I’ve created a Google Map with layers from the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s Letters, and Revelation. You can play with removing and adding the layers back, and as in my other maps, you can click on city icons to see where and how they are mentioned in the text.
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.
Image: Jerusalem by Jill E. Marshall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Here is my map for cities (or villages or small towns) in the four canonical Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Making this map was more interesting than I anticipated–I am generally more interested in the larger Greek and Roman cities in which Paul traveled and Acts recorded than in the landscape of the Gospels.
Working through these texts made me think more about what qualifies as a city. Are we even in the realm of “cities” in the Gospels? Mostly, I’ve recorded mention of smaller villages and some bonafide cities (Jerusalem, Tiberias, the Decapolis), but not mention of regions or unnamed cities. The actual locations of some of these are questionable (which Cana? Bethphage? Dalmanutha/Magadan/Magdala — which is it??).
Unsurprisingly, the most mentioned city in all of the Gospels is … Jerusalem. Second place in the synoptic three is … Nazareth, most often in the phrase “Jesus of Nazareth.” Second place in John is Capernaum, while the bronze goes to Nazareth, Cana, and Bethany (near Jerusalem).
As in Acts, Paul’s letters, and Revelation, we have “semi-mythical” cities: Cities in which Paul, John, Jesus, or any other Christians do NOT interact: Sodom (Rom 9:29; Matt 10:15[and Gomorrah]. Rev 11:8; Luke 10:12), Babylon (Rev 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2-24; Matt 1:11-12, 17), Nineveh (Luke 11:30-32; Matt 12:2). Matthew and Luke alone among the Gospels trade in semi-mythical cities. But, note the difference between how Matthew treats Babylon compared to Revelation– for Matthew, Babylon marks eras in Jewish history. Sodom and Nineveh are used as foils for present day cities in Galilee that do not accept Jesus and his disciples: At judgment day, they will be judged more harshly than Sodom, and Nineveh will recognize something greater than Jonah.
The cities on the map are color coded according to which Gospels they appear in:
Red – Cities in all four Gospels
Yellow – Cities in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke)
White – Cities in Matthew, Luke, and John
Green – Cities in Matthew and Mark
Blue – Cities in Matthew and Luke
Pink – Cities in Matthew only
Purple – Cities in Luke only
Teal – Cities in John only
Cities and villages in the Gospels by Jill E. Marshall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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.
Cities in Revelation by Jill E. Marshall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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).
Cities in Paul’s Letters by Jill E. Marshall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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.
Travel Routes in Acts by Jill E. Marshall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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!
Cities in Acts by Jill E. Marshall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.