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The Map of First Century Palestine

The Urantia Book's First Century Palestine
Introduction to the Map

This map shows first century Roman roads, caravan routes and geographic locations referenced in the Urantia Papers.

The material contained in this map has been derived from a number of sources. Maps from a variety of sources were digitized and integrated into a single document. There are several problems in constructing such a map. These include ambiguity as to the exact location of some of the sections of first century Roman roads, multiple name changes for towns and villages over the past 2,000 years, multiple towns and villages which have the same name, disputed sites, climatic and geologic changes which even in a short 2,000 years have changed the run of rivers and streams, changes in the location of springs and shifting regions of forestation and aridity. When a question existed, the German Tubingen data (most recent) was used.

The Roman Roads and Caravan Routes

No two sources are entirely in agreement on the locations of first century Roman roads. All sources have reconstructed complete routes based on the finding of isolated sections of road. The primary consideration in reconstructing these routes is the avoidance of steep changes in elevation and the avoidance of swampy areas in which malaria was endemic. The identification of roads is based on the finding of Roman mileage markers which contain information identifying a section of road with a particular political regime.

Of particular interest to readers of the Urantia Papers is the identification of sections of the ancient Via Maris as it crossed Palestine in an easterly direction to pick up the northern route to Damascus at Caesarea Philippi. The Urantia Papers, in describing the view from the hilltop above Nazareth say that, "From four directions Jesus could observe the caravan trains as they wended their way in and out of Nazareth." (1364) It is also noted that "more than half" of all the caravan traffic thru Palestine passed "near or through" the town of Nazareth. (1333)

It is unlikely that the caravans would have gone due east from Nazareth because of the high mountain ridge they would have had to cross before picking up the main route once again. Indeed, none of the sources showed the route east from Nazareth over the mountain as a main road used for commerce. Rather it appears that Nazareth was a stopping place near the junction of several branches of the main caravan routes. It had a large, flat grazing area for caravan animals protected on three sides by mountains and hills. There also appears to have been a substantial local industry built around servicing the caravans and repairing their equipment. Nazareth was probably not unlike the large truck stops which one sees today along the interstate highways when driving across North America or Canada. Perhaps most important was the fact that Nazareth had a spring with a plentious supply of fresh water for the caravan animals.

Sepphoris, the Roman capitol of Galilee and a major center of business and commerce, was less than three miles away and it would have been easy for the traders and merchants accompanying the caravans to leave the animals at Nazareth and go over to Sepphoris to conduct their business. At Sepphoris there was a shortage of water; all the water for the city was brought in from distant springs via an aquaduct system. Where the aquaducts reached the city there were giant water wheels powered by slave labor which pumped the water up the hill into cisterns carved into the rock beneath the city.

All sources agree on the main routes passing through Sepphoris as is shown on the map. This was the route followed by the Via Maris in Jesus' time. In older times, the Via Maris passed farther to the south, through Nain and Endor, around the mountains which surround Nazareth, and then north-easterly to the Sea of Galilee.

The Urantia Papers mention a "Magdala-Sidon Road" as well as a "Magdala-Mt. Lebanon Road" neither of which appear with these names in contemporary sources. Roman roads going through the mountains in the region of Gischala in central northern Galilee, a relatively heavily populated area in the first century, appear to be unidentified at present (1996).

Multiple Names for Villages and Towns

As Palestine experienced a series of military conquests and political administrations, it found it's towns and villages constantly being renamed. The Urantia Book consistently uses the names which were in common usage at the time of Jesus. This causes problems in locating some of these places because some of the names have not been in common usage for 1800 years. In some cases, the only identifying link has been through etymological or phonetic evaluations of known alternate names.

Multiple Locations for Villages with the Same Name

Another problem is that a number of village names were used in multiple places. A good example is the town of Bethlehem. In Jesus' day there was Bethlehem in Judea as well as one in Galilee. There was a Bethany just over the Mt. of Olives near Jerusalem and another Bethany just east of the Jordan crossing near Jericho. It gets really difficult when you have a name like "Bethsaida" which essentially means "house of fishermen." There are currently three sites on the northern Sea of Galilee which scholars think could have been the Biblical Bethsaida although the Urantia Papers seem to clearly locate it at or near present day Tabgha.

In locating these towns relative to the stories in the Urantia Papers, it becomes necessary to place them in terms of the context in which they're mentioned. For example, if a town is mentioned as having been visited during the tour of the Decapolis, one can be reasonably sure that the writers are referring to a village in Perea and not one with an identical name which happens to be in the western Negev.

Disputed Sites

Another problem is that a number of the villages and towns mentioned in the Urantia Papers are today merely mounds of dirt and rubble which have yet to be excavated and identified. These sites usually appear in the map with a question mark following the name of the town. Also, some sites have developed on the basis of tradition and bear no relationship to the original site. Cana is an example. The site which tourists are shown as being Cana is not where the village was in Jesus' day. Archaeologists place the Cana of Jesus' day north of Sepphoris near Jotapata, the location shown on the map.

One additional difficulty exists with place names. Reading the Urantia Papers, it does not seem unreasonable to assume that there were specific towns with names such as Zebulun, Gilead and Idumea. These were also the names of geographic regions and no sources were found which showed specific towns with these names. It has been assumed that the old site of Hammath-Gilead was identical with the site The Urantia Book calls Gilead. The towns of Zebulun and Idumea remain unidentified.

Climatic and Geologic Changes

The course of the Jordan River has constantly shifted and changed over the centuries as it winds down the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea. The descriptions given in the Urantia Papers indicates that the river passed much farther to the east in the region of Pella in the times of Jesus. There are other towns from the period which today appear to be isolated in the Jordan valley which may have been on the river 2,000 years ago. There have also been some severe earthquakes in the region which have changed the location of springs and even the location where the source of the Jordan gushes from the rocks at the base of Mt. Hermon.

This map should be considered a work in progress. Please report any errors or discrepancies you discover in your studies.


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_____________, "The Urantia Book", Chicago, IL: Uversa Press, 1995.

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