Bible Atlas 1.0 (software)

01.01.99 | Denver Journal, Old Testament, Richard S. Hess

    A review of Bible Atlas 1.0 software by Dr. Richard Hess.

    Bible Atlas 1.0. Developed by OakTree Software Specialists, Altamonte Springs, Florida, 1998.

    This is a useful program for the instruction and learning of the basic features of geography and topography in the both the Old and New Testaments. A tutorial is included to introduce the user to the software and to provide examples and ideas as to how the program can be utilized in creative ways. The maps include the eastern Mediterranean along with the modern day areas of Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, the Middle East, and the regions south of the Black Sea and west of the Caspian Sea. Any portion of the map can be selected and zoomed in for detailed study or zoomed out for a broader perspective. Controls allow one to select colors and hues so that the landscape can be included or a plainer background providing for clearer appearance of place names. Various layers can be selected separately or in combination. These resemble the older transparency maps that have been around for years, but the user has much more control with Bible Atlas and is able to choose individual sites and regions individually and in groups. Most important for the teacher is the ability to construct maps. These could have not only sites and places included but also arrows and photographs added at appropriate places. The result could be stunning presentations for classroom use as well as for private study in a printed form. The three dimensional program is unique. It provides the user with the ability to select any region and set of places and to "fly" over the terrain using controls that are designed to give the viewer a perspective of the three dimensional landscape. This is excellent for general perspectives on the type of terrain that can be found in any region selected.

    This reviewer has used the program in place of maps and map transparencies in classes. Its strongest asset is that it provides the user with maximum control of many potential levels of usage. The inclusion of features not found elsewhere in atlas programs makes the product difficult to fault. However, there are a few items that should be noted. First, the question of which sites have been selected and why is not clear nor are the criteria for the selection of these sites. This would be essential for use of this program at a research level (for which it is clearly not intended nor does it claim to be). Second, my computer had problems crashing whenever I went to three dimensional configurations. However, this may be the computer's fault. I have seen it work perfectly on other machines. Third, the three dimensional profile is so interesting (and entertaining!) that it is a shame to criticize it, but the images do appear fuzzy and it is not possible to pick up much in the way of detail for an area. For example, I tried to view the smaller valleys leading out of the Jezreel Valley onto the Coastal plain, but the images were not clear enough to produce anything specific. Fourth, it would be of great value if actual survey maps could be placed on this program, that is, the Palestine Exploration Survey maps, now more than a century old, but never superceded in terms of the sheer topographic detail, including Arabic place names. However, this moves away from the student level of maps that this software is designed to serve.

    In conclusion, Bible Atlas 1.0 is very successful in fulfilling its goal to provide software for the study and understanding of the lands of the Bible. It is innovative and user friendly. The criticisms suggest areas of development and refinement, but that lies in the future. For now, this is the best available Bible map program.

    Richard S. Hess
    Professor of Old Testament
    Denver Seminary

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