Saturday, January 26, 2008

Digital Resources for Biblical Mapping

I'll have more to report on BibleTech08, but I want to share the material I presented on "Digital Resources for Biblical Mapping." HERE is the link to follow. I have provided a PDF handout of the presentation and a quick summary outline of it. There is also a link to a spreadsheet comparing features of the biblical mapping programs. Most importantly, I have collected all the links to mapping resources and provided some comments on many of them.
My conclusions after my survey of all the biblical mapping resources?

  1. There is not yet any biblical mapping resource that does it all. Ideally, I think what we want is a resource that has these elements.
  • It is adaptable to various kinds of presentation: projection, web, handout. This requires a variety of base terrains, colors, etc.
  • It seems that transitory, non-profit or educational uses of images are acceptable, but copyright is an issue for which greater clarity is needed. (E.g., I think it is legal for me to post the PDF handout online, because it comes under the category of criticism or review, I am not charging for the data, I am not inhibiting the sale of the mapping resources by their owners, I have reduced the quality of the images so that they are not able to be used as replacements of the originals, my PDF only has a very small percentage of any of the resources used.)
  • In many ways, it is helpful to think of the old overhead model; i.e., a base layer where it is possible to add overlying images/filters.
  • (In contrast, I am not sure how many people really want to have the power to create and edit maps. Unless you really have a need to make a highly specialized map, I would rather count on the expertise of others and not have to spend the time to generate my own map. As stated in the previous point, however, it is nice to be selective in the data I display, but it is better to choose or enable sites/overlays rather than have to create them.)
  • It has bi-directional links between the Bible text, map locations, reliable reference works, multimedia resources, and online links.
  • It is desirable to have at least some kinds of interactivity: turning and tilting, 3D, flyover, animations demonstrating sequence of events, etc.
  1. For Mac users, Accordance Bible Atlas is an easy choice. It doesn't do everything on my list, but it nicely implements many of the features I describe.
  2. For Windows users, BibleMapper is a good choice for map editing and creation, but the status of this program is currently in transition.
  3. If you just want a static map, you can probably find one online.
  4. I think the future lies with something similar to GoogleEarth. The capability to add overlays, edit sites, and link to all sorts of data (e.g., even now there are links to one's own images in Picasa that are geotagged, Panoramio images, YouTube videos, Wikipedia articles, etc.) really makes this a rich environment for development. What is needed is a reliable package of overlays with links back to Bible software resources.

Some interesting comments that resulted from my presentation include:

  • the need by teachers to quickly create maps for geographical quizzing, i.e., with location markers but no labels
  • the ability to rotate maps but have label orientation remain constant
  • Take a look at what Sean Boisen (Logos) is doing with Bible places and names at his SemanticBible site. What are some possibilities of linking sites with the people connected with that location?

I've also been encouraged to check out a couple other resources. I was aware of and had linked to iLumina, but I had not experienced it first hand. PreservingBibleTimes is not exactly a mapping resource, but it provides some of the geographical overview.

Enough for now, but again, HERE is the link to follow for my stuff.


  1. You state that the Accordance Bible Atlas doesn't do everything on your list, but I can't think of one of the items you listed which it doesn't do. Could you elaborate?

  2. Hi, David. I appreciate being given the opportunity to evaluate the Accordance Bible Atlas. I can say a bit more about it. First, as I noted in my presentation, Accordance Bible Atlas is not only one of the few choices for Mac users, it is an excellent choice. It includes some things no other program does, e.g., the Israel/Palestinian coordinates that are important to archaeologists. Second, I should be clearer about my reservations. One thing it doesn't do is have full functionality running under the Windows emulator. (Yes, I know what the solution is to that 'problem'!) So, for a Windows person, it is limited. There are also a few things I can't seem to do, but they may also simply be a problem of running under the emulator. (E.g., the Delete key does not seem to work when I'm editing a map. Once I draw something like a box, I cannot find any way to delete it.)
    Third, there are some ways I think the program could be improved. (A) The satellite imagery could use higher resolution. (B) The Dictionary of Bible Places is useful but pretty basic and limited. Perhaps if I had other modules, it would easily link to more complete entries. (C) Given the importance of Jerusalem, it would be nice to have a good map of that city. There are a number of other city maps that would be desirable as well. (D) It's great that the Atlas, unlike so many other programs, has the nice overlays for routes and highways. I would like to see them more accurately drawn, however. E.g., the pass from the south leading to Megiddo is quite clear on the map, but the ancient highway map misses it. (E) It would be really nice to have hyperlinks out to web resources or to Google Earth. This would allow hooks in to pictures (though I know one can also buy the Bible photos module).
    There are a bunch of other little things, but those are the main things. (If you want, let me know off this blog for other nitpicks.)
    Again, it would probably help if I were using this on a Mac rather than on Windows, but even so, it is still an excellent resource. I recommend it (even to Windows users(, and I will continue to use it.