Lands beyond Persia

Though the lands beyond Persia are explicitly mentioned only a few times in the Bible (Esther 1:1; 8:9; Acts 2:9), these lands affected–and were affected by–biblical events in significant ways. The book of Esther notes that the domain of the Persian Empire stretched from India (its eastern border) to Cush (its western border; not shown here) during the reign of King Xerxes (around 460 B.C.). At that time the term India referred to the area surrounding the Indus River, which had given rise to a civilization that flourished many centuries earlier but that had declined significantly by Xerxes’ time. The other lands of this region (e.g., Bactria, Arachosia, and Gedrosia) were likewise very old, but the nations further west (e.g., Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt) did not have significant involvement with them until the Persian Empire subjugated all of these lands by about 525 B.C. Alexander the Great in turn seized all of these lands from Persia, and his successors the Seleucids continued to rule them. Eventually the lands shown here came under the rule of the newly established Parthian Empire, which lasted throughout the time of the New Testament. Acts 2:9 notes that Jews from Parthia were present at the Temple in Jerusalem when Peter preached his famous sermon at Pentecost. The Silk Road, which passed through the Parthian Empire, had also become a significant trading corridor by this time, linking China and its goods with the lands of the Parthians and the Romans. There is also a very strong tradition among many Christians in modern India (located southeast of the Indus River) that the apostle Thomas eventually traveled deep into the Indian subcontinent to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

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