In our recent giveaway of the Photo Companion to the Bible, we asked entrants for their name, email address, and choice of prize. We also provided an optional place for comments. This turned out to be a source of great encouragement to our team. Since I shared in the last post what artificial intelligence had to say about the Photo Companion to the Bible, and I thought a good follow-up would be what true intelligence says.

Win or lose, BiblePlaces.com will always be one of my go to sites for resources to study and understand the biblical text. Thanks!

How wonderful of you!  I love your photos.  Thank you for sharing.

Thanks for offering this giveaway! May the Lord bless your work as you bring the Holy Land to life that we might better understand God’s Word!

Thank you for doing this – and thank you for your incredible work over the years!

I cannot say enough positive comments about the amazing job that Todd and his team have done on the Bible Companion product.  I have co-taught lessons in our church setting using some of the Bible Companion files and for the past several months have been greatly impacted with the way this material provides a better, more clear understanding of numerous passages.  It is an awesome ministry tool.  I am not asking to be a “winner,” but wanted to express my gratitude for the potential benefit this product offers for teachers of God’s Word.

Exciting! These resources are so helpful as they add to Bible knowledge, and they are excellent for teaching, and are also plain fun. It looks like a lot of work to compile these powerpoints and its creative how you find images that speak to Bible passages. It’s really cool. Thanks. Blessings.

I have enjoyed your photos for many years. They have been a valuable resource to my preaching. Thanks for all you do!

I’m so grateful for this ministry.  Thank you for what you do, and press on!

Absolutely anything you put out is a MUST-HAVE item! Thank you for all you do in building up the Body of Christ and honoring the Lord…. <><

You have done an incredible work for God’s Kingdom with this amazing collection! I appreciate your efforts to share it!

Thank you for a superb collection of pictures!

I already have all the Photo Companion volumes so if I win I would want to donate it to someone else who doesn’t have it. I am interested though in the Top 50 Biblical Sites Powerpoint. Thanks for all you do. Your ministry is of great value and greatly appreciated!

I work with ministries to children and teens around the US and the world. Loved stumbling across this resource many can use in their Bible classes for young people!

Thank you so much for all the work you all have done on putting these together.

Sure do appreciate this gigantic support to my sermons and presentations.  Love the shots!

Thank you ever so much for such a great idea and blessing! The Lord bless you richly for your wonderful ministry!

I appreciate your work and wish I could afford more of it. I have quite a few of my own pictures, but you have pictures of places I haven’t been able to get to, or of places I have been to but haven’t gotten good pictures of. Thank you for helping people picture the Bible!

Thank you. I plan use it on my classes in the Philippines where I work.

There are incredible picture packages to enhance Bible study and teaching.  God bless. 

Great offer, great material -alas, my teaching career is almost over. I’m 71 years old, still believing in picture-assisted preaching and your informative takes.

Love your work and the annotations with the photos!

I have used your Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John sets in classes I have taught in churches and in a New Testament class I teach at a local college. I have appreciated the excellent slides and information!

Thank you for doing this! Super excited for whoever gets these!

Your support of Bible teachers is much appreciated. Thank you!


I asked ChatGPT, “What is it that makes the Photo Companion to the Bible so great?”

I think its answer is quite good (formatting and links added):

The Photo Companion to the Bible is a collection of high-quality photographs and images that provide context and enhance understanding of the biblical narrative. Here are some reasons why it is considered great:

1. Visual learning: The human brain processes visual information faster and retains it better than text-based information. The Photo Companion to the Bible provides a wealth of visual information that helps readers to better understand the Bible.

2. Historical and cultural context: The images in the Photo Companion to the Bible provide a window into the historical and cultural context of the Bible. This helps readers to understand the cultural and historical background of the Bible and its relevance to our lives today.

3. Geographical context: The images in the Photo Companion to the Bible also provide a geographical context. The land of Israel is an integral part of the Bible, and the images help readers to visualize the places mentioned in the Bible.

4. Comprehensive coverage: The Photo Companion to the Bible covers the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. This comprehensive coverage makes it a valuable resource for anyone studying the Bible.

5. User-friendly: The Photo Companion to the Bible is designed to be user-friendly. The images are organized by book, chapter, and verse, making it easy to find the images you need. The images are also accompanied by explanatory text, which helps readers to understand the significance of each image.”

Back to me. Point #4 is not true. We have completed the entire New Testament, but the Old Testament is a long ways from being finished.

Point #3 is correct except that it fails to recognize that the Photo Companion is much broader than the land of Israel. Our Esther volume largely comes from Persia, and much in Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation is drawn from Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy.

Point #1 is not really well-articulated on the BiblePlaces.com website. That is where the AI is drawing on its broad understanding of the value of images in learning and comprehension. I think I’ll steal this to use elsewhere.

Points #2 and 5 are more obvious (to me) and hopefully explained well on the website. I also like the sequence of the five points, beginning with the more general and concluding with the more practical.

That’s my first experiment with a leading question of an AI. The summation in the introductory sentence really nails the value of the Photo Companion – it does indeed “provide context and enhance understanding of the biblical narrative.”


If you asked me for a list of historical fiction related to the biblical world that needed to be written, I’m not sure that the Maccabean Revolt would have been in the top 5. What I discovered, however, in reading David A. deSilva’s Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt, is that it really should be near the top. The book came out in 2015 but I only learned of it recently, and I wanted to mention it here in case you missed it as well.

To be sure, this is not really a book about the “revolt” per se. That is, it’s not a war story set in the midst of the battles between the Jews and the Seleucids. Instead, the book is about the people and events that led up to the great conflict. And this is perfect for what I needed.

Names that I knew on paper became living and breathing people, and you really feel like you make acquaintance with the high priests Honiah (Onias III), Jason, and Menelaus. Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the little horns of Daniel’s prophecies, is more human than I had considered. Most interesting are the characters whom deSilva has created who agonize over, or embrace, the increasing Hellenization of Jerusalem.

I loved being transported into Jerusalem in the year 171 BC and watching the construction of the gymnasium while overhearing the Jewish residents debate how far was too far. The uprising didn’t occur in a vacuum, and deSilva reveals various political, social, and religious threads that led a bunch of farmers and craftsmen to take up arms to preserve the worship of the true God.

deSilva is eminently qualified to write this book, given his lifetime of scholarship in the world of the Second Temple and his works on the New Testament and the Apocrypha. He recently wrote A Week in the Life of Ephesus (two thumbs up!), and I hope that he will continue writing historical fiction.

There was an interpretation or two that I would have written differently, but that doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm for the book and my appreciation for the author’s diligent labors. I am happy to give Day of Atonement my highest recommendation, and I commend it to all who love to learn history through excellent fiction written by a careful scholar of the era.

You can see some endorsements at Amazon, and Mark Strauss has reviewed the book for Themelios (but he gives a lot away, so you might skip it if you prefer surprise).

I would include this book in my top 5 works of historical fiction related to the biblical world, along with:


“Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Ariel University have developed an artificial intelligence model that can automatically translate Akkadian text written in cuneiform into English.”

A 2nd-century AD statue of Buddha discovered in the Egyptian port city of Berenike is helping scholars to understand ancient trade routes between India and Rome.

“Anemia was found to be common amongst children in ancient Egypt, following analyzation of child mummies found in different museums in Europe.”

The Greek Reporter has an update on excavations at Smyrna (Izmir).

Turkish Archaeological News has a roundup of stories for the month of April.

“Crete is showcasing its rich ancient history with three new archeological museums at Messara, Agios Nikolaos and Archanes.”

“An ancient Greek settlement dating back 2,500 years was discovered beneath Naples, Italy by using cosmic rays and lasers.”

“A meticulously reconstructed Pompeii bridal chariot that eluded the ancient city’s modern-day looters is a star of an ambitious new exhibition in Rome.”

“The Colosseum [in Rome] was built to commemorate the sacking and destruction of Jerusalem, and was funded by loot stolen from the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.”

Tourists will soon be able to travel to Pompeii via a high-speed train from Rome.

“In the Roman world, although the rule of the sea was a complicated matter, and the sea itself appeared as an uncivilised, untamed wilderness, Roman law was able to provide practical solutions to deal with real-life sea problems.”

In response to controversy over Netflix’s upcoming documentary series on Cleopatra, Egypt’s leading media production company is planning to create its own documentary.

New release: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Science, Engineering and Technology, by Michael Denis Higgins (Oxford Academic, 360 pages, $35; Amazon)

New release: Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther: Achaemenid Court Culture in the Hebrew Bible, by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones (Bloomsbury, 280 pages, $31; Amazon)

New exhibit at The British Museum: “Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece.” May 4 to August 13.

I’ll be traveling for the coming weeks, so there will not be another roundup until June. I hope to be able to post a book review or other update in the meantime.

HT: Ted Weis, Explorator, Arne Halbakken, Keith Keyser, Explorator


[Due to some website issues, part 2 of the last Weekend Roundup was not sent out. You can read it here.]

A cave near ancient Shechem served refugees for at least eight different historical periods, from the Chalcolithic to the Mamluk periods.

El-Unuk, one of Adam Zertal’s six “Gilgal” sites, is under threat of destruction from construction work.

The Israeli government has approved an $8 million budget to restore and protect the ancient capital city of Samaria. The funding “will go toward establishing a tourism center at the site, building new access roads, mapping untouched areas, and increasing law enforcement to prevent illegal activity.”

Scott Stripling discusses the Mount Ebal Curse Tablet on the latest episode of Digging for Truth.

John DeLancey’s latest video was filmed in the 1st-century synagogue of Magdala.

What are the Lachish Letters and why are they of importance to the Bible? Nathan Steinmeyer explains.

JNS has a story on the Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine project being run by Brown University.

In connection with a new exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass, Ruth Schuster investigates the history and method of Roman glassmaking in the land of Israel.

Hybrid lecture at the Albright Institute on May 11: “Before the Nabataeans: Arabian Traders in the Negev Highlands,” by Tali Erickson-Gini and Martin David Pasternak

Zoom lecture on May 11: “Jesus Reading Scripture: Exploring the Archaeology of Worship in First-Century Synagogues,” by Paul Flesher ($6/$12).

The online lecture with Ken Dark on “Exploring the Archaeology of Jesus’ Nazareth” has been rescheduled to Friday, 12 May 2023 at 11:00am-12:30 pm ET.

Preserving Bible Times has released Session 5 of The Bible: Its Land & Culture! This session explores Two Different Worlds: Jewish or Hebrew and Roman or Gentile; Peter vs Paul; Deciphering the Roman World; and Roman Exceptionalism. Individual sessions are available here, and all 5 sessions are now available for purchase as a set ($40).

Paleojudaica links to articles that explore connections of King Charles III’s coronation with the Bible and the ancient Near East.

HT: Ted Weis, Explorator


Archaeologists looking at satellite images have discovered three temporary Roman army camps in the northern Arabian desert, possibly evidence of a military campaign that led to the annexation of the Nabatean kingdom in AD 106.

“Archaeologists from the Leiden Turin Expedition to Saqqara have uncovered an ornate tomb dating to the early Ramesside period (c. 13th century BCE) that belonged to Panehsy, the overseer of the Temple of Amun.”

Bryan Windle gives the top three reports in biblical archaeology in the month of April.

“The Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Antep, southeastern Turkey, has reopened after being closed for over two months due to the devastating earthquakes that struck the area in February.”

Writing for Ami Magazine, Lawrence Schiffman considers the irony of ancient Jewish art work from Dura-Europos sitting in a museum in Damascus.

Helen Gries, a curator at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, considers how “multiple narratives” come together in the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.

The Roman bust of Nero that was discovered in a Goodwill store in Texas is returning to Germany next month.

The Greek Reporter makes some suggestions as to why the ancient Greeks reclined to eat and drink.

BAS’s Bible & Archaeology Fest XXVI will be back in person as well as livestreamed on Nov 17-19 in San Antonio, Texas.

The latest video from Expedition Bible will likely be popular: Exodus Pharaoh Explained (22 min)

HT: Agade, Arne Halbakken, Explorator