Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate, called the Holy Land pilgrimage “the Fifth Gospel.” It is read as you walk the Land. Without doubt, a journey to the Land of the Bible is one of the most significant experience of a Christian’s life. It is one thing to read about Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse in John 6, but it is quite another thing to read that discourse while standing in the place where Jesus first spoke these words. And you will never read the words “the Sea of Galilee” the same way after swimming where Jesus walked! But for those who have not yet experienced the Eretz Israel personally, the next best thing is to read a good Bible atlas.
Yohanan Aharonia and Michael Avi-Yona, The Macmillan Bible Atlas (1993).
I purchased my 1968 edition of this classic atlas in Jerusalem while studying at the Jerusalem University College (formerly the Institute of Holy Land Studies) in 1973. The cover is well worn and the pages have slightly yellowed, but it is still one of the top Bible atlases available today. Aharonia and Avi-Yona, two Israeli archaeologists and biblical scholars, have mapped every conceivable important location, from the Garden of Eden (Map 14) to the Church in the Second Century (Map 264). They provide helpful maps on the inter-testamental period as well as the first and second Jewish revolts. It is intended to be a companion reader with your Bible.
Carl G. Rasmussen, The NIV Atlas of the Bible (1989).
Carl Rasmussen served for seven years as dean of the Institute of Holy Land Studies (now the Jerusalem University College). As an adjunct professor he has also taught courses in historical geography for many years at the JUC and is eminently qualified to write on the history and geography of the biblical lands. The NIV atlas provides good pictures and maps, but the special contribution of this atlas is the text which integrates the history of the land with the biblical story.
Carl G. Rasmussen, Essential Atlas of the Bible (2013).
The Essential Atlas of the Bible is an abbreviated and updated version of the NIV Atlas. The maps have better color and are actually larger than the original NIV Atlas. The text is condensed, but still integrates the biblical narrative with the geography and history of the land. This atlas is very reasonably priced ($16.99) and its compact size makes it a very handy volume to take with you on a study tour to the Holy Land.
Bill Schegel, Satellite Bible Atlas (2013).
Bill Schegel lives in Israel near Jerusalem and teaches for The Master’s College at their Israel Bible Extension (IBEX). Bill has used Landsat satellite imagery to create maps of Israel that display the actual physical features of the land. The maps are 7.5 by 10.5 inches and are very clear and readable. On the page opposite each map Bill provides discussion of the biblical story, physical geography and archaeological discoveries. Students who participate in Western’s Israel Study Program receive the SBA as an essential tool for studying the land of Israel. The maps are available for download and Bill has created YouTube videos to teach about the various regions of the land of Israel.
John A. Beck, Discovery House Bible Atlas (2015).
John Beck is a biblical scholar, writer, and adjunct teacher at the Jerusalem University College. John provides a broad sweep of the story of the Bible showing how the geography of Israel not only shaped events, but was used by the biblical writers to shape the thoughts and beliefs of the readers. The Discovery House Bible Atlas provides boundless insights into the biblical text through careful examination of the physical and cultural backgrounds of the Bible. The maps and pictures are breathtaking!
Carl Laney, Concise Bible Altas (1988).
I know I said my “five” top Bible atlases, but I just had to mention my own Concise Bible Atlas, originally published by Baker and now by Hendrickson Publishers. The maps are simple sketches and the pictures are black and white, but the text presents a concise overview of 15 biblical periods and the essential historical details and geographical considerations for each of the periods. This is a helpful book to read in preparation for your trip to Israel.