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Re: [XTalk] Re: Geography Error in Mark 11:1

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... This is a good question. Consider that there were no printing presses, of course, so that each map, as well as each book, had to be copied by hand. Its a
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 5, 2004
      At 10:18 AM 8/5/2004, you wrote:
      >This raises a more general question for me. How wide spread was the
      >use of maps during the 1st Century? In other words, is there
      >evidence that maps were used extensively, especially by authors of
      >texts written decades after the fact (here I am thinking of authors
      >like Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Plutarch, etc.), or that their
      >knowledge of places was all that reliable, especially when taken from
      >what would have been second hand sources? The author of Acts, for
      >example, gets some pretty obscure details on places and people right,
      >but is this more the exception, or the rule for ancient documents of
      >this type?
      >Brian Trafford

      This is a good question. Consider that there were no printing presses, of
      course, so that each map, as well as each book, had to be copied by hand.
      Its a whole lot easier (and perhaps more tedious) to copy a book than to
      copy a map. I suspect that Roman military commanders had access to maps, as
      well as the chief civilian administrators. It seems to me that I recall
      that there was an emerging class of international merchant traders who
      dealt only with governments and wealthy individuals; they probably had some
      access to maps, too, because it was important in their business. I would
      guess that maybe half a dozen people in Judea, and another half dozen in
      Galilee, had access to maps. Probably the numbers in Alexandria were much
      larger. Antioch, maybe somewhat larger. Damascus, maybe half a dozen to a
      dozen people.

      In other words, Jesus and his friends probably had no access to maps
      whatsoever. Mark's access to maps would have depended on who his patrons
      really were. I doubt that he had any maps of his own, unless he made some
      sketch maps while viewing someone else's map. However, even making a decent
      sketch map copy of someone else's map assumes a level of geographical
      awareness and map sense that may have been uncommon. We're so used to maps
      that we take the perspective of a map for granted. But I'm just speculating.

      Let me illustrate. In my days as an archaeologist, I would of course make
      drawings of layers of my portion of the site as the excavation proceeded,
      and of the soil profiles in the sides of the excavated area. My trained eye
      knew what to look for, and provided guidance about what features were
      important enough to draw, and what features to ignore. [This is a highly
      developed sense, akin to a musician being able to pick out the part played
      by the third clarinet in the second movement of a symphony, just by
      listening to the recording. ] When in the course of work I would try to
      discuss what we were doing with my workmen, sometimes I attempted to use my
      drawings to try to help in the process of communication. Mostly, these
      workmen just stared blankly at my drawings, unable to comprehend the
      relationship between my drawings and the ground they were working in.
      Conceivably, my drawings weren't very good <g>. But a map represents a
      symbol environment that can be at least as mystifying as a printed page to
      someone who is illiterate.

      This has a bearing on the historical value of GJohn. It is sometimes
      suggested (e.g., Brown?) that John shows special knowledge of palestinian
      geography, and this is used as evidence for the author's historical
      credibility. Good maps make it easier to fake geographical knowledge. The
      paucity of good maps makes it easier to argue for genuine personal
      geographical knowledge.

      At any rate, a good question, and I hope that someone with more knowledge
      of ancient maps and who used them will respond.

      Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
      Northern Arizona University
      Flagstaff, AZ

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