(Maps from the Cambridge NLT Pitt Minion)
Bible maps are a staple for most editions and can be the decision breaker when purchasing a new Bible; however, most of us probably don't make the best use of them. A study Bible without maps seems hopelessly incomplete, yet for most they are the most pristine part of the book. As a child I have memories of sitting in church tirelessly scanning the pages of my Bible maps, childishly indifferent to the pastor's sermons. Now I find myself fully attentive to the pastor's sermon, but unprofitably indifferent to my Bible maps.
Maps from the NET (above) and the HCSB Minister's Bible (Below)
In spite of improvements in the creation and presentation of Biblical data and Bible charts and maps, many of us still do not look at our maps more than a few times per year (although my readers tend to know their way around the maps section of the Bible better than most). It often seems to interrupt the flow of reading to put your finger in the Bible and flip to the back to find the location of a city or region. Some publishers have sought solutions to this by adding maps to study Bible notes or placing maps between the testaments; however, the use of the maps will depend on basic discipline.
(An embedded map from the ESV Study Bible (above) and from a Lockman NASB (below).
For most people, using the maps will take a patient conscious effort. It will take a determination to not rush through the text or read with an accomplishment mindset (look! I finished the book already!). I once heard it said that the book of Acts can't be understood without studying your Bible maps. For my next reading of the book of Acts (if you're using the Horner Reading Plan you'll be reading it every month) I will be looking up every single place name in my Bible maps. I'll be using my Cambridge Wide Margin which includes a map index, making it easy to find all those hard to pronounce places.
I'll be the first to admit that I've largely neglected my Bible maps, but they are included for a reason and their relevancy may be underestimated. I want to understand the terrain, the determination and the journey of the early church and its spirit-spread mission of delivering the Gospel. Comment below if you'll join me in my journey through Acts with your Bible maps.