Category Archives: Useful Tools

A Photo Resource for 2 Samuel

Todd Bolen recently released another volume in his series Photo Companion to the Bible. This time for Second Samuel. It contains 2,900 slides that illustrate the book, chapter by chapter. They are in PowerPoint format and contain ancient sites, artifacts, and cultural scenes. In addition, there is very useful descriptive commentary on each photo as well as interpretative graphics on some of them.

This “volume” will be useful for instruction as well as for personal Bible Study. Highly recommended!

It is on sale for a limited time for $39.00. Click HERE for details.


Sinope — a Church of 1 Peter in Northern Turkey?

At the beginning of 1 Peter we read:

577_SinopePeter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance . . . .  —  1 Peter 1:1-2 (NRSV)

Bithynia, Paphlagonia, and Pontus were regions along the southern shore of the Black Sea that were merged into the Roman senatorial province of Bithyna et Pontus.  Jews from this region were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9) and on Paul’s Second Journey Paul, Silas, and Timothy “… attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:7).

From 1 Peter 1:1 we learn that Peter addressed Jewish believers in this province as he wrote his epistle and it is probable the Silvanus carried the letter to churches in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 5:4).

Sinope was a major city in this area and “. . . was a certain stop in Pontus for the messenger carrying Peter’s first letter” (Wilson p. 342).


Tower and Wall Guarding the Entrance to the Sinope Peninsula
Click on Image to Enlarge

This tower and wall guarded the narrow entrance point into the peninsula.  The walls probably date back to the 4th century B.C. and were frequently refurbished.  They are 1.3 mi. (2 km.) long and over 80 ft. (25 m.) tall.  There are many towers and seven gates.

To view additional images of Sinope Click Here.

TNCSNCT03A modern statue of the Cynic philosopher Diogenes is located at the entrance to Sinope.  Diogenes was born in Sinope in 412 B.C. (or 404) and died in Corinth in 323 B.C. (the same year Alexander the Great died).

The barrel that he is standing on reminds one of the clay pot that he is reported to have lived in in the agora in Athens.  He is said to have gone about Athens in the daylight with a lamp in his hand looking for “an honest man.”  Because of his unusual behavior he was nicknamed the dog (note the pooch by his right foot)!  In Greek, the name Cynics is related to the Greek word for “dog.”

It is reported that when Alexander the Great said to him “Ask of me anything you like,” Diogenes replied “Stand aside, you’re in my light.”


Two Sailing Ships on a Sarcophagus
These may be the type of boats that the Apostle Paul Sailed On
Click on Image to Enlarge

At Sinope there is also a wonderful museum.  One of the highlights in the museum is a sarcophagus that has a sailing ship and its “dinghy” engraved in bas relief.  On the other hand, the small vessel, with a sail(!), may not be in tow (note its own billowing sail), but rather another sailboat that is being depicted as being in the distance—and thus is smaller than the nearer vessel.

The Apostle Paul, and companions, may have sailed on such vessels.  On the large ship note the steering oars at the stern, the billowing main sail, and what looks like a jib near the bow of the boat.  Even the guy-lines are visible in the image.

An inscription on the sarcophagus reads: “Cornelius Arrianus is lying here.  His age is 60.”

As usual(!) Mark Wilson provides an excellent summary of the history of Sinope in his Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor.  Istanbul: Yayinlari, 2010, pp. 341–345.

Travel: USA Security (TSA) and Customs

This email is for USA citizens who do some traveling abroad—and the USA—based upon my recent trip to Israel.

Because we travel a bit overseas and upon reentry, to the USA we often face long lines for Passport Control and then USA Customs and then (sometimes) TSA Security before boarding a connecting flight, I thought I would share my impressions.

Because of long lines (see above) we decided to apply for Global Entry (it includes TSA PreCheck).  The online application was straight forward but because the next (required) interview here in Minneapolis was SEVEN months in the future we actually had our interview in Milwaukee while on a visit to relatives there.

Departure from the USA.  At the Minneapolis airport (MSP) the TSA PreCheck went fine (did not need to open my bags, but did need to empty pockets and remove jacket).  For my transfer in Newark (ERW) departing for Israel, there was no extra security check.

On the way back home this is where it became interesting.  At Newark, using Global Entry at passport control (entry to the USA) was a breeze.  There was no waiting, a machine scanned my face to see that it was really me, and then printed out an entry/customs pass.  This was checked by a person as I exited.  I walked directly to the baggage claim.  BUT by the time that the baggage arrived the people who did not have Global Entry were already there as well—and so I don’t know what I really gained timewise with Global Entry.

With my customs pass in hand, I walked out of the baggage claim area in a special Global Entry line, but it did not seem much quicker than the normal exit line.

After rechecking my luggage to MSP I began the TSA Security check.  Based upon the signs at Newark, the TSA PreCheck line that I was in, had a 10 t0 15-minute wait—a lot of people evidently have TSA PreCheck!  The normal TSA Security line was 15 to 20 minutes.  This did not seem like a big time-saver to me.

BUT, the “Clear” line for the Security Check was almost empty!

Based upon one experience, it almost seems to me that it might be better to get a “Clear” pass rather than a Global Entry one.  If I were traveling more in the USA and making many connections, I think the “Clear Pass” would be the way to go (but it really looks pricey)

The Global Entry pass costs $100 for 5 years.

The CLEAR pass costs $179 for 12 months (pricey).

Pictures of Acts — And a Short Survey

Our friend, Todd Bolen, has released the latest in his ongoing series A Photo Companion to the Bible — ActsIt consists of 28 PowerPoints—one for each chapter of the book of Acts.  Over 4,000 photos.  Right now it is available for $60 off normal price.

In addition, my friend, Wayne Stiles, is putting together a video series to help pilgrims better prepare for a Holy Land tour. If you have been to Israel before, will you give your advice by answering a few quick questions? Thanks in advance for your help! Click here:

$395 or $19.99? The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World for your iPad!

A few weeks ago I was alerted to the fact that the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World was available for the iPad—at $19.99.  This is THE best atlas of its kind and the hard copy edition sells for $395.00!


Cover of the $395 Hard Cover Edition

Often I have found that many books that I purchased for my iPad, especially Kindle books, are really “clunky” to navigate!  Try sorting through a Kindle version of any Bible Dictionary/Encyclopedia—an exercise in futility!

BUT the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World is DESIGNED for the iPad and I have found it a “joy” to use.  Instead of rewriting all of its features I have reproduced the AppStore’s description of the product.  One item that I really like is that it has a very accessible index—that really takes you to the place on the one or two maps where the place appears (not hundred’s of meaningless citations—as in a typical Kindle product).  The coverage is from the Scotland to Ethiopia to the Indian subcontinent!

Friends, IMHO this is a “no-brainer!”

—-  From the App Store’s Description with my emphasis in bold and color  ——

Hailed by the New York Times as “the best geography of the ancient world ever achieved” and deemed by classicist Bernard Knox to be “an indispensable tool for historians concerned with ancient times” as well as “a source of great pleasure for the amateur,” the unsurpassed Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World is now available in digital form as a full-featured app for the iPad. Including all the content of the $395 print edition of the Barrington Atlas, app makes this essential reference work more portable and affordable than ever before possible.

In 102 interactive [CR: detailed, with Roman roads] color maps, this app re-creates the entire world of the Greeks and Romans from the British Isles to the Indian subcontinent and deep into North Africa. Unrivaled for range, clarity, and detail, these custom-design maps return the modern landscape to its ancient appearance, marking ancient names and features in accordance modern scholarship and archaeological discoveries. Geographically, the maps span the territory of more than seventy-five modern countries. Chronologically, they extend from archaic Greece to the Late Roman Empire.

A must-have for scholars, this app will also appeal to anyone eager to retrace Alexander’s eastward marches, cross Alps with Hannibal, traverse the Eastern Mediterranean with Saint Paul, or ponder the roads, aqueducts, and defense works of the Roman Empire. Designed exclusively for the iPad, the app uses the latest technology and is available iPad 2 and above.

Carry all the content of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World on your iPad
•Explore and study on the go with interactive color maps and full-screen HD map images–all optimized for Retina Display
•Navigate maps with a finger swipe or tap
•Pinch-zoom up to 800 percent to see all detail
•Find more than 20,000 locations through an interactive gazetteer
Bookmark locations for quick and easy access
•See all maps in proper orientation in both portrait and landscape modes through automatic “True North” rotation
•Look at maps in the same order as the book and move seamlessly between connected map plates without flipping pages
•View ancient borders or overlay modern borders for reference
•Examine maps in detail with an interactive map key
•Access maps through multiple, intuitive pathways provided by an easy-to-use interface
Store all data locally on your iPad–no Wi-Fi or network connection necessary
Technical Specifications:
•Compatible with iPad 2 and above.

•Requires iOS 6.0 or later. •Size: 350 MB
•Rating: Rated 4+

Reviews of print edition:

“[The Barrington Atlas] is the best geography of the ancient world ever achieved. . . . [I]t reveals the world inhabit reached by the Greeks and Romans from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 640 in thrilling detail, and a color code lets us track changes through 16 centuries. The collective learning poured into this project is almost intimidating to contemplate and the fact that it could be completed testifies to extraordinary planning, dedication and courage. . . . [T]he cartography is luminous. . . . [M]agnificent.”

–D.J.R. Bruckner, New York Times Book Review

“The Barrington Atlas is a major contribution to scholarship, extensive in scale, reliable and up to date, and so laid as to be really helpful to the user.”
–Jasper Griffin, New York Review of Books

“Beautifully produced with an exquisite combination of scholarly precision and the highest level of cartographic art, this atlas is one of the greatest achievements in 20th-century Greek and Roman scholarship–and it probably will never be superseded.”
–Publishers Weekly

“This atlas is an indispensable tool for historians concerned with ancient times. But it is also a source of great pleasure for the amateur.”
–Bernard Knox, Los Angeles Times Book Review

A Very Useful Web Site of Ancient History — More Traffic than the British Museum or the Louvre!

This may be “old news” to many of you, but I recently became aware of the web site Ancient History Encyclopedia.  Its mission

is to improve history education worldwide by creating the most complete, freely accessible and reliable history resource in the world.

Currently they have around 200 articles on the Near East— articles that “cover the cradle of civilization, home of the first empires, and the world’s oldest cities.”  They also have 330 articles on the Greco–Roman world.

The articles are well–written, informative, and accurate.  They are peer reviewed.  I follow them on Twitter @ahencyclopedia where they seem to announce new articles as they become available and usually draw attention to one “older” article (like from the past few years) each day.  The lengths of the articles vary, but they typically seem to be a 5-15 minute read—depending on how familiar one is with the topic.  There is a search engine on the web site.

BTW – you are invited to follow me on Twitter “@go2Carl”— I only post one or two “tweets” a day—if that.

More Descriptive Details About the Ancient History Encyclopedia

Key Facts

  • All content is reviewed by our team of expert editors, ensuring highest quality
  • Trusted by teachers around the world as set reading for their students
  • More monthly traffic than the British Museum or the Louvre, and more monthly readers than the world’s most popular history magazines
  • Engaging the digital generation: We’re telling the exciting stories in history, using all media types (text, image, map, video, etc.)
  • Read more about our audience in our media presentation.

Our Work

We work to engage the digital generation: We are telling exciting historical stories using text, video, interactive features, social media and mobile apps. Every submission to the encyclopedia is carefully reviewed by our editorial team, making sure only the highest quality content is published to our site.

We aim to inspire our readers with the stories of the past, making history engaging and exciting for everyone. Our publication follows academic standards, but written in an easy-to-read manner with students and the general public in mind.

Ancient History Encyclopedia is entirely run by dedicated contributors and volunteers from all over the world. Our multi-cultural team is as neutral and as objective as possible, which is why we’re a completely independent organization.

Our Goal

Ancient history is only the start: We are working to create the world’s leading general history resource, covering all time periods of human history, freely accessible on the internet. Education is at the core of what we do, which is why we aim to provide more useful tools to teachers and students, such as interactive content, videos, mobile apps, and teaching resources.

We also plan to make our content available in other languages and other formats, such as printed books.

Politarchs (Acts 17:6, 8): Luke gets it right—as usual!

Acts 17 describes the arrival of Paul and Silas in Thessalonica, on Paul’s Second Journey, and how that after preaching in the synagogue on three Sabbath days that

4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

Acts 17:5     But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.  6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials [politarchs], shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here,  7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”  8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials [politarchs] were thrown into turmoil.  9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. (NIV)


This inscription, dated to the second century A.D., lists six Politarchs (“Rulers of the Citizens”) among other officials. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This term, “politarch,” is used (correctly!) by Luke in Acts 17:6, 8 of officials in Thessalonica.

These “ruler of the citizens” were the chief magistrates of the city and were appointed annually.  “They performed administrative and executive functions, as well as exercising judicial authority . . . of the more than sixty known inscriptions that mention politarchs, three–fourths of them are from the Macedonian area of Greece, with approximately half being from Thessalonica itself.”

The inscription is from an old Roman arch that was part of the old Vardar Gate that was torn down in 1876.  The inscription was given to the British Consulate and eventually presented to the British Museum.

Explanatory information from Fant, Clyde E., and Mitchell G. Reddish, “Politarch Inscription at Thessalonica,” pp. 366–70.   Lost Treasures of the Bible — Understanding the Bible Through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.  They also have provided a translation of the inscription on page 367.

To view/download 12 high resolution photos of Thessalonica Click Here.

70 FREE Aerial Views of Israel & Maps

Bill Schlegel, the author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, has made available to those who own his Atlas two wonderful teaching tools.

The first is a complete digital set of the maps that he produced for use in his Atlas.  One of the questions that I frequently receive is “where can I get maps that I can use in my PowerPoint presentations?”  Well, these certainly are useful for that purpose.


View of Caesarea Maritima looking east. In the foreground, protruding out into the Mediterranean Sea is the Herodian Palace. Behind it to the right is the theater and behind it to the left is the Stadium/Hippodrome/Circus. Courtesy of Bill Schlegel, Satellite Bible Atlas.

Recently he has also made available 70 Aerial Photographs of sites of biblical significance.  They are also free to download (for owners of his Atlas).  They are of good resolution and will be useful for personal use and (again) in PowerPoint presentations.  Each image is 300-400 KB in size.  He took them in very clear weather using a drone.

Along with the 70  aerial photos is a pdf document with an entry for each of the images.  Each entry, after naming the image, provides a short synopsis of the biblical importance of the site.  Most of the images are of sites that most travelers to Israel will have visited, but there are also a few of  not–so–frequently visited places, such as: et–Tell, Maqatir, Dothan, Timnah,  Wadi Farah, and Tel Serah (Ziklag).

He has also produced numerous teaching/learning videos that I have previously noted.

William Schlegel’s Satellite Bible Atlas can be purchased here.

Christmas Gifts

As Christmas approaches I thought I would repost a few relevant blogs.  Most will have to do with content, but here are some gift ideas.

I am grateful that recently some other bloggers (here and here) have recommended my two atlases so I thought I would use today’s blog to mention them and some other books as well.

ZEBA01Last year Zondervan released my Zondervan Essential Bible Atlas.  this is a distillation of my more complete Zondervan Atlas of the Bible and includes all of the important maps, commentary, pictures, and timelines.  It was designed for easy reference, personal Bible study, and is light weight enough to carry on a trip to the Holy Lands (recent amazon price – $15.53 paper).

My more complete Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (2010; Hardcover $27.28; Kindle $24.99), besides being available in print, is also available as an “app” for iPad, iPhones, Androids, Macs, Windows Desktops, and Windows Store.

MarkWisonBookFor those traveling to Turkey, Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey — A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor is the best resource available (amazon $20.94 [a big price drop]).

Reed SmallAnd for the whole New Testament, I continue to recommend Jonathan Reed’s The HarperCollins Visual Guide to the New Testament. (a STEAL at $2.08+shipping!!).

Never Stop Learning ;-)!

I thought I would use this blog post to share a few web sites that I have found very interesting and that I learn new things from—actually, I check these sites each day (among others).

  1. I have just enrolled in Yeshiva University’s FREE online course entitled Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah.  This is taught by Dr. Steven Fine who is a leading scholar on many topics from the Second Temple Period and Late Roman Judaism.  I have viewed the first session of this course and have found it very interesting and informative.  You can “audit” the course for free, or pay a modest fee to receive a certificate.  The first lesson has me waiting for the second one!  Click Here to check out.


    Booty from the Temple in Jerusalem depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Including the menorah, table for show bread, and Torah scroll(?). Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

  2. The American Schools of Oriental Research has initiated a series of online lectures that feature leading scholars on a variety of topics.  This looks very promising.  (Registration is necessary, but does not look overwhelming) It looks like they will try to post one lecture a week.
  3. The Lanier Theological Library has presented online, for free, about 23 lectures by leading scholars on a variety of important topics for Biblical Studies (about one hour in length).  Click here, (scroll down for available lectures; no registration necessary) sit back, and enjoy/learn!
  4. Finally, I am mildly interested in the Ottoman Period (think Suleiman the Magnificent, the builder of the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem), and Ottoman Empire Pics is publishing many photographs AND paintings and maps from 1517 to the present!!  Including images of Palestine, Syria, etc.  Many of these I have found some of them very interesting/informative.