An Overview of New Testament Geography

by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Student Goals:

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:

see the long list of Online Maps from the"New Testament Gateway" website;

or see the collection of Bible Maps on this website (access restricted to current students)

or see the maps in the back of most  good "Study Bibles."

Since borders frequently shifted, there are some  differences between the political geography at the time of the birth of Jesus  (ca. 4 BCE), the death of Jesus (ca. 30 CE), the ministry of Paul (ca. 40-64  CE), and the writing of the other NT books (ca. 70-100 CE).
  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.
  PALESTINE (and Its Environs) during  the Lifetimes of Jesus & Paul; mostly ruled by the Herodian Dynasty:
  GALILEE - part of the Kingdom of Herod the  Great, 40-4 BCE; part of the Tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, 4 BCE - 39 CE
  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  Galilee
  Capernaum, Bethsaida, Magdala - towns on 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)
  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 70 CE
  Locations in/near Jerusalem,  especially in John's Gospel:  Pool of Bethesda, Pool of Siloam, Praetorium  of Pilate, House of Caiaphas, Gethsemane, Kidron Valley, Golgotha, etc.
  Jericho - possibly the world's oldest city; in the Jordan  river valley; Jesus gives sight to blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52 & par.)
  Bethany, Bethlehem, Emmaus, Arimathea - smaller villages  important in the four Gospels
  Caesarea - seat of Roman Government; site of Paul's  imprisonment (Acts 8:40; 9:30; 10:1-24; 11:11; 25:1-13; etc.)
  PEREA (Trans-Jordan) - region "across" the Jordan  river from Judea; also ruled by Herod Antipas, 4 BCE - 39 CE
  IDUMEA - the region south of Judea, conquered by the  Maccabean Jews in the 2nd cent. BC; original home of Herod the Great
  DECAPOLIS = "Ten Cities" - a league of ten  semi-independent Greek cities next to but not part of first-century Israel,  including Scythopolis, Pella, Gerasa, Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Philadelphia,  Abila, Raphana, and Damascus
  Roman PROVINCES important during the Expansion of Christianity  in the First Century:
  SYRIA - province including most of the Holy  Land up until 70 CE, except when parts are 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)
  CILICIA - region of very early Christian missionary activity  (Gal 1:21; Acts 6:9; 15:23, 41; 23:34); today's SE Turkey
  Tarsus - home city of Saul/Paul; major university  (Acts 9:11, 30; 1:25; 21:39; 22:3)
  CYPRUS - island in Eastern Mediterranean; homeland of  Barnabas; first stop on first missionary journey of Barnabas & Paul (Acts  4:36; 11:19-20; 13:4-12; 15:39; etc.)
  Salamis & Paphos - two cities on Cyprus visited  by Barnabas & Paul (Acts 13:4-13)
  PAMPHYLIA - small coastal region south  of Galatia
  Perga - port city visited only briefly by Barnabas and Paul;  where John Mark left them (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25)
  GALATIA - distinguish the pre-Roman Kingdom of Galatia  (later called "Northern Galatia"), with capital Ancyra, and  the probable area of Pauline ministry in "Southern Galatia," incl. the regions of PISIDIA & LYCAONIA
  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
  MACEDONIA - area of "Europe"  where Pauline mission first spreads (Rom 15:26; 1Cor 16:5; 2Cor 1:16; Acts  16:6-17:15)
  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)
  ACHAIA - core region of ancient "Greece" (1 Thess  1:7-8; Rom 15:26; Acts 18:12, 27; 19:21)
  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)
  ASIA (MINOR) - heavily populated region, in  modern-day South-Western Turkey; many famous cities, incl, most of the  "Seven Cities of Revelation" (Rev 2-3); ancient center in Pergamum
  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)
  CRETE - large Mediterranean island south  of Aegean Sea; visited by Paul on his journey to Rome (Acts 27:7-21; Titus 1:5)
  MALTA & SICILY - Mediterranean islands south of Italy;  also visited by Paul on his journey to Rome (Acts 27:39-28:10;  28:11-12)
  ITALIA - central Roman province covering  most of modern-day Italy (Acts 10:1; 18:2; 27:1-6; 28:11-15)
  Rome - capital of the entire empire; Christian  community there long before Paul (Romans; Acts 19:21; 23:11; 28:16-31)

Material published in