Preface to the Fourth Edition
The Oxford Bible Atlas has been a much valued companion of readers of the Bible since its first publication in 1962. This fourth edition is substantially revised yet it is very much the child of its predecessors. There are definite family resemblances, but also some differences. In some sections, the text has been changed completely, while in others it follows closely that of the third edition. Some amendments have been made to the maps, and the format of some of them has been changed. The most striking difference in the presentation is in the use of colour photography throughout. It is hoped that this will enhance the readers' appreciation of the lands of the Bible.
One of the difficulties in preparing such an atlas lies in what name to give to the area of land in the southern Levant with which it is most closely concerned, not least because many terms have come to have very particular political and religious connotations. Terms such as ‘Promised Land’ and ‘Holy Land’ have been coined from the perspective of those religions which regard the land as ‘promised’ or ‘holy’. They have been avoided in this Atlas although it is acknowledged that many people's interest in the land is precisely because of its religious significance. The problem with the term ‘Israel’ is that it has meant different things at different times. Within the Bible itself, the term is used with a variety of senses—a people who traced their descent from the eponymous ancestor Israel (a name given to Jacob; cf. Gen. 32: 28 ), the land occupied by all the twelve tribes who claimed descent from the sons of Jacob, and the northern kingdom of Israel as distinct from the southern kingdom of Judah. So ‘Israel’ and ‘Israelites’ are used from time to time in this Atlas with the appropriate biblical sense for the context. A term which has often been used as a convenient geographical designation for the southern part of the east Mediterranean coastal strip is ‘Palestine’, from a name given to the area by the Romans and deriving ultimately from the word ‘Philistine’. ‘Palestine’ is used in this Atlas with that geographical sense.
The dating scheme used in this Atlas follows that in The Oxford History of the Biblical World (edited by Michael D. Coogan, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998 ). The Chronological Chart is that used in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, slightly adapted.