Introduction to the Photo Companion to the Bible

The purpose of the Photo Companion to the Bible is to provide the reader, student, and teacher of the Bible with a broad selection of images that accurately illustrates the sites, scenes, artifacts, and people mentioned in the biblical text. This collection has been created by a team of experts who love the Bible and who love to teach it. All of us have Ph.D.’s in Biblical Studies with emphases in biblical geography, history, languages, and archaeology.

Photo Selection

Our photo selection was guided by a desire to provide the most accurate and relevant images for each verse. This can be quite challenging given the passage of time and the poor preservation of sites and artifacts. While we have been developing our photo collections for nearly 30 years now, and expanding it with historic images taken over the last 165 years, there are always more sites to visit, more artifacts to study, and more photographs to take.

Sometimes controversy exists over the identification of a certain site. In such cases, we often include photos of two or more candidates (e.g., the tomb of Jesus). Sometimes we did not have a photo of an artifact from the land of Israel, but we did have a similar one from Greece (e.g., a gold crown). At other times, we had to use a photograph of an artifact dated centuries earlier, knowing that while styles may have changed, the artifact is still closer to the ancient reality than what we know from our own world today. Where we can provide multiple images, we do so in the belief that a larger library will better serve a wide user base.


Explanatory Notes

The notes written for each photograph are intended to provide clarification and additional background information. They provide the rationale for choosing a particular photo for a verse, and elucidate the relationship between them. The intention was not to write another Bible dictionary (there are many good ones already!), but rather to provide specific and relevant facts that will improve the reader’s understanding and appreciation of the photos and their connection to the biblical text. For museum artifacts, the notes specify the museum and location where that object is currently held. For historic images, we provide, when possible, the date the photograph was taken.


Bible Translation

Each slide contains a portion of biblical text at the top to give context for the picture. The verse reference is in the bottom right of each slide. The purpose of the Scripture citations is simply to link the pictures with the portion of Scripture they are intended to illustrate. The translations given for each verse are our own, though we have often used the public-domain 1901 American Standard Version (ASV) as a reference. Translating the text gave us the freedom to make more specific connections between the passage and the pictures (e.g., transliterating the Greek terms for coins and measures) while avoiding issues of copyright that might come into play when altering a modern translation. We have made no attempt to produce a complete translation of the Bible.


The Photo Companion volumes are the creation of Todd Bolen, Steven Anderson, Kris Udd, Chris McKinny, Christian Locatell, and Kai Akagi. Dr. Bolen is the founder of BiblePlaces.com and Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s University, having taught for many years at their campus in Israel. Dr. Anderson is a career Bible scholar and teacher who earned his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Udd is a pastor and has a Ph.D. in Old Testament Archaeology from Andrews University. Dr. McKinny is a biblical scholar, archaeologist, and research fellow at Gesher Media. Dr. Locatell is a Research Associate in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. Dr. Akagi holds a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of St Andrews and is a lecturer at Japan Bible Seminary.

Photo Credits

The images in this collection come from three categories of sources. The primary category is original images taken by photographers associated with BiblePlaces.com, many of which appear in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. These photographers are identified by their initials at the beginning of photo ID numbers. The most common in this collection are: tb (Todd Bolen), adr (A.D. Riddle), and ws (William Schlegel). A complete list is provided here. The second source of images are the historic collections published by BiblePlaces.com. These include The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, Views That Have Vanished, and other volumes available at LifeintheHolyLand.com. The third source of images is public domain or Creative Commons images. These images are credited in the explanatory notes, usually with a link to their online location.


As this collection represents the culmination of more than 32 years of photography, travel, and study in over 15 countries, our debt to many is large. We want specifically to thank those who have contributed directly to this series, including Charity Pearson, Kaelyn Peay, Eric Dean, Benjamin Powell, Luke Bolen, Mark Bolen, Bethany Bolen, and Katie Bolen. Heidi Keller created the cover art. Oliver Schulz, former librarian at The Master’s Seminary, provided us with the opportunity to photograph the seminary’s Torah scroll. Jared Clark enabled us to photograph his collection of coins and artifacts, and he provided descriptions for the objects. Troy Manning and his team at Bibles International provided valuable feedback and suggestions.

Additional Notes

We have added removable boxes over potentially offensive subjects, e.g., the private parts on nude statues, to avoid causing surprise or distress.

The Future

As we are able to make updates to individual volumes of the Photo Companion to the Bible, those will be provided without charge to owners of those volumes. Information for acquiring updates is available in the notes section of each PowerPoint file. We welcome your suggestions to improve the collection, including corrections and the submission of images you recommend. Please email us at [email protected].


This photo collection is protected by copyright law and may not be distributed without written permission from BiblePlaces.com. The purchaser is granted permission to use this work in face-to-face teaching, video-recorded sermons, class notes, church newsletters, and like contexts. Separate permission must be obtained from BiblePlaces.com to use this material in books, magazines, commercial products, websites, and online courses. Slide notes should be treated as any other copyrighted written material, with credit given when quoting from these notes. For copyright inquiries, please email Todd Bolen at [email protected].