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The benefits of using maps for Bible Study
Created by Jon Taylor - Wednesday 08 Feb 2017
Jon Taylor
The benefits of using maps for Bible Study

Effective teachers are usually aware of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles and incorporate that into their presentation for the benefit of their students. The use of a Bible atlas or the maps provided at the back of some study Bibles are an excellent aid to gaining more insight from God’s Word and help to bring it to life. Here are some useful applications for personal study, group work, sermons and visiting biblical sites.
 
Passages with numerous peoples and places mentioned
 
I remember one Bible lecturer who took special delight in fastidiously going through cross-references and who avoided merely skimming through lists of genealogies or people groups.  Inevitably he would be rewarded for his efforts by finding useful information that would probably only be known to someone familiar with the geography and details of the individuals mentioned. This also serves to reinforce the reality that all of God’s word is inspired and profitable; and our need to become fully acquainted with it in every sense.
 
If we look at the nations descended from Noah in Genesis 10, many Bibles have the corresponding Thomas Nelson map near the back, showing the descendants of Shem, Ham and Japheth. It also provides some of their current names to help bring it up to date. Without that aid or something similar, it is incredibly difficult to make sense of their location. It is a worthwhile and interesting exercise, since many of those names can be traced later on in Scripture.
 
Similarly, if one zooms in on the conquest of Canaan and underlines in the text, the place names, rivers and mountains designated in Joshua 12, it is possible to make sense of the distance travelled and the type of terrain, elevation of the landscape and potential obstacles involved to a lesser or greater extent by making use of the maps located at the back of some Bibles, using a good Bible atlas and especially a raised-relief map.
 
Sermon and group study aids
 
When preaching on the seven churches in Revelation 2-3; to be able to describe a particular church setting at the time of writing with reference to the topography, industries employed, ethnic composition, culture and political and spiritual background is vital for unlocking the text.  Having a map with the location of these sites and to see clearly the remains of some areas and how others have changed over the years not only helps people to remember important points conveyed, but also reminds them that they are dealing with real events, not mythology or seemingly irrelevant history.
 
Maps are a valuable tool in group Bible Studies encouraging individuals to consider the context of the surrounding environment, not just geographically but also historically; and to identify with what the text is saying by employing the method of grammatical-historical exegesis before applying that truth in an appropriate way today.
 
In an age where biblical literacy and geographical awareness are increasingly becoming  problematic  particularly amongst young people, displaying a map such as ‘the seven churches of Revelation’ or that of ‘the Kingdom years’, is beneficial on both accounts.  It can enable them to make the connection between events that occurred a few millennia ago; sometimes even in unfamiliar territories, with the significance of those facts for today. Maps help to orient people in time and space and contribute to our understanding of why we are where we are now. The use of maps before preaching a series on a particular book or considering the Exodus or teaching on Paul’s missionary journeys will be invaluable.
 
Using a Bible Atlas
 
Although there are a number of Bible atlases available; they are not all one and the same and they cater for different levels of study and also approach God’s Word from various angles. For example if you are reading through Scripture from cover to cover, ‘The SPCK Bible Atlas’ is a great accompanying tool and will take you from Genesis to Revelation paying particular attention to events, people and places. The preceding section explains how civilization developed in Bible Lands and the appendix provides lists of rulers and family trees.
 
For an in depth scholarly study atlas that is comprehensive concerning the historical and archaeological context of the Bible and that even includes valuable contributions regarding the Intertestamental  Period and also the Early Church until to the start of the fourth century, ‘The Carta Bible Atlas’  is excellent .
 
Visiting Biblical Sites
 
Maps and atlases are vital for study but are even more useful when employed for their intended purpose! To be able to visit Israel and see Jerusalem, the Galilee Region, Mount Carmel or the River Jordan with both old and modern maps and to see the ancient remains of key archaeological findings is massively encouraging and bolsters one’s faith. To gain familiarity with the places of the recorded events in Bible Lands and where possible to view the sites and examine the evidence is an intensely worthwhile and satisfying experience. It causes us to erupt into praise and worship, since history is His story and the earth is the Lord’s in all its fullness and is displayed for His glory.
   
Wednesday 08 Feb 2017