Here is my map of the cities in the Book of Revelation. Revelation, of course, is written to the seven cities of Asia (modern Turkey)–Ephesus (modern Selçuk, Smyrna (Izmir), Pergamon (Bergama), Thyatira (Akhisar), Sardis (Sart), Philadelphia (Alaşehir), and Laodicea. All of these cities are marked in pink.
I’m not sure that you can really call Patmos a city–it is a beautiful island, and not a bad place to be exiled.
Finally, I’ve marked the three semi-mythic cities mentioned in Revelation in white. Jerusalem is the “new Jerusalem” throughout the text, and its buildings and gates and other physical features are described in Chapter 21. Sodom and Babylon are epitomes of evil–the latter more so. I’ve also marked Rome with a star, since it is not actually mentioned in Revelation but is perhaps the most present city in the book. Babylon, mentioned more than any other city, stands for Rome.
I’ve mapped the cities mentioned in Paul’s letters, including deutero-Pauline and pastoral letters. I include the disputed Pauline letters for two reasons: (1) I’m looking at the reception of cities in biblical interpretation, and early interpreters would have read these letters as authentic Paul. (2) They provide a larger base of cities associated with Paul, remembered by his followers.
The green markers are cities to which Paul wrote letters. The blue markers are other cities mentioned in Paul’s letters, mostly cities to which he or his colleagues travel.
Paul mentions cities in most of his letters, usually in the opening and closing of the letters in greetings and descriptions of his and others’ travel plans. Jerusalem comes up often in scriptural quotations or interpretation, discussion of the offering that Paul intends to take to Jerusalem, and description of the early days of his apostleship.
In three letters, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon, Paul does not mention cities other than Ephesus (Ephesians) and Thessaloniki (2 Thessalonians).
One of my most vivid memories from Greece is sitting in the middle of a row in an overcrowded hydrofoil boat, hurtling from Amorgos to Santorini in stormy waters, holding a gyro sandwich in my hands (that didn’t look so appetizing anymore), and thinking that I made a huge mistake. My friend Rocha was right there with me, and he’ll tell you the same story. That was one hell of a ride. We should have known it would be, since the boat was about two hours late because of the wind and waves it went through to get to us.
I dreaded my trip from Santorini to Rhodes that would happen in the next few days. If Amorgos to Santorini was that bad, I couldn’t imagine an eight hour overnight trip, which essentially would take me all the way across the Aegean to Turkey. (Luckily, I would find out, the ships that make those trips are massive, and you can’t feel any movement at all.)
I say all of this to put ancient travel in perspective. I think I had it bad? Can you imagine Paul’s trip from Caesarea to Rome? Or overland travel, for that matter? The amount of time and danger to get through the Anatolian highlands may have been even worse!
Using Orbis data, I’ve mapped the travel, by foot and boat in the winter, for many of the paths mentioned in Acts. Not every route mentioned in Acts is represented here, but the main ones are.
The study of cities must consider travel between cities and the networks that grow overland and oversea. One day, I’ll try that road trip from Iconium (Konya) to Troas.
One of my favorite toys for procrastinating is Google Earth. One summer, when I was working **diligently** on my dissertation, I decided to plot all of the cities mentioned in Acts with descriptions of their stories and characters. Acts is full of cities and revels in the spread of Jesus’s followers’ message from city to city. You can see the result in the image above, and explore the map at my Cities in Acts Google Map.
I have color-coded the markers according to how the cities appear in Acts:
Yellow = places associated with Jesus or mentioned as places where the apostles are from.
Green = Jerusalem and Rome = starting point and ending point.
Teal = locations associated with Peter and other early apostles’ ministry.
Blue = locations associated with Paul’s ministry.
Pink = just passing through.
White = someone is from there, but narrative does not go there.
Red = the places mentioned in Paul’s boat trip to Rome.
If you see anything missing or any errors, please send me a message!
These are some of the cities that I’ll address in NT interpretation. Maps forthcoming for Paul’s letters, Revelation, and the Gospels!
“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Tertullian, the second-century Christian apologist from Carthage, penned this famous and often misunderstood question in his Prescription Against Heresies. The question has little to do with the locations of Athens and Jerusalem or the characteristics of the cities themselves; rather, they are symbols for philosophical inquiry (Athens) and Christian faith (Jerusalem). These symbols are part of Tertullian’s argument that philosophical modes of thinking formed the foundation of heresies in early Christianity and therefore should be avoided. “Jerusalem” was preferable to “Athens.”
With this question, Tertullian makes three interpretive movements: First, he understands real cities–places that can be physically experienced–as symbols of abstract ideas–faith and philosophy. Second, he uses these city-symbols to negotiate Christian identity–here, what is and is not “heretical.” Third, he forms his views about cities and Christian identity through his interpretation of scripture.
Since cities are symbols in the biblical interpretation and early definition of Christianity, can we say more about how cities, cultural identity, and biblical interpretation interact in the emergence of Christian discourse? This site aims to answer this question by collecting and commenting on representations of specific cities–Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, Ephesos, Corinth–in New Testament interpretation. I’m asking how someone like the North African Tertullian, whose experience of Jerusalem or Athens may have been limited, would have formulated his conception of these cities. Does he picture them in the image of Carthage? Do biblical descriptions allow him to form images of different cities? How does the interplay of literary texts–particularly the sacred texts of the Old and New Testaments–with visual and material texts create early Christian understandings of spaces and cities, as well as an emerging “Christian” map of the world?
Welcome to New Testament Cities.