Pictorial Library of Bible Lands: An Image is Worth a Thousand Words  
   
  Version:  
  Developer: Todd Bolen  
  Rub�n G�mez  
Overall Rating:  9.0
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March 9, 2007

A review written by Rub�n G�mez, Bible software translator and beta tester. Copyright � 2007-2010 by the author. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce any part of this document without obtaining permission from the author.

Introduction

I have never been to any of the Bible lands depicted in the Scriptures, but unlike readers from other parts of the world, I can easily relate to many of the landscapes, objects and activities described in its pages. Palm trees, fig trees, olive trees, hills, springs, boats, fishing, farming, and so on, are all very close to the cultural world of ideas and experiences of most people who have been raised around the Mediterranean basin (like yours truly). Still, I most definitely want to take a tour of some of the key areas mentioned in the Bible one of these days... In the meantime I have to rely on photos and videos.

The saying goes that an image is worth a thousand words, and this is truer than ever in the case of The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (PLBL). No review can make justice to the fine pictures and excellent presentation of this product. It is the next best thing to actually being there! I love it!

The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands consists of 10 CD-ROMs packed with images from some of the most important Bible places. As one would expect, there is a plethora of photographic material from Israel, but we find hundreds and hundreds of shots from countries like Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Italy (basically, Rome) too.

PLBL has been developed by Todd Bolen, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at the Israel Bible Extension of The Master's College and webmaster of BiblePlaces.com, and it is being distributed by Kregel Academic & Professional. It retails for $249.99 but it is currently on offer.

Except for the commercial use of the photographs, which is subject to receiving prior approval from the producer, purchasers are granted unlimited use of the images for almost any personal, educational and church use imaginable. The contents of each CD are thoroughly indexed, and a full index of the whole library of images is also available.

Todd Bolen�s excellent pictures are widely used in printed works, which can give you an idea of how highly esteemed they are. Among some recent ones, I could cite the following books:

Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament, Fourth Edition. Zondervan, 2003.
de Silva, David A. An Introduction to the New Testament. Context, Methods & Ministry Formation. InterVarsity Press/Apollos, 2004.
Stiles, Wayne. Going Places with God. A Devotional Journey through the Lands of the Bible. Regal, 2006.

An online tour of PLBL can be found here.

General Features

PLBL offers an outstanding quality at a great value, and it is particularly suited for classroom use. Photos are great, PowerPoint slides are extremely useful, and the frequent slide notes included are very instructive and of a consistently high standard, with lots of archaeological tidbits, historical insights and biblical references (Figure 1). It shows that this has been done by someone who actually lives in the area and is very conversant with the Bible text. My personal impression is that it has been designed by a teacher with students and teachers in mind.

Fig. 1 PowerPoint slide and notes.

There are many different methods of viewing the photographs on the CDs (Figure 2). The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands is indeed a very flexible and versatile database of high-resolution images. Thus, they can be used in a variety of ways and settings. For example, PLBL can be opened in a web browser or turned into a slide show with the help of the included VueSlide application. But my favorite method of accessing the pictures is by using the PowerPoint files. These slides follow a logical sequence, and can be run with Microsoft�s PowerPoint or Apple�s Keynote. Each presentation comes with a number of slides and presenter notes, and use a simple dissolve animation to change from one slide to the next. The nice thing, of course, is that it doesn't take much to customize the number of slides, add different kinds of transitions, build ins, background music, and so on.

Fig. 2 Opening screen in browser after CD autoruns.

Since the proof of the cake is in the eating, I used the slides on Capernaum (Figure 2), among others, to prepare a series of sermons on John 6. I can assure you that watching the shots from the Sea of Galilee and spending some time looking at the remains of the synagogue in Capernaum, built on the earlier basalt level where the original edifice once stood � and where Jesus most likely delivered his bread of life discourse �, brought everything to life and certainly helped a lot in seeing the whole picture of the episodes found in that chapter. It certainly enriched me in no small degree.

Fig. 3 Some of the photos about Capernaum.

Mac fans may want to make all sorts of creative uses of the jpeg images. What I did was to import all the pictures into iPhoto, and by doing that I can now use them seamlessly on any project with any of the applications included in the iLife or iWork suites. It is so cool! You can turn to your photos and make good use of them in presentations, newsletters, bulletins, syllabi, intranets, websites, and so on.

Last, but not least, any of the pictures can be easily used as a screensaver with the help of the free PicSaver application included in the CD-ROM. They also make for amazing backgrounds for Bible quotations, worship songs, and so on. They sky and your own creativity are the limit!

Links

BiblePlaces website � Contains a lot more than promotional material for the different products available. It is a very useful repository of information on the Bible lands, and offers some freely downloadable materials.

BiblePlaces Blog � An interesting blog written by Todd Bolen, with "news and analysis related to biblical geography, history, and archaeology". An excellent complement to PLBL.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this wonderful CD set to anyone who is involved in Bible teaching. No matter what your particular needs may be, I'm pretty sure you will find here something that will address them in ways you didn't even anticipate. But even if you are not into teaching, the sheer joy of seeing the places where many of the events narrated in the Bible took places, will bring a new light and understanding to your own personal study of the Scriptures. It really is a win-win investment.

Pros

Quality of the pictures and accompanying notes
Flexibility in the way the photographs can be viewed and displayed
Countless numbers of ways one can use the material

Cons

You may forget that you haven�t actually been there and put off your plans to make a lovely tour of the Bible lands�


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