by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.
- To get a sense of the geographical flow of the four canonical Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
- To learn about the major NT events that happened in the following Roman provinces and cities.
- To be able to identify these provinces and major cities (esp. the capitals) by location on a map:
- Since borders frequently shifted, there are some differences between the political geography at the time of the birth of Jesus (ca. 4 BC), the death of Jesus (ca. AD 30-33), the ministry of Paul (ca. AD 40-64), and the writing of the other NT books (ca. AD 70-100).
- The names of the ROMAN PROVINCES (or other significant regions) are in bold capital letters below; their first-century capital cities are in bold italics; other important cities and towns are in small bold print.
GALILEE – part of the Kingdom of Herod the Great, 40-4 BC; part of the Tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, 4 BC – AD 39
- Sepphoris & Tiberias – political capitals during the first century, but not mentioned in the NT! (so was Jesus ever there?)
- Nazareth, Nain, Cana – towns in the interior of Southern/Lower Galilee
- Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazin, Magdala – towns on or near the shore of the Sea of Galilee
SAMARIA – core of ancient (Northern) Kingdom of Israel; place of early Christian expansion (John 4; Acts 1:8; 8:1-25; 9:31; 15:3)
- Samaria or Sebaste – capital in ancient & Herodian times (same place, name changed)
- Sychar – smaller town near Jacob's well (cf. John 4); possibly ancient Shechem
JUDEA – at times a separate province; at other times a sub-province of the Roman Province of SYRIA
- Jerusalem – Jewish capital; site of the Temple, thus the center of religious and cultural Judaism, until its destruction in AD 70
- locations in/near Jerusalem mentioned in the Synoptics: Mount of Olives, Palace/Praetorium of Pilate, Courtyard & House of the High Priest (Caiaphas), Gethsemane, Golgotha
- more places in/near Jerusalem mentioned only in John's Gospel: Pool of Bethesda, Pool of Siloam, Kidron Valley, etc.
- Bethany, Bethphage, Bethlehem, Emmaus, Arimathea – smaller villages important in the four Gospels
- Caesarea (Maritimae) – seat of Roman Government; site of Paul's imprisonment (Acts 8:40; 9:30; 10:1-24; 11:11; 25:1-13; etc.)
JORDAN RIVER VALLEY and PEREA (Trans-Jordan) – the region "across" the Jordan river from Judea; also ruled by Herod Antipas, 4 BC – AD 39
- Jericho – possibly the world's oldest city; in the Jordan river valley; Jesus gives sight to blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52 & par.)
- Qumran – ruins on an ancient settlement, most likely a "monastery" of the Essenes
- Dead Sea / Salt Sea – lowest spot on earth
IDUMEA – the region south of Judea, conquered by the Maccabean Jews in the 2nd cent. BC
- Mentioned 55 times in the LXX (Greek OT); but only once in the NT, in Mark 3:8.
- Equivalent to ancient Edom (the descendants of Esau; see Gen 25:30); native country of Antipater and his son, who became King Herod the Great.
DECAPOLIS = "Ten Cities" – a league of ten semi-independent Greek cities next to but not part of first-century Israel (Matt 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:31)
- The league included Scythopolis, Pella, Gerasa, Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Philadelphia, Abila, Raphana, and Damascus (with some variation over time).
- Damascus was the capital of ancient Syria, and is prominent in the Bible (mentioned 45x in the OT; 16x in the NT)
- The other cities are not mentioned individually in the NT, aside from an exorcism in the "region of the Gadarenes" (Matt 8:28) or the "region of the Gerasenes" (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26,37).
NORTHEASTERN TERRITORIES – part of the Kingdom of Herod the Great, 40-4 BC; part of the Tetrarchy of Herod Philip, 4 BC – AD 34
- Philip ruled over the territories of Ituraea and Trachonitis (see Luke 31:1) as well as Gaulanitis (the Gola Heights), Auranitis, and Batanea.
- Caesarea Philippi – Herod Philip's capital, located in northeastern Iturea, just East of ancient Dan, near one of the headwaters of the Jordan River.
- On the way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples about his identity (Mark 8:27; Matt 16:13)
Roman PROVINCES important during the Expansion of Christianity in the First Century:
SYRIA – province including most of the Holy Land up until AD 70, except when parts were ruled by various Herods
- Damascus – ancient center of Syria; site of conversion of Saul/Paul (Gal 1:17; 2 Cor 11:32; Acts 9:1-25; 22:5-11)
- Antioch – 3rd largest city of Roman empire; early Christian center (Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3; 14:24–15:35; 18:22-23)
- Tyre and Sidon – coastal cities in Syrophoenicia (Matt 11:21-22; 15:21; Mark 3:8; 7:24-31; Luke 6:17; 10:13-14; Acts 12:20; 21:3-7);
part of ancient Phoenicia, but mostly part of the Province of Syria during the Roman era.
- Tarsus – home city of Saul/Paul; major university (Acts 9:11, 30; 11:25; 21:39; 22:3)
- Salamis & Paphos – two cities on Cyprus visited by Barnabas & Paul (Acts 13:4-13)
- Perga & Attalia – port cities visited only briefly by Barnabas and Paul on their first journey; John Mark left them from Perga (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25)
LYCIA – small coastal region, southwest of Pamphylia
- Myra – port city; brief stop on Paul's final journey (Acts 27:5); home of 4th-century bishop St. Nicholas
- Antioch, Lystra, Derbe, Iconium – cities visited by Barnabas & Paul in Southern Galatia (Acts 13:13–14:24; 16:1); note that this "Pisidian Antioch" is different from the "Syrian Antioch" mentioned above
- Philippi – early Pauline community; Roman colony (Philippians; 1 Thess 2:2; Acts 16:11-40; 20:6)
- Thessalonica – early Pauline community (1 & 2 Thessalonians; Acts 17:1-14, also nearby Beroea)
- Athens – Pauline mission attempted, but unsuccessful (1 Thess 3:1; Acts 17:15-34)
- Corinth – major Pauline center (Acts 18:1-18; 20:2-3); many letters to & fro; trial before proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:12);
its two ports were Lechaion and Cenchreae (Rom 16:1)
- Ephesus – major Pauline missionary base in mid-50's (Eph; 1Cor 15:32; 16:8; 1Tim 1:3; Acts 18:19-19:41; 20:16-38); later also a center of Johannine Christianity (Rev 1:11; 2:1)
- Colossae & Laodicea – Paul (or one of his followers) wrote letters to the Christians in both these cities (Col 2:1; 4:13-16; also Rev 1:11; 3:14)
- Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea – the cities of the seven churches of Revelation (Rev 1:11; 2:1–3:22)
- Patmos – small island in the Aegean Sea, near Ephesus; where John, the author of Revelation, was (Rev 1:9)
MALTA & SICILY – Mediterranean islands south of Italy; also visited by Paul on his journey to Rome (Acts 27:39–28:10; 28:11-12)
- Rome – capital of the entire empire; Christian community there long before Paul (Romans; Acts 19:21; 23:11; 28:16-31)
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