The Bible and the Academic Study of the Bible
September 14, 19, 2011
Geography and the Bible
• Bible mentions places explicitly —geography is a central feature
• Spans the period from 1000 BCE to 100 CE (roughly)
• Many different geopolitical configurati ons during this period
• The perspective of the biblical writers is “microcosmic” compared to the macro perspective of modern
• Few of the earliest geographical references are confirmed by other sources
Geographical and Chronological Orientation
• Biblical writers do not necessarily share the same geographical orientation as us BUT they do see things
geographically and chronologically.
• Place and time are important in the Bible.
• In fact, place and time are theologically important.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air,
over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. “ So God created man in his own
image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful
and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every l iving
creature that moves on the ground." Then God said, "I give you every seed -bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and
every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth anof the airbirds
and all the creatures that move on the ground —everything that has the breath of life in it —I give every green plant for food." And
it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning —the sixth
day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the
work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and
made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. This is the account of the heavens
and the earth when they were created.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens - and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of
the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but
streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground - the LORD God formed the man from the dust of
the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the LORD God had
planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees
grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated
into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is
gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon;
it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur.
And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
Where Was Eden?
• Pishon (flows around the whole land of Havilah)
o Pishon is unknown, Havilah assumed to be in Arabia
• Gihon (flows around the whole land of Cu sh)
o Gihon flowed from Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Cush usually identified as Ethiopia or in Arabia
o Watered the fertile crescent in Mesopotamia
o Watered the fertile crescent in Mesopotamia
• Different theories about the location of Eden but it is clear that the writer(s) of Genesis 2 wanted readers to
know it was situated geographically
The significance of Jerusalem
• Jerusalem and Israel are described as the centre of the world at various points in the biblical text (Ezek. 38:12;
• Many religions and traditions exploit this idea of the “axis mundi”
o Dating: CE and BCE NOT AD and BC
o Palestine—Roman name for the region
o Israel—Ancient land/People descended from Jacob/Northern kingdom/Modern state
o Israelites/Jews--Israelite religion/Judaism
o Israelites basically refers to the people the Bible says descended from Jacob/Israel. They practiced a
form of sacrificial worship (Israelite religion).
o Jews are those thought to descend from the Israelites, many of whom pr actice Judaism, a religion
based on obedience to God ’s law as revealed in the Hebrew Bible and interpreted by religious
authorities as found in the Talmud.
The Biblical Account of Israelite History
Prehistory Creation, Flood, Patriarchs.
1250? Exodus–wandering in the wilderness.
1200? Entry into Canaan.
1000 Saul becomes king. David replaces Saul.
950 Solomon becomes king and builds Temple.
900 Northern kingdom secedes after Solomon dies.
722/1 Assyria, under Sargon II, Northern kingdom.
621 Josiah institutes reforms which ultimately fail.
587/6 Temple destroyed. Babylonian Exile begins.
The Second Temple Period
538 Return to Jerusalem. Temple rebuilt.
332 Alexander conquers Persia.
323 Alexander dies. Hellenistic period begins.
198 Seleucids defeat Ptolomies.
175 Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) comes to power.
167 Antiochus IV defiles the Temple.
164 Antiochus IV dies. Temple is rededicated.
146 Rome conquers Greece.
63 Pompey takes over Jerusalem.
4 Birth of Jesus.
30 CE Death of Jesus.
35-62 CE Paul’s career as a Christian.
70 CE Fall of Jerusalem. Temple destroyed.
135 CE Bar Kochba revolt
What is the Bible?
o A collection of texts written at different times in different places.
o Scripture for both Jews and Christians and Muslims.
o As scripture it is authoritative for