Sometimes we get ideas that are impractical to implement on the ESV website but that might enhance other websites or help people learn more about the Bible.
One such idea is this: why not overlay a Google Map with Bible map data?
Here’s an interactive map we made showing certain cities from the life and ministry of Jesus. Click any of the pushpins to see the name of the city and a link to passages in the ESV that mention the city.
Here’s a screenshot of that map:
Google Maps has recently updated their site with worldwide satellite imagery. With some effort, anyone can add text and locations to any Google map. We created the above map as a proof of concept.
We recognize that some of the maps’ details have changed since the time of the Bible, changes that are especially apparent when you zoom in. But, overall, the geography has stayed fairly constant. Familiarizing yourself with some of the geography of the Bible will enrich your Bible reading.
Make Your Own Map
Here’s what you’ll need to make a map of your own:
- A list of places. Start with the maps in the back of many ESV editions or the online maps at Studylight.org. You might also find this OWL file of names in the New Testament useful.
- Latitude and longitude for each place. You can adapt a resource like The Morrish Bible Dictionary, which lists latitude and longitude for many biblical locations. You can also estimate the latitude and longitude from existing maps. One time-saving trick we found is that Google Maps will tell you the coordinates of the center of a map when you use the “Link to this page” link. (You’ll probably find that identifying latitude and longitude will consume most of your time. Wouldn’t it be great if a free database already existed that listed the coordinates of biblical places?)
- Put it all together. You can make the map yourself if you’re technically minded, or you can use a service like mygmaps.com.
You could create a guided tour around the Ancient Near East in chronological order. You might display all the places in a particular book or show the route of, say, the Exodus or of Paul’s missionary journeys.
We can think of a few ways you could integrate our web service with maps you create. You might automatically display the text of passages that refer to each place, for example, so the relevant passages will show up when you click on the map. On a Bible-browsing site, you could link the place names in a passage of Scripture to your map.
Google Earth lets you pan and zoom in unique ways. You could create a flyover map to help you teach a Sunday School class, for example.
Only your imagination (and the available technology) limit the possibilities.
Let Us (and Others) Know about It
Should you decide to pursue making your own maps, we encourage you to make your data publicly available so others can build on your work, especially as you nail down the latitude and longitude of biblical locations. Please consider trackbacking this post or emailing us so we can link to you.
Update July 21, 2006: John writes that he’s created a Google Earth file with about 200 biblical place names.