For New Testament Geography I Wasn’t Taught in RCIA UPDATED

For New Testament Geography I Wasn’t Taught in RCIA UPDATED July 11, 2012

Originally posted on June 6, 2011, it took a while but it recently became worthy of an update.

There will be no music post this morning folks, because music was presented here yesterday. Instead, I’m just going to share the map above which shows color-coded tracks of the missionary journeys of St. Paul. As the title to the post suggests, none of this was taught to me while I was in RCIA. I suspect that this is because it is more important to hear the Good News, than it is to learn New Testament geography.

Now the cradle Catholics out there may have learned all of this in parochial school, but many of us converts learned this stuff in Sunday school as Protestants. Regardless of where we learned it, or not, the above map, which I found over at Loyola Press, is a helpful reminder of the fact that soon after the Ascension, Christianity started spreading. And it started spreading through the efforts of missionaries. Guess what else? You are a missionary too.

Though the simple map above does not show every single city that St. Paul mentions in his letters, or that he traveled through during his missionary trips, it does hit some of the “biggies.” For example, we can see the Apostle’s home town of Tarsus and note that he definitely wasn’t from Israel. We can also see the cities and regions that received letters from St. Paul. Paul’s letters, see, are the first books written in the New Testament, preceding the Gospels.

Let’s trace those out briefly.

City/Region – St. Paul’s Letters

Rome – Romans
Corinth – 1st & 2nd Corinthians
Galatia – Galatians
Ephesus – Ephesians
Philippi – Philippians
Colossae – Colossians
Thessalonica – 1st & 2nd Thessalonians

It is apparent that St. Paul got around. The Loyola Press website states that he traveled over 10,000 miles during the course of his missionary journeys. In his second letter to the church in Corinth, he describes the lovely traveling conditions in this manner,

…three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, … in toil in hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:25-27)

Not exactly an AESU trip or anything. Jerusalem to Rome is 1426 miles, and a three hour jet-propelled (as the crow flies)  flight nowadays. But from the air-conditioned comfort of a classroom, or your den, knowing where Paul went on his journeys, and being able to see them on a map, helps bring passages like the one from today’s readings alive to me.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and down to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

Stand by for a teaching on the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

He said, “How were you baptized?” They replied, “With the baptism of John.” Paul then said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Altogether there were about twelve men.

He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly with persuasive arguments about the Kingdom of God.

Back before I was a Catholic, I had read this story with nary an observation that these guys were baptized and confirmed. The part where “and Paul laid his hands on them” went completely over my head. Now I know better.

Run on over to the Loyola Press website now and check out their post on the Journeys of St. Paul. While you’re there, give their 3 Minute Retreat a look too. You’ll be glad you did.

Update: Micah Murphy has made some maps for us over at Truth & Charity.

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