Published on November 19, 2014 by Fred Zaspel

unknown, 2009 | 304 pages

Reviewed by Nathanael Warren  

Significance & Comparison

Barry Beitzel’s The New Moody Atlas of the Bible represents a thorough revision and updating of the much-acclaimed 1985 Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, providing 68 more pages, 23 more maps, and 532 more references than its predecessor. Beitzel is professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. His mastery of the discipline of cartography is evidenced in his extensive published map work, appearing in a variety of venues including the NLT, ESV, and NIV study Bibles. The current volume is no exception to this high standard of attention, design, and scholarship. The New Moody Atlas is the fitting recipient of the 2010 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) award in the category of Bible Reference and Study, as well as the 2010 Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) 37th Map Design Competition award in the Book/ Atlas category.

Packing 118 maps and 60 photos into 304 pages, The New Moody Atlas provides a good balance of visual experience and textual discussion, all while remaining one of the most compact modern Bible atlases on the market. By way of comparison of cartographic content, Biblica: the Bible Atlas (2006, also supervised by Beitzel) contains 127 maps at twice the page count, larger dimensions, and nearly 10 pounds. The IVP Atlas of Bible History (2006) comes in at about 100 maps and the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (2010) at 115 maps. Carta’s Sacred Bridge (2006) contains 300 maps in 450 pages, but these are unfortunately much smaller on average than those of The New Moody Atlas, despite the significantly larger dimensions of the volume. Crossway’s ESV Bible Atlas is the closest rival of The New Moody Atlas with regards to density and presentation of cartographic content, with 127 maps in 349 pages (including 34 pages of beautiful 2-page spreads). However, The New Moody Atlas is unrivaled in the depth of explication provided for each map, with most of the discussion within the book pertaining directly to the map work, rather than the map work merely supporting the historical geographical discussion. 

Digital Format

The New Moody Atlas is also one of the few modern Bible atlases to make their maps available in digital format. While the ESV Bible Atlas and Biblica provide their maps as searchable images on enclosed CD-ROMs, The New Moody Atlas requires the installation of WORDsearch Bible software before the maps may be downloaded in PDF format. While this may pose an initial hassle to some users, these maps in digital format will provide an invaluable aid for both teaching and study in an ever-increasingly digital era. 


Chapter 1 of the volume begins by examining the role of geography in understanding Scripture, as well as laying the groundwork for the volume. The approach and methodology established here and employed throughout The New Moody Atlas is highly confessional. The Bible is treated as a reliable source of historical information, describing events occurring within specific geographical locales of “a land prepared by God” (24). The ramifications of this to both the Christian and Jewish faiths are explored before aspects of the physical geography of the land are discussed. The “theological” borders of the land are delineated and issues of historical terminology are discussed (24–32). This first section also covers issues of topography, geology, hydrology, climate, forestation, ancient cities, and the harsh realities of ancient travel by land and by sea. Few biblical atlases provide such detailed treatment of these topics within a dedicated section, although The Zondervan Atlas does have a section of comparable length discussing aspects of the land’s physical geography. These topics provide a useful background for the discussion in the rest of the book.

Chapter 2, discussing the historical geography of the land, constitutes most of the remaining two thirds of the volume. The text and maps of this section are largely organized around biblical-historical epochs (i.e. the Garden of Eden, Abraham in Palestine, The Era of the Judges, etc) in chronological order. This historical strand is followed, unbroken, through the intertestamental period and a little further into the Christian era than most atlases of its kind, with several maps tracing the spread of Christianity in the Roman world as late as the time of Eusebius. Along the way, numerous maps provide attention to such topics as specific battles, territorial distributions, Egyptian and later Greek campaigns, Solomon’s trading networks, the Jewish deportations and returns, the Maccabean revolt, the journeys of Jesus and various apostles, ancient and modern Jerusalem, and even the landscape of modern Israel.

Beitzel pays careful attention to the scale and orientation of these maps, and the legends are clear and readable. A detailed discussion accompanies each map, often with takeaway value for both lay and specialist readership. While the text of the volume is quite accessible, Beitzel does not shy away from arguing new positions and contributing significantly to scholarly discussion within the field. Significant topics which he here engages include possible locations for the Garden of Eden (88–90), the migration of the Patriarchs with an argument for a northern Mesopotamian site for Ur (98–100), and the route of the Exodus with an argument for the probable identification of Mt. Sinai with J. Musa in the southern Sinai Peninsula (106–114). Concerning the battle at Gibeon, Beitzel defends his understanding of דמם (Jo 10:12,13) and עמד (v13) as a miraculous “shading” instead of a “stopping” of the sun (118–119). Issues of the Israelite conquest/ settlement of Canaan are also discussed, with attention to recent archaeological findings (126–130). Concerning the monarchic era, Beitzel makes a strong case for extensive Phoenician trade on the Mediterranean during the time of King Solomon, possibly extending as far as modern Huelva, Spain (the proposed site of biblical “Tarshish,” 159–165). Such trade may have been facilitated by the sudden collapse of the Hittite empire in the north and the death of Pharaoh Ramses III in the south.

The volume concludes with 15 pages of endnotes and several useful indices, including a map citation index, scripture citation index, and general index, as well as a selected bibliography for further reading. The map citation index is organized by map number rather than page number, which is a useful innovation over other atlases. The map index does not attempt to provide a comprehensive index of all biblical names (i.e. a “Gazatteer”) as, for example, The IVP Atlas and Biblica attempt to provide. The reason provided for this is that, as Gazatteers already exist in a variety of versions and formats, “there seemed no need to reinvent the wheel” (xi). 


The New Moody Atlas is an exceptionally well-researched, planned, produced, and printed volume, and will likely continue to be an invaluable resource for years to come. Its compact dimensions (11.4 x 8.6 x 1.2 inches), concise and informed textual discussion, and readable maps in print as well as in digital format ensure that this volume will continue to be a favorite reference among Bible students, pastors, and teachers alike. Furthermore, the notes and selected bibliography provide an excellent and up-to-date starting point for further research on all matters geographical. I highly recommend this volume.

Nathanael Warren is a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he is working on a Master of Arts/ Old Testament. 


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The New Moody Atlas Of The Bible

unknown, 2009 | 304 pages

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