Friends Book Review Puts Bible On The Map

The Friends of the Diocese encourage support for our churches and assist with special projects, including this new-look website. Mrs Marna Gowan from the Friends reviews a Pictorial Bible Atlas by John Catling Allen and commends it for reference and research studies.

John Catling Allen was an Anglican parish priest until retirement.  He has travelled widely in many countries, including India, China and South America.  He first visited the Holy Land in 1961, and since then has led many tours in the Near and Middle East and has been a guest lecturer for Swan Hellenic.  Among his other books is “The Journeys of St Paul”.  A talented photographer, he has established an extensive photo library.

His connection with the Diocese began in the early 1960s, when he ministered as a locum priest in Taormina, Sicily, and he has remained a loyal Friend of the Diocese ever since.  He now lives in the Beauchamp Community near Malvern, and he still travels.  His most recent journeys have been to the Balkan countries along the Danube.  Iceland is scheduled for this autumn – and a Black Sea destination has already been booked for 2013.

Marna writes:  John Catling Allen’s richly illustrated Pictorial Bible Atlas states in its Preface that “The religious message of the Bible cannot be truly understood without some knowledge of its geographical and historical background.”   The book goes on to explore these aspects of the Bible story through a wealth of succinct text, handsome photographs and clear maps.

The Atlas is topped and tailed with short chapters on the history of the Bible as a collection of sacred writings and on archaeological discoveries in Bible lands.  The main sections of the book take a chronological path, beginning with an explanation of the importance of the location of Palestine in the Fertile Crescent, a vital centre of early civilisations.

The Old Testament Period is covered by detailed descriptions of the journeys of the Hebrew Patriarchs, the Hebrew Kingdoms, and those Empires - from the Assyrian to the Roman - that were interwoven with Jewish history.  The New Testament sections describe Palestine, Galilee and Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, St Paul’s journeys and the spread of Christianity until the fourth century AD.  

The text is clearly written and concise.  Useful time-lines and charts summarise the material at key points.  Overall, the Atlas provides a strong geographical and historical structure to underpin the Biblical accounts of the events which it covers.  The added delight of the book lies in its varied and atmospheric photographs, all taken by the author during his travels in Biblical lands. 

Pictorial Bible Atlas was first published in 1980 and republished in 2009 by CWR as part of their “Cover to Cover” series. It is available in bookshops.and online from the CWR Store price £11.99 (

Bible atlas cover