The new and revised 18-volume Pictorial Library of Bible Lands by Todd Bolen is a landmark achievement. These volumes contain more than 17,500 high-resolution photos of the lands and islands, sites and landscapes, roads and ruins, digs and artifacts, cultures and climates of the Bible. The vantage points vary from aerial to close-up to panoramic. Lighting, weather, season, time of day, and human traffic are all clearly accounted for — the blend of a photographer’s eye and a resident (not visitor) of Israel. A sampling of free high-res photos is available from BiblePlaces.com, the informative site maintained by Bolen.
The images also reflect the eye of an experienced teacher rather than a casual tourist or even a commercial tour guide. I have used plenty of these images in sermons, lectures, and distance education PowerPoints to illumine biblical stories, splash color on scriptural events, orient the audience to geographical dynamics, illustrate concepts and truths, visualize ancient metaphors, and show significant artifacts. Literally, no collection of images comes close in volume, coverage, quality, useability, information, copyright freedom, or customer service. Far from hyperbole, this image library truly is the only one of its kind.
The contents of the 18 volumes (4 DVDs) are listed below, including the minimum number of photos in each volume. Every single image is clearly labeled, and each volume contains simple searchable sub-folders. A comprehensive 418-page Image Index (PDF) also provides a one-stop-shop listing (clearly outlined) of every image in the collection.
- Galilee and the North (1,100)
- Samaria and the Center (1,200)
- Jerusalem (1,500)
- Judah and the Dead Sea (1,500)
- Negev and the Wilderness (700)
- Jordan (850)
- Egypt (1,000)
- Lebanon (700)
- Eastern and Central Turkey (1,300)
- Western Turkey (900)
- Greece (800)
- Greek Islands (450)
- Cyprus and Crete (700)
- Italy and Malta (550)
- Rome (500)
- Trees, Plants, and Flowers (1,500)
- Cultural Images of the Holy Land (1,000)
- Signs of the Holy Land (900)
Todd Bolen, long-time professor at The Master’s College Israel Bible Extension near Jerusalem, Ph.D. candidate at Dallas Theological Seminary, and online curator at the BiblePlaces blog, has developed this expansive collection of quality photographs over more than a decade living and teaching in Israel. He has even graciously included PowerPoint slides with detailed teaching information in the notes sections.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention three weaknesses of Bolen’s project. First, there are so many quality photos to choose from that the selector will wrestle with indecision. Second, the copyright guidelines are so simple and lenient that users may feel shadows of guilt at what feels like electronic piracy, especially if they are used to hopelessly excavating the internet for the copyright guidelines of random mediocre images. Third, at times the included PowerPoint notes are comprehensive enough to tempt users not to study the material for themselves. These present real challenges the consumer will need to consider.
This new and revised Pictorial Library of Bible Lands should be high on the list of resources for the serious or would-be Bible teacher. It would make a very special and practical gift from a college or seminary Bible class to their teacher, from a group of church members to their pastor or pastoral staff, or from a grown family to one of their Bible-hungry parents. Thanks to Professor Todd Bolen for his exhaustive work which is already serving Bible teachers, students, pastors, and church members around the world.