For people who are not biblical scholars and who have not traveled to the area where the Bible stories took place, it's sometimes hard to visualize exactly where these events occurred in relation to today's world. Biblica: The Bible Atlas by Barry J. Beitzel, professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is a massive and beautiful volume that places the Bible in geographical context. From the Garden of Eden and the flood through the great judges, kings and prophets, the life of Jesus and how the word spread after his death, Biblica details the history of Christianity through maps, works of art and text. A section on the geography and history of biblical lands pinpoints the locations of significant events and explains what life might have been like in those places during biblical times. Tables of the books of the Bible, the judges, prophets, kings, Egyptian rulers, apostles, even Jesus' wondrous acts and the gospels in which they are located, as well as a glossary and Bible family trees, give readers a quick reference for details or a fascinating basis for browsing. Biblica is a complete education in the Bible and will illuminate any reader's experience of the ancient text.

A WORK OF ART
The Book of Exodus, inscribed and illustrated by 92-year-old artist Sam Fink, was a 17-year labor of love envisioned as a gift to Fink's family living in Israel. It includes 40 watercolor paintings, one for each chapter in the Book of Exodus, along with the hand-lettered text of the book in Hebrew and English. Each painting is a representation of the sky some are dark, some uncertain, some hopeful, just like the chapters of Exodus. This gorgeous coffee-table book tells the story of the Jewish people's enslavement in Egypt and their long journey to freedom with God's help. It would be a lovely gift for anyone interested in the Bible as art, and especially for Jewish readers who want to see this classic text in a new way.

A LIFE IN PICTURES
Instead of focusing on the whole Bible, The Messiah: An Illustrated Life of Jesus Christ by Jacques Duquesne focuses on the life and acts of Jesus. Illustrated with a variety of paintings from throughout history, including such masters as Da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Rembrandt and El Greco, The Messiah tells Jesus' story based on what is known from the Bible and how biblical scholars have interpreted that information. It discusses, for instance, the controversy surrounding whether Jesus had true brothers and sisters Catholics view Mary as having been a virgin throughout her life, while Protestants tend to accept that Jesus actually had siblings. The book details the story of Jesus' life from the Annunciation to Pentecost, as well as providing sidebars about the life of Joseph, the role of high priests in the time of Jesus, the adoption of the cross as a symbol for Christianity, the symbolic meaning of the water-into-wine story and much more. This beautifully illustrated portrait allows readers to delve more deeply into the life of Christ and to gain a better understanding of his experiences on Earth.

NOTES FROM THE FAITHFUL
Many people who have come to faith on their own have stories about how they gave their lives to God. For many Americans alive today, that story has something to do with Billy Graham. Led to Believe: Inspiring Words from Billy Graham and Others on Living by Faith is a collection of essays describing how Graham helped people from all walks of life accept Jesus. There are stories of medical ailments being healed by prayer, a man who narrowly escaped death because he attended a revival, and kids whose lives were turned around through the power of faith and persistence. The voices represented here include a sports announcer, a baseball player, a nurse, an investment counselor and other people from all kinds of jobs and all kinds of backgrounds. Their common thread is the power of Graham's words, which allowed them to understand Jesus and want him in their lives. A story written by Graham's wife, Ruth Bell Graham, when their children were young illuminates what life as a famous preacher's wife was like, and an essay by Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, tells of an incident when she was a teenager when her father's reaction taught her a powerful lesson about the love of her father on earth and her father in Heaven. While it would have been nice to have these stories placed in context with the year they were written and biographical information about the authors, this book is still a lovely collection of stories about the power one person can have to change the world.

THE SPOKEN WORD
The Bible is at its most powerful when it is read aloud and shared with others. The Word of Promise New Testament Audio Bible is an unabridged dramatic reading of the New Testament of the New King James Version of the Bible. More than 120 actors were involved in the project, including Jim Caviezel of The Passion of the Christ as the voice of Jesus, Michael York as the narrator, Richard Dreyfuss as Moses, Stacy Keach as Paul, Lou Gossett Jr. as John, Lou Diamond Phillips as Mark, Marisa Tomei as Mary Magdalene and Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Mary. Accompanying sound effects and an original musical score combine to make the reading lively and dramatic, an approach that makes the recording more interesting and accessible for people who might not be able to read the New Testament cover to cover. An excellent gift for any busy person who wants to include a daily Bible reading in their schedule, this audiobook would also provide an excellent introduction to the Bible for young listeners.

KINGSBURY KICKS OFF A HEARTWARMING TALE
If it's inspirational fiction you're looking for this holiday season, a Karen Kingsbury book is a good place to start. With more than five million books in print, and bestsellers such as Ever After and One Tuesday Morning to her credit, Kingsbury can accurately claim the title of America's favorite inspirational novelist. Surprisingly, Kingsbury got her start in the 1980s as a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times (where she began as a college intern) and later for the Los Angeles Daily News. She returns to her sportswriter's roots in her latest novel, which she developed in collaboration with NFL player Alex Smith, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. The two met at a 49ers game, and when Kingsbury discovered that Smith was deeply involved in the issue of foster care for children, she settled on a plan to help by writing a novel that features two NFL players who take vastly different paths toward helping a young boy in foster care.

The result is Between Sundays, which features a high-rolling, hard-living NFL quarterback (imagine that) who comes under the wing of a compassionate veteran. The two connect with a boy in foster care who will change both of their lives forever. Non-sports fans shouldn't worry that they'll be turned off by the football action in typical Kingsbury fashion, this isn't a sports book, but an uplifting story of human connections.

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