Sacred Bridge

Carta's Atlas of the Biblical World

By Anson Rainey
December 2006
Carta, Jerusalem
Distributed By Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789652205292
448 Pages, Illustrated, 9 1/2" x 13 1/2"
$110.00 Hardcover

The twenty-first century has burst upon the stage of history in a worldwide epidemic of racial and ethnic violence. Whereas the twentieth-century pundits sought to eliminate the natural human instinct for self- and group identification (partly as a reaction to the gross misuse of that instinct that led to the Second World War), the end of the Cold War saw an outbreak of local conflicts between peoples of diverse cultures seemingly no longer able to share a small piece of the planet with their neighbors.

In times of such crisis, wise men everywhere have turned to their ancient sacred writings for wisdom to overcome their plight. Globalization has led to the development of a vast constituency of people who find their guidance in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures: the Jewish Diaspora on every continent, and the spread of Christianity through the enterprise of evangelization.

Of all the writings held sacred by the world's religions, only the Bible presents a message linked to geography. This is not just the location of religious centers but the experience of a people in its land, a people that has insisted on its God-given right to self-identity throughout the ages and in defiance of all forces that sought to deny it. All Jews and Christians who profess to find the source of their faith in these Scriptures look to the experiences of that people depicted in the Bible as examples and role models for their search after the Divine will and for their moral conduct among men. The religious experiences of that ancient people took place in relation to a geographical setting, generally a small postage stamp on the face of the globe, a patch of terrain in the southern part of the eastern Mediterranean littoral

The Bible is replete with geographical information, not as a guidebook for travelers or a textbook on geography, but often almost incidental to the message. Yet without the geography, that message is often obscured or vitiated for the uninformed reader. The present atlas seeks to introduce the reader to the geographical elements that can help to make real the social, historical and spiritual experience of the People of the Book.

This is not meant to be a textbook in geography, not even biblical geography. It is an attempt to view the geographical setting through the eyes of the ancient inhabitants. It concentrates on the terms and places that have enjoyed their attention; it seeks to define them in terms of their ancient understanding. On the other hand, recognizing that the geography of the Land of the Bible is not complete and that many other peoples have contributed to its history, our attention will be turned to every available documentary source, Egyptian, Akkadian, Moabite, Phoenician, Greek, Latin, Arabic, etc., that may provide geographical details and perspective. Many ancient towns escaped mention in the Bible but are known from Late Bronze sources and reappear again in the Hellenistic Age. They were there all along as their archaeological mounds often testify. The Canaanites, Amorites, Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, Nabateans and others had a share in the historical vicissitudes of the land in question. Their experiences are treated as equally worthy of attention and every possible source must be exploited to fill in the picture. This inclusive approach, utilizing all possible sources in addition to the Bible, is consciously meant to be a continuation of the scholarly tradition established by the patriarchs of modern historical geography in the Holy Land: George Adam Smith, Albrecht Alt, and my own personal mentors, Benjamin Mazar and Yohanan Aharoni.

Not only the religious Jew or Christian may gain insight and inspiration from this historical and geographical story. In the past, one might have pointed to the biblical tradition as one of the foundations of “Western” culture. Globalization is making that Western conceit obsolete. The ideologies and technologies of the Western world are becoming the possession of a world constituency. Even those populations with equally venerable and ancient cultural traditions may find understanding and insights from the human experience that derived from the Ancient Near East in general and from the Levantine and East Mediterranean peoples in particular.

Religious History

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