The World of the Bible

It is common for people today to caricature the biblical writers as having a very limited view of the world and thus a very limited perspective on life. The truth is, however, the writers of Scripture were familiar with a very expansive world–shown here–that stretched over 3000 miles from end to end. Most of the places shown here are directly referenced in the Old Testament, and Rome and its surrounding lands are mentioned in the New Testament. The apostle Paul also mentioned a desire to travel to Spain (Romans 15:24), which is located another 700 miles beyond the western edge of this map. Even the Israelites’ most ancient record of the ancestries of various peoples (Genesis 10) references many of the places shown here, and by the time the Persian Empire reached its zenith around 500 B.C. it covered an area about eight times the size of Texas, bringing within one domain numerous peoples, languages, cultures, and religions. Jesus’ crucifixion likewise demonstrated the diverse context of the biblical world, for the charges posted above his head had to be written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek (John 19:20). All this points to the reality that the world of the biblical writers was not, in fact, extremely limited but instead very cosmopolitan–perhaps even more diverse than the context many of us are familiar with today.

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