Cities in the Catholic Epistles

I don’t have a map for cities named in the Catholic Epistles because they are so few: only Jerusalem, “Babylon,” and Sodom and Gomorrah.

James and the Letters of John mention no cities at all.

Jude and 2 Peter have the same reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, cities that are examples of what will come to the ungodly (2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7).

1 Peter refers to Jerusalem as Zion in a quotation of Isaiah: “See I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:6). This is a favorite scripture for early Christians; it is used also by Paul in Romans. In the closing greeting of 1 Peter, the author sends greetings from “Babylon,” that is, Rome: “Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings” (4:13). He is writing to the “exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1).

Hebrews is the most interesting of these letters with regard to cities. It only mentions one city, Jerusalem, in one verse: “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering” (12:22). Hebrews has in its sight the heavenly Jerusalem, much like Revelation does. Two other mentions of unnamed cities echo this statement. First, Abraham “looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (11:10). Second, the author states that Jesus suffered “outside the city gate” to sanctify people. Therefore, he urges his audience to go outside the camp and endure the abuse that Jesus endured. In this location, they can look forward to a city that will come: “For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (13:12-14). The anticipation of a city, a heavenly Jerusalem, is at the heart of this string of statements.

My goal in these last few mapping posts has been to lay out the New Testament resources for interpreting cities. I haven’t been too concerned with interpreting patterns for each of these texts. This will be my next step, along with determining how I will proceed with examining early interpretations of cities in the NT.

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Image: Jerusalem by Jill E. Marshall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.