Found within the pages of the New Testament are references to Roman provinces and regions that, although familiar to first century readers, are foreign to those who study the Scriptures twenty centuries later. The lack of such information can hinder our overall understanding of the context of many Biblical passages (one of the basic rules to studying the Bible) and possibly lead to wrong conclusions regarding what is taught.
Surprisingly, the New Testament contains far more references to areas in and outside of the direct control of the Empire than people realize. The KJV Bible contains at least 140 references to Roman provinces and refers to many regions and areas around the known world. For example, note the following two Biblical passages. The first one states to whom the Apostle Peter is writing his first epistle and the second lists some of those who heard the gospel preached on the Day of Pentecost.
1. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect strangers scattered in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1Peter 1:1, Holy Bible a Faithful Version (HBFV)).
8. Then how is it that we hear each one in our own language in which we were born? 9. Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and those who inhabit Mesopotamia, and Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10. Both Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya which are near Cyrene, and the Romans who are sojourning here, both Jews and proselytes, 11. Cretes and Arabians . . ." (Acts 2:8 - 11)
Exactly where do the people live to whom the Apostle Peter is directing his teachings? How varied were the people who visited Jerusalem in 30 A.D. and witnessed the birth of God's church? Where are places like Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Phrygia and Pamphylia located on a map? What cities do they contain? This short series will look at Roman provincial areas, recorded in the New Testament, such as those in Western and Eastern Asia Minor, Greece and the land of Israel (Judea and Syria).
Although several sources were used to construct the maps in this series, the provincial and regional boundaries shown should be taken as a rough estimate. Concerning the difficulty of defining the exact boundaries of certain provinces at any given time, and even what they are named, Conybeare and Howson's classic work states the following.
"It is, however, no easy task to ascertain the exact boundaries of the Roman provinces in this part of the world (Asia Minor) at any given date between Augustus (ruled 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.) and Constantine (began rule in 306 A.D.). In the first place, these boundaries were continually changing. The area of the different political districts was liable to sudden and arbitrary alterations. Such terms as "Asia," "Pamphylia," etc. though denoting the extent of a true political jurisdiction, implied a larger or smaller territory at one time than another. And again, we find the names of earlier and later periods of history mixed up together in inextricable confusion.
"Some of the oldest geographical terms, such as "Aeolis," "Ionia," "Caria," "Lydia," were disappearing from ordinary use in the time of the Apostles: but others, such as "Mysia" and "Lycaonia" still remained. Obsolete and existing divisions are presented to us together . . . some of the names have no political significance at all, but express rather the ethnographical relations of ancient tribes" (Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul by Conybeare and Howson, Chapter 8)