land of the Bible (Oded Borowski)
54. Trade in the Late Bronze and Iron Age Levant (Joshua T. Walton)
55. Slavery in the World of the Bible (Richard E. Averbeck)
56. The Local Economies of Ancient Israel (Peter Altmann)
57. Metallurgy in the World of the Bible (Brady Liss and Thomas E. Levy)
58. Ancient Technologies of Everyday Life (Gloria London)
59. Food Preparation in the Iron Age Levant (Cynthia Shafer-Elliott)
60. Feasting in the Biblical World (Janling Fu)
61. Music and Dance in the World of the Bible (Annie F. Caubet)
X. Governance: Integrated Approaches to Themes in Social Organization
62. Kingship and the State in Ancient Israel (Nili S. Fox)
63. Social Stratification in the Iron Age Levant (Avraham Faust)
64. Law and Legal Systems in Ancient Israel (David W. Baker)
65. Wisdom Traditions in Ancient Israel (Paul Overland)
66. Warfare in the World of the Bible (Mark Schwartz)

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

I had noticed earlier this year that inscriptions of Ashurbanipal had started appearing in the online corpus of the “Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyria Period,” and sure enough, yesterday, Eisenbrauns released the latest volume of the series, The Royal Inscriptions of Ashurbanipal (668-631 BC), Aššur-etal-ilāni (630-627 BC), and Sîn-šarra-iškun (626-612 BC), Kings of Assyria, Part I, by Jamie Novotny and Joshua Jeffers (2018).

From the publisher:

In this book, Jamie Novotny and Joshua Jeffers provide updated, reliable editions of seventy-one historical inscriptions of Ashurbanipal, including all historical inscriptions on clay prisms, clay cylinders, wall slabs, and other stone objects from Nineveh, Assur, and Kalhu. Each text edition is accompanied by an English translation, a catalog of all exemplars, a comprehensive bibliography, and commentary containing notes and technical information. This volume also contains a general introduction to the reign of Ashurbanipal, his military campaigns, the corpus of inscriptions, previous studies, and chronology; translations of the relevant passages of several Mesopotamian chronicles and king lists; photographs of objects inscribed with texts of Ashurbanipal; indexes of museum and excavation numbers, selected publications, and proper names.

Ashurbanipal is mentioned once in the Bible (Ezra 4:10). The other two kings listed in the title are some of the last kings of Assyria, up to the time Nineveh was conquered in 609 BC by Medes and Chaldeans. Note that this is part 1, and that part 2 is still being prepared for publication. The publisher’s description of the book mentions only Ashurbanipal, so I do not know if Aššur-etel-ilāni or Sîn-šarra-iškun make into this part, or if they are in the next one. The online version of this volume, however, is already up and running, and there you can view (some of?) the inscriptions of these last two kings. The online material appears to contain most, if not all, of the information in the printed book, but I must say it is more enjoyable for me to use and read the printed volume, while using the online version for research. If you are interested in ordering a copy, visit the Eisenbrauns page. The announcement sent out yesterday included the code NR18 which you can use to receive a 30% discount.

This book is the first part of volume 5 in the series entitled the Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period, or RINAP. Now, all we need is RINAP volume 2, the inscriptions of Sargon II (the publication of which I was told four years ago was imminent). RINAP is the successor to an earlier publication series named RIMA. You can explore both of these, and more, at the Royal Inscriptions of Assyria Online Project. These online resources are already very good, but they keep getting better and better. Big thank you to Eisenbrauns and all the other individuals, organizations, and acronyms (Oracc, RIAo, OIMEA, etc.) who make this available.

Related posts on this blog:
Neo-Assyrian Royal Inscriptions
Neo-Assyrian Kings and Biblical History
More on Neo-Assyrian Inscriptions