Sideways? Like most of the ancient Near East, first-century Jews oriented themselves not by magnetic north, but by the sun's rising in the east. Thus, east (literally "in front" in Hebrew) would have been at the top of their maps. Still, this map would have made little sense because they also perceived the world as a flat disk or circle upon primeval waters or as a garment stretching across the void. Heaven and earth were thought to be sealed together at the rim of the horizon to prevent the influx of cosmic waters. Heaven rested on the earth, which was in turn set on pillars or foundations.

Interstate interchange. (A) Damascus was the intersection of Palestine's two major roads. The Great Trunk Road followed the mountain ranges to the Sea of Galilee (which it encircled), through Capernaum on the northwestern shore, then continued about five miles east of the Mediterranean sea through Gaza on its way to Memphis, Egypt. The King's Highway roughly followed the mountain range on the eastern side of the Jordan, ending at the Gulf of Aqaba.

Here there be dragons. (B) To the Jews and neighboring cultures, the sea was a dangerous and scary place. Not only was its power second only to God's (e.g. Jonah 2:5-6, Ps. 93:3-4), but it was thought to hold sea monsters—thus the hope of a "new earth" that has "no more sea," (Rev. 21:1).

Refrigerator. (C) The tallest mountain in the area, 9,232-foot Mount Hermon, is covered with snow most of the year. From biblical times until recently, the snow was carried to nearby villages in its foothills to cool foods and drinks. Though now on the Syria-Lebanon border, first-century Jews would have considered it part of their rightful land, as it represented ...

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