This 'World Beyond Palestine can be found at this link.  There was no point in my recreating it because they have done a marvelous job.


Map - The World in Outline at the Time of Jesus
Persia - major empires
Mexico - other centers of the world population

















  • In the Americas, the Olmec peoples of Mexico had faded away and the Mayan culture was establishing itself.

  • Much of the vast Pacific Ocean and its many islands were being colonized by the descendants of mainly South East Asian peoples.

  • In Asia, large empires existed in China (the Han dynasty), India (the Kushan empire), and Persia (the Parthian empire).

  • Much of central and eastern Europe was occupied by Germanic tribes.

  • The Hindu and later the Jain religions had long been practiced in India,  

  • Buddhism was starting to spread to China. 

  • The teachings of Confucius and Lao-tzu (Taoism) had developed over the previous five centuries in China.

  • In Persia, Zoroastrianism was the principal religion.



The Roman Empire which by the birth of Jesus controlled most

present-day countries bordering the Mediterranean basin including

North Africa, and was still expanding.  (See map)


  • The works of Greek philosophers such as Socrates,
                   Plato and Aristotle were widely circulated.

  • The people of the Roman Empire worshipped a variety of gods.



  • At the time of the Roman Empire,  Judea was a small eastern province.

  • Approximately 1,800 years earlier, the patriarch Abraham journeyed there from Ur of the Chaldees (present-day Iraq), via Haran to Canaan.
                   Abraham was the father of Isaac, and grandfather of Jacob.

  • Jacob's children migrated to Egypt where their younger brother Joseph ("of the coat of many colors") previously sold by them into slavery,
                   had become second in importance to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Jacob's descendants became the twelve tribes of Israel.
                   Jacob's 12 sons formed the 12 tribes of Israel after emigrating to Egypt

  • Around 1,200BC, following the Exodus from Egypt led by Moses and completed by Joshua (of the "battle of Jericho"),
                  Canaan was the "promised land" of the twelve Tribes of Israel 

  • After 1,000BC, King David and his son Solomon had established a United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.
                   Both nations went their separate ways until conquered by other empires.

  • In 721BC, Israel was defeated by the Assyrians and these Jews went into permanent exile.

  • In 587BC, Judah fell into the hands of the Babylonians  (1895 BC-539BC) but their exile to Babylon was temporary.

  • In 539 the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians and the Jews allowed to return to Judea to rebuild Jerusalem.

By the time of Jesus, most Jews were spread throughout the Roman and Parthian Empires (247 BC to 224 CE). 

               However,  Jerusalem with a new Temple being built by Herod the Great remained central to the Jewish religion.

Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee was born a Jew, into nearly 2,000 years of Jewish history, religion and culture in the land of Palestine.




Palestine is a small but varied land, often harsh in character and with a long and complicated history. Understanding something of its physical and political geography helps to explain the volatile situation into which Jesus came and preached and the terrain over which he traveled.

When Israel in the north ceased to exist in 721BC, part of the area later became a territory known as Samaria.

Most of Judah in the south, defeated in 587BC, was later referred to as Judea. 


By the time of Jesus, PALESTINE comprised various territories. From north to south these were:

1. Chalcis and Abilene in the Roman province of Syria, north of ancient Iturea;

2. Iturea, including Panias and Ulatha, and Trachonitis with Batanaea, Gaulanitis (the modern Golan Heights) and Auranitis, all in southeastern Syria. Hereafter, they are referred to as Iturea and Trachonitis;

3. Galilee with the Sea of Galilee in modern northern Israel, which played an important part in the recorded life and ministry of Jesus;

4. Samaria, Judea and Idumea, that is much of modern central Israel plus the west bank of the River Jordan.

The chief city of the Roman rulers was Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast of Samaria. The Jewish capital was Jerusalem in Judea, where Jesus came a number of times, finally to be arrested, tried and crucified by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

5. The semi-independent Decapolis in modern northern Jordan was a roughly defined area that included within its boundaries, most of the federated "Ten Cities" established by Alexander the Great.

One such city was Philadelphia - modern Amman, capital of Jordan. Other cities, one of which was Damascus, capital of modern Syria, were outside the boundaries;

6. Perea included much of the present east bank of the Jordan.

During New Testament times, these territories were ruled, at various dates in a variety of ways:

- Direct from Rome through Roman province administrators or governors known as procurators;

- Through the Roman governor of Syria, such as The Decapolis; 

- By Roman-appointed Jewish kings, ethnarchs/tetrarchs  (governors), or rulers of the fourth part of a province.

Here is a map which shows the territories,

The map below can be interactive if you click on it.  You will be taken to a different site.  I thought you would enjoy an interactive map.   You will need to press the 'back' arrow to get back to this page.


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