Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Photo Companion to the Bible: Daniel and Esther


I had previously reported on the Photo Companion to the Bible: Acts and noted what an outstanding visual resource it is. Todd Bolen at BiblePlaces.com continues to release more resources in this series, the latest of which are the Photo Companion to the Bible: Daniel and another on Esther. Previous volumes on Ruth, Psalm 23, and the Gospels have also been released. The resources come as DVDs, but in the package a link is included to download all the files. Given the disappearance of CD/DVD drives on portable devices these days, distributing the volume on a USB drive would be handier, but the download option is a good workaround.


Each volume is a collection of PowerPoints with one file per chapter of the book. Each PowerPoint is a collection of slides with clear chapter and verse references labels on the slides. It makes it very easy to go quickly to a particular passage and see what visual resources are available. For presentation purposes, a slide could be directly copied into one's own presentation, but the images can be easily copy/pasted on their own. Each slide has excellent annotations describing what is depicted. There are over 1000 images for Daniel and over 700 for Esther.

As a typical example of how it all works, the Daniel volume has 12 PowerPoint files for each of the 12 chapters in Daniel. Opening the one for chapter 7, there are 121 slides. There are 7 slides connected to Daniel 7.1 which reads: "In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream:" The seven slides include images of:

  • Nabonidus Chronicle which mentions Belshazzar
  • Nabonidus cylinder which mentions Belshazzar (cf. image below)
  • Stele of Nabonidus (Belshazzar's father) from Teima
  • Picture of "Daniel St." sign in Jerusalem
  • Clay model of a bed, from Nippur, 2100–2000 BC
  • Model of a wooden folding bed, Egypt, circa 1550–1300 BC
  • Scribe copying Scripture
Each of the slides includes info about what is depicted, and I've bolded the words in the text and for the images to show why they were included. In a personal study of working through Daniel, these images provide helpful supporting commentary. If I were creating my own presentation or study guide, I doubt that I would use the street sign or the bed images which come from different contexts. The inclusion of peripheral images is typical throughout, and it is better to have them than not, though it does sometimes mean perusing through lots of slides to find the most relevant ones.

The pictures all are of good quality and include a mixture of artifacts (statues, coins, mosaics, many museum artifacts, etc.), sites, abstracts (e.g., sky, sea), maps, and modern images (animals, plants, signage, etc.). Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the images in these volumes on Daniel and Esther is that Bolen and the other contributors went to Iraq and Iran and obtained these images where the ancient Babylonian and Persian empires were located. These are not the typical tourist sites, and getting such images will likely become more and more difficult. Also note that free lifetime updates are promised. Further, as for permissions to use the images, it states, “The purchaser is granted permission to use this work in face-to-face teaching, video-recorded sermons, class notes, church newsletters, and like contexts.” Any other use would require specific permission.

These volumes are a fabulous resource. It is fascinating to peruse them on their own, and it's even better to employ them in conjunction with focused study of the biblical texts.

Disclosure: I was provided these resources for review but without any expectations of positive review.

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