Category Archives: Useful Tools

Hagia Sophia and Loeb Classical Series

Two items that struck me of interest.  The first is that the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey—one of the most historic/grandest churches of Christendom—now a “museum”—is being “eyed” to be converted back to a mosque!  Recently the Koran was read within the “museum” and this may be the “nose of the camel inside of the tent!”

The current “Hagia Sophia” is the third structure to stand on this spot.  The first church was built by the son of Constantine the Great,Constantius.  It was burnt down in 404.  The second was built by Theodosius II, and it was burnt down in 532.


View of the exterior of the Hagia Sophia. The minarets were added 1,000 years after the first church was built here! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The present building was built by the great Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was dedicated on December 26, 537.  It took six years to build and over 10,000 men worked on it.  Although the dome has been repaired (rebuilt) a number of times, the church built by Justinian served as a Christian place of worship until Constantinople was captured by the Turk, Mehmet II on May 29, 1453.


Interior of the Hagia Sophia—without scaffolding!! The roundels were added by the Muslims over 1,000 years after the church was built. They contain the names of Allah, Mohamed, and early Califs. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Mehmet II immediately turned the building into a mosque and it served as one of the major mosques of Istanbul until the reforms of Atatürk.  It reopened in 1934 as a museum.

Harvard Loeb Classical Series — 60 Volumes!

Good news, the authoritative Loeb Classical series is now ON LINE.  Bad news, it is expensive!  For individuals $150 for the first year, and $65 for subsequent consecutive years.  However, some of you may be able to have your Institution subscribe to the Institutional version—Free 60 Trial Here.

Key features include:

  • Single- and dual-language reading modes
  • Sophisticated Bookmarking and Annotation features
  • Tools for sharing Bookmarks and Annotations
  • Greek keyboard
  • User account and My Loeb content saved in perpetuity
  • Intuitive Search and Browse
  • Inclusion of every Loeb volume in print
  • Regular uploading of new and revised volumes

Please note that some of the site’s most useful tools are features of “My Loebs,” the personal accounts available to all authorized users. We’d encourage you and your patrons to create your own accounts (via the “Sign up” link at the top of each page on the site) so as to utilize the digital Loeb Classical Library’s full capabilities.

Many of the questions about the digital Loeb Classical Library’s functionality, for example, or its relation to the print books of the series—are answered at

Zondervan Atlas in Electronic Formats

I recently purchased the Kindle version of my Zondervan Atlas of the Bible.  I have a number of Kindle books on my iPad Mini and I wondered how the Atlas would look and work in the Kindle version.  When it first came out in Kindle format it actually cost more than the hard copy—over $25.00.  So I waited.  Well, when the price hit $9.99 I hit the “One click Buy Now” button!

I am pleased to say that it looks and works very well.  Because of all of the graphics—maps, charts, and pictures—the hard copy formating of the book is lost, but all of the above items are there!  And they are clear and very pleasing to use.  If you decide to purchase a copy, please be sure to read the “How to Use this Textbook” for it will provide very helpful clues on how to navigate through the book.  In addition, the book, and the extensive “Geographical Dictionary and Index” are hyperlinked and work very well.

Also note that OliveTree Bible Software is now offering an electronic version of the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible in electronic format for the following platforms:  Android, BlackBerry (with card), iPad, iPhone, and Symbian Series 60 v5.  It is also available from Accordance.

Turkish Archaeology Magazine

The other day I came across an wonderful archeology magazine—in Turkish—that I thought might be of interest to others.   I was not aware that it is available in English.  The English title is Archaeology — Time To Discover Anatolia.

Recent issues have covered:

The Urartians
The Lycians
The Persians in Anatolia
The Hittites
Gobekle Tepe (magnificent neolithic site)

It appears 4 times a year—glossy pages, beautiful photos.  It looks to me like this would be a useful periodical for those interested in Anatolia, Turkey, Biblical, Classical, Hittite, etc. studies.  It costs $60 per year for 4 issues.

Find the Images You Want — Quickly

Have you ever been studying a biblical passage, preparing a Sunday School lesson, a sermon, or a classroom lecture and were wondering if there might be some nice images of places that you are interested in that could be useful for your studies or classes?

Now you can easily find what is available on my web site by checking our new Topical Easy Find.

In Topical Easy Find I have chosen from our data base of over 4,100 images those that are related to a variety of important topics.  For example, if you are studying the First Missionary Journey of Paul, I have assembled images that are related to that topic. All you need to do is click to find/view what is available.   As always, you are welcome to use our images in your personal PowerPoint presentations—if you could give credit (and/or a link) to that would be appreciated.

Current “topics” in Topical Easy Find include:

  • Places mentioned in the Gospels
  • Paul’s First Missionary Journey
  • Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
  • Paul’s Third Missionary Journey
  • The Seven Churches of Revelation 1–3
  • Solomon
  • The Early Bronze Age (3150–2200 B.C.)
  • Intermediate Bronze Age (2200-2000 B.C.)
  • Middle Bronze Age II (2000-1550 B.C.)

I am constantly adding to Topical Easy Find so if you have a topic, person, or event that you would like to see there, just let me know via the form below and I’ll try to move your request to the top of my to-do-list.

Israel Finkelstein – The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel

Aren Maeir notes that the 2013 book by Israel Finkelstein The Forgotten Kingdom: the Archaeology and History of Northern Israel is available right now on line in PDF format.

I do not agree with many of Finkelstein’s conclusions but his data and research are of major importance.

Meir writes:

SBL is now offering the book on line in PDF form. I would highly recommend that anyone who is even vaguely interested in any of the topics covered in the volume (archaeology, history, bible, etc.) should download the volume immediately – before whoever put this online changes their mind…

Don’t ask questions – just do it. While it could be that not everyone will agree with everything that is written in the volume – it is TOO important to miss out on this opportunity.

Bible Geography Teaching/Learning Videos

Bill Schlegel has posted 7 videos (my rough count) on YouTube where he introduces  viewers to the regions of the Land of the Bible.  The videos are linked to his Satellite Bible Atlas.

When viewing the video I suggest that you click to view the
Full Screen version.

For example video “06” treats the Jezreel Valley and Lower Galilee.  For those of us who have studied under Professor Anson Rainey and Jim Monson at the Jerusalem University College – as Bill did – the content of the video is very familiar.

For those who are not familiar with the Land of the Bible and for those who have visited the lands the videos will be very useful.  His explanations are very clear and he makes great use of useful graphics, photos, and even short interviews with his students (which I found very entertaining)!

Congratulations Bill on providing a  great on-line teaching/learning tool!

BTW – the Satellite Bible Atlas is available from the Associates for Biblical Research.  His atlas is very strong on the historical events of the biblical period and has fine maps.  If you wish for more descriptive information on the regions of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Mesopotamia—along with significant commentary on historical events—I invite you to consult my Zondervan Atlas of the Bible as well.

A Geographer’s Paradise — PEF and 1:50,000 Maps of Israel/Palestine On Line!

The best set of maps representing Palestine in the second half of the nineteenth century are those drawn by Britain’s Palestine Exploration Fund.  For years I have coveted a complete set, and reproductions just don’t do it!  Now the maps are available, free on the web!

Click On Image to Enlarge
PEF 1880 Map of the Bethlehem Area
Can you locate Bethlehem, Beit Sahur (= Shepherds’ Field, the Herodium, Artas, Solomon’s Pools?

My geographer’s prayer has been answered and the maps are available on-line for FREE!  And, they have been “stitched” together and are as clear as the originals—which in a few cases are difficult to read.  So Click, don’t run, to view and use them.

In addition this site has posted, again stitched together, the 1:50,000 maps of Israel!!

Click On Image to Enlarge
1:50,000 Map of the Bethlehem Area — Identical in Coverage to the PEF Map Above

Back in the 1970’s we needed special clearance to get a hold of these maps—and now they are on-line!  These maps are in Hebrew, but are usable for those with a little knowledge of the script.

To top it off, there are numerous(!) notations on each of the above maps.  Now we can use these maps from the comfort of our studies—instead of spending hours running off to far away libraries and/or museums to view them!

The site even offers Apps for your iPad or iPhone so you can use the maps in the field.  Oh my!!