Book Review: Biblical Turkey

AuthorMark Wilson
PublisherEge Yayinlari
Publication Date2020 – Updated and Revised 4th Edition
Number of Pages400
Number of PhotosOver 200
ISBN978-605-7673-29-9

Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor is an important resource that provides background on all of the biblical sites in ancient Asia Minor/modern-Day Turkey. Anyone who plans to visit Turkey needs to read this book. Anyone who is a student of the Bible needs to read this book. Author, Mark Wilson says in the introduction, “This volume is designed not only as a guide for on-site visitors, but also for armchair travelers, students, and scholars of Turkey’s biblical heritage.”

My copy is marked, dog-eared, and well-used – and I’ve only owned it for a few months! I purchased this book for my course at Trinity Southwest University on the Archaeology of the New Testament Period. In addition to reading it for my course, I’m finding it helpful in my research for a Bible Study I’m preparing on the Seven Churches of Revelation. It is both academic, and yet easy to read, and provides a summary of the history of each site, as well as a description of the archaeological remains that are to be seen today. When we think of Asia Minor, we often think of the first century, which is natural, given that almost 2/3 of the New Testament was written either to or from Asia minor. Biblical Turkey goes even farther back in time, identifying sites referenced in the Old Testament, as well as those referenced in the Apocrapha/Deuterocanonicals.

Author, Mark Wilson is an American scholar who has lived in Turkey since 2004, and has spent countless hours researching and visiting the sites in this book. He is the founder and director of two organizations—the Seven Churches Network and the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya. In short, he’s an expert on biblical Turkey, which is clear from his writing.

Biblical Turkey is organized around Turkey’s seven geographic regions: East, Southeast, Mediterranean, Central, Aegean, Marmara, and Black Sea. Each section is further divided, with information about Natural Sites, Ancient Regions, and Ancient Cities. In addition to the main text of the book, there are special features, like Side-Trips, Ancient Voices and In-Sites, that provides a wealth of additional information (see below).

What You’ll Like:

  • Photos – Simply put, the photos are stunning! Most were taken by the author himself, and they capture the beauty and mystery of these ancient sites. From the magnificent cover photo of Miletus to the final photo of a sunset over Iznik Lake, the pictures will make you want to see these places first-hand for yourself.
  • History – The history of each site is summarized succinctly, giving just the right amount of information without overburdening the reader with data. In particular, each site’s relevance to Scripture is highlighted.
  • Archaeology – Those who have a love of archaeology will not be disappointed! Each city’s archaeological remains are described without being too technical. The archaeological history of Ephesus is one of the longest in the book and describes the major discoveries as well as the structures that remain today.
  • In-Sites – These special features give insights into the biblical text. For example, one is entitled, “Pottery as a Spiritual Metaphor in Paul and John.” Others provide information on daily life in the ancient world which relate to Scripture, including slavery, trades, the marketplace, and writing.
  • Ancient Voices – These section quote ancient writers, giving a unique perspective of the world of Asia Minor. For example, in the section on Smyrna, you can read an excerpt from The Martyrdom of Polycarp, who was killed for his faith there in AD 156. In the section about Bithynia, you can read an excerpt from Pliny the Younger’s letter to Trajan describing the practice of early Christians in the region, as well as Trajan’s response.
  • Side-Trips – These inserts provide a brief descriptions/photos of other significant sites. In “The Via Tauri and Paul’s Journeys,” the author describes the Roman road which ran north from Tarsus through the Taurus mountains. It is a road the Apostle Paul likely walked many times.
  • Key Words Highlighted – Key structural terms, such as aqueduct, necropolis, theater, harbor, hippodrome, etc. are highlighted throughout the book. This makes it easy to quickly locate information on a particular feature in a particular city.

What You May Not Like:

Truthfully, there’s not a lot that one can criticize about this book without seeming nitpicky. There are really only two minor things I’d have liked to have seen:

  • More Maps – There are five helpful maps at the beginning of the book. I would have liked to have seen these (and more) spread throughout the book. In particular, I found myself having to flip back to the main map of geographic regions each time I started reading about a new geographic region. It would have been helpful to have this map at the beginning of each new section. Apparently there were more maps in previous editions, but these were deleted. Mark Wilson is planning a companion volume entitled, An Atlas of Biblical Turkey, which will include maps and site-plans chronicling the geography and history of Turkey’s biblical sites. I will definitely be purchasing this resource once it is released!
  • An Expanded Index – There is an index at the back which allows you to quickly locate a particular city. It’s limited however, when it comes to locating specific structures. For example, it’s entry on Stadiums directs you to the general “In-Site” feature about Stadiums in Turkey. It would be helpful to have the index list each stadium in each city described in the book.

Sample Pages

Conclusion

Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, does a masterful job of presenting the rich biblical heritage of modern-day Turkey. As a companion to your Bible study or quiet time, it will provide a good overview of the places you read about in Scripture. As a research tool, it provides a detailed overview of each site and provides suggested resources for further reading. And if you’re fortunate enough to tour biblical sites in modern-day Turkey, you’ll definitely want to have a copy in your backpack. I highly recommend it for the academic and lay-person alike.

Biblical Turkey is available from Amazon for $39.85, or better yet, order it from your local Christian bookstore.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Scholar’s Chair interview with author, Mark Wilson.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book on my own. Neither the publisher nor the author asked me to write this review.  All of the opinions expressed above are my own. I do not receive any referral fees if you purchase it through Amazon using the link provided.

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