Need good book on physical world of the Bible that isn't for children
December 31, 2015 3:23 PM   Subscribe

For a project I'm doing, I'd like an illustrated book with lots of information on the physical world of the Bible - particularly animals, plants, and insects. I can look up what's mentioned in the Bible on Wikipedia, but I want more than that. I want to be able to page through an illustrated work (color) - bonus points if there are commentaries from scholars - and to learn a lot about all of the creatures mentioned without having to turn to my computer for complete information. More below.

Most of the newer books I've found are clearly for children. Ebay has some books that look intriguing, but there is no real information on what's actually inside. I would also like to be able to learn as much as possible about the landscape of the Bible. Again, I want this in a physical book with illustrations. I'm willing to spend a decent chunk of money for the right book, but would like to keep it under $100. I am not really religious, so this should be scholarly, not fundamentalist. My primary interest is in the world of the Old Testament.
posted by FencingGal to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Harper Collins Study Bible?
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 3:30 PM on December 31, 2015

I can't seem to find a copy in print, but The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: 40 years of the Biblical Zoo by Aharon Shulov may do what you're looking for. The Jerusalem [Biblical] Zoo and Gardens was created to feature animals and plants from the Bible - they've since branched out, but contacting their shop may be helpful.
posted by Mchelly at 3:46 PM on December 31, 2015

Best answer: You want an "Illustrated Dictionary" or a "Visual Encyclopedia" of the Bible. Unfortunately most of them will tend either fundamentalist or for children; scholarly works are more likely to be more narrow ("Amphoras of the Biblical Era" sort of thing). Make sure to read the one-star reviews because Biblical literalists objecting to scholarly reference materials are often very thorough in describing all of the excellent qualities of the book that interest non-literalists and enrage literalists.

You might also look for visual resources relating to the "Ancient Near East," which is scholar for "Biblical places and eras." That will pull up more scholarly and fewer fundamentalist resources.

Your best bet is probably to contact a research university seminary library (like Yale's or Princeton's or Duke's, not like Rando Seminary Bible College) and ask the librarians what they suggest; they will probably have some resources. (I am raking my brain for you because I have a decent collection of visual references related to liturgical things, but everything I come up with is after about 300 CE, sorry.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:16 PM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Eyebrows McGee has definitely given me some things to search on, and it's a great idea to contact some librarians. I don't mean to threadsit, but I was thinking I could clarify my needs more if I described my interest as "mythological." I am interested in understanding and visualizing the Biblical world as some people might want to visualize Tolkien's Middle Earth to create a work that takes place there. But it's very important to me that the world I'm creating in my own work seems like a real facsimile of the Biblical world as it could conceivably really exist. I have plenty of access to Bibles, but I am looking for something to help me see it.
posted by FencingGal at 5:58 PM on December 31, 2015

With that clarification, I think you might be interested in Life in Biblical Israel. Very scholarly, tons of illustrations, enormously helpful for picturing what the day to day life of someone in ancient Israel would be like. My copy is packed away somewhere so I can't review it, but I think it would go some way toward meeting your needs.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:43 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a copy of 'The Bible in the British Museum: Interpreting the Evidence', which basically goes through things that the British Museum has which have links to the Bible, which might help if you're looking to visualise things. I don't know if other museums have books or resources which are this specific, but I'm sure you'll be able to find other museum books/online resources which may be (as EyebrowsMcgee says) under 'Ancient Near East' which will give you a good look at what we have in terms of material culture from those places and times.
posted by Vortisaur at 3:29 AM on January 1, 2016

R Crumb did Genesis It is not satirical or sarcastic and was done pretty literally. No word on the rest of the Bible.
posted by boilermonster at 11:10 PM on January 1, 2016

As a related aside, there is a book called "Gems and Minerals of the Bible," which may interest you.
posted by thebrokedown at 9:58 AM on January 2, 2016

The Complete Bible Handbook by John Bowker has various digressions on the cultural contexts and imagery used in The Bible, and has brief summaries of the biblical scholarship on various issues. It might not be as comprehensive as what you are looking for, but it's a good overview.
posted by ovvl at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2016

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