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Archive for July, 2005

The Bible and Google Maps

Sometimes we get ideas that are impractical to implement on the ESV website but that might enhance other websites or help people learn more about the Bible.

One such idea is this: why not overlay a Google Map with Bible map data?

Here’s an interactive map we made showing certain cities from the life and ministry of Jesus. Click any of the pushpins to see the name of the city and a link to passages in the ESV that mention the city.

Here’s a screenshot of that map:

Satellite map of Israel with biblical locations highlighted


Google Maps has recently updated their site with worldwide satellite imagery. With some effort, anyone can add text and locations to any Google map. We created the above map as a proof of concept.

We recognize that some of the maps’ details have changed since the time of the Bible, changes that are especially apparent when you zoom in. But, overall, the geography has stayed fairly constant. Familiarizing yourself with some of the geography of the Bible will enrich your Bible reading.

Make Your Own Map

Here’s what you’ll need to make a map of your own:

  1. A little knowledge of HTML and Javascript. You can also use a service like mygmaps.com to help you with your own map. (We originally made our map with this service before Google published an API.) Feel free to use our latitude and longitude data for your own maps–view the source code of the page with the map to see the data.
  2. A list of places. Start with the maps in the back of many ESV editions or the online maps at Studylight.org. You might also find this OWL file of names in the New Testament useful.
  3. Latitude and longitude for each place. You can adapt a resource like The Morrish Bible Dictionary, which lists latitude and longitude for many biblical locations. You can also estimate the latitude and longitude from existing maps. One time-saving trick we found is that Google Maps will tell you the coordinates of the center of a map when you use the “Link to this page” link. (You’ll probably find that identifying latitude and longitude will consume most of your time. Wouldn’t it be great if a free database already existed that listed the coordinates of biblical places?)
  4. Put it all together. You can make the map yourself if you’re technically minded, or you can use a service like mygmaps.com.

Future Applications

You could create a guided tour around the Ancient Near East in chronological order. You might display all the places in a particular book or show the route of, say, the Exodus or of Paul’s missionary journeys.

We can think of a few ways you could integrate our web service with maps you create. You might automatically display the text of passages that refer to each place, for example, so the relevant passages will show up when you click on the map. On a Bible-browsing site, you could link the place names in a passage of Scripture to your map.

Google Earth lets you pan and zoom in unique ways. You could create a flyover map to help you teach a Sunday School class, for example.

Only your imagination (and the available technology) limit the possibilities.

Let Us (and Others) Know about It

Should you decide to pursue making your own maps, we encourage you to make your data publicly available so others can build on your work, especially as you nail down the latitude and longitude of biblical locations. Please consider trackbacking this post or emailing us so we can link to you.

Update July 21, 2006: John writes that he’s created a Google Earth file with about 200 biblical place names.

July 18, 2005 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 10:22 am | (28) Comments »

“Ask the Translators” Contest Timeline

In the spirit of openness and to clarify any questions about who was responsible for what, we present the following timeline of the recently concluded contest. We also want to share why we conducted the contest the way we did.

  • April 5, 2005. We know that the Translation Oversight Committee (TOC) meeting is forthcoming and that we want an outside blogger to interact somehow with members of the TOC. We bat around several ideas, but we aren’t sure what form that interaction will take.
  • April 25, 2005. We finalize our plans. We decide to let a blogger submit ten questions for the TOC to answer during the meeting. At this point, we’re thinking that the TOC will provide written responses.
  • May 16, 2005. We invite Adrian Warnock to ask the ten questions. We interacted with him during our Bible giveaway the previous month, so we know he has a passion for the ESV. We also know that he’ll submit some good questions. He’s free to come up with the questions however he wants; we don’t exercise any editorial control over them.
  • May 16, 2005. Adrian announces news of our invitation on his blog and invites anyone to write to him and suggest questions.
  • May 25, 2005. After reviewing the suggestions he received, Adrian posts the questions for the TOC.
  • May 25, 2005. Adrian privately suggests holding a contest when he posts the answers–leaving a comment or trackback makes the commenter eligible to win a free ESV. We think it’s a great idea.
  • May 25, 2005. We decide to film answers to the questions if time allows. We weren’t planning to film the answers; the high quality of the questions made us want to give a multimedia response.
  • May 31 – June 4, 2005. The TOC meets.
  • June 4, 2005. The TOC discusses the questions and films the answers.
  • June 7-10, 2005. We edit and transcribe the raw video footage. We ended up with seventeen answers.
  • June 9-10, 2005. We send the (mostly) completed videos and transcripts to Adrian so he can prepare responses to them.
  • June 14, 2005. Adrian and we jointly announce the contest guidelines. We’ve decided to give away three Bibles–we’re expecting 200-300 comments, and we want each comment to have about a 1% chance of winning.
  • June 15 – July 11, 2005. Every weekday during this time, Adrian posts the question and answer along with his commentary. We post the same question and answer (without additional commentary) a few hours after he does. We want to make sure that his readers have the first chance to read and watch the answers. We visit his site several times each day to keep up with all the comments everyone is making.
  • July 12, 2005. We assign a number to every comment and trackback. People have made about 600 comments, so to keep the 1% chance of winning that we’re aiming for, we double the number of Bibles we’re giving away. We write a Perl program to randomly pick the winning comments.
  • July 12, 2005. We inform the winners by email and ask Adrian if he’s interested in posting their names. (He is.) We follow suit after he’s posted them.
  • July 12, 2005. We ask for feedback on how we could’ve conducted this contest better.
  • July 15, 2005. We post this recap.

Philosophically, we made two crucial choices that (we think) contributed to the contest’s success:

First, we let someone else come up with the questions. We hoped for questions that would reflect what the blogosphere wanted to know about the ESV. It would’ve been painfully clear to readers if we’d tried to come up with the questions ourselves.

Second, we had someone else host the answers. Our goal here was twofold. First, we hoped for a discussion, which we would’ve had a hard time facilitating. We also wanted the dialogue to be free; we think that people are freer to voice their opinions on an independent site.

More importantly, though, we wanted to direct traffic to Adrian. They were his questions, so we thought that people should look to his site for the answers. We don’t feel that our site needs to be the nexus for every conversation about the ESV. Blogging encourages serendipitous interaction–we link to what we can, but we know that discussions about the ESV can and do occur without any prompting from us.

The contest wouldn’t have been such a success without Adrian’s willingness to host the discussion and keep it going. He bears most of the credit for how well it turned out.

July 15, 2005 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 10:16 am | (2) Comments »

“Ask the Translators” Contest Winners

The following people have won a free ESV Bible in this contest. We’ve emailed them; if you’re one of these people and didn’t get an email, please contact us at blog@esv.org.

We randomly picked the winners from the approximately 600 eligible comments and trackbacks. Originally we only planned to give away three Bibles, but the higher-than-expected number of comments led us to double the number.

We read every comment and followed every trackback, and we appreciate the high caliber of the discussion. Thank you to everyone who participated. We learned a lot about what people think about the ESV, and we hope to address some of the questions you raised.

This contest won’t be the last opportunity you’ll have to interact with members of the ESV Translation Oversight Committee. We’re interested in your feedback about the form in which you’d like to see that interaction take place in the future. We’d also like to know if you have any suggestions for how we could’ve handled this contest better. Head over to Adrian’s blog to comment if you’re interested.

Disclaimer: links to other sites shouldn’t be construed as endorsements.

July 12, 2005 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 1:52 pm | (2) Comments »

J.I. Packer Discusses Worship (Ask the Translators #1 Answer 17)

To what extent was the translation of the ESV Bible one consciously assisted by prayer and the Holy Spirit? How conscious of his work in illuminating and guiding our understanding of God’s Word were you in working together on this translation?

Watch J.I. Packer respond (Windows Media format).

I may say, we did make worship basic to what we were doing and start each day with a reading of Scripture, a word or two of application, and prayer together. And we thought that important. We wanted the blessing of God on what we were doing, and we were sensitive not to follow a procedure which would, in fact, leave God out of what we were doing.

This answer comes from a new video that we plan to release soon.

Comment on this post by 9 AM U.S. EDT (GMT -4) tomorrow, July 12, 2005, for your chance to win a free ESV Bible.

July 11, 2005 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:58 am | Comments Off »

Ask the Translators #1 Final Answer Postponed

In light of yesterday’s tragedy, Adrian, who lives in London, will not be posting the final answer in the “Ask the Translators” sequence today.

We will resume on Monday, July 11, 2005.

July 8, 2005 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:32 am | Comments Off »