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Roman Provinces of Syria and Judea

Judea ("Judeae" in the KJV), formed from much of the land given to ancient Israel, is the most frequently referenced Roman province in the New Testament (Matthew 2:1, Mark 1:5, Luke 1:5, John 3:22, etc.).

The province of Judea was originally formed in 6 A.D. It was composed of the regions (districts) named Samaria (mentioned thirteen times in the N.T.), Judea itself (where Jerusalem is located) and a part of Idumea (Idumeae, both of which are another name for Edom, Isaiah 34:5 - 6, Ezekiel 35:15, 36:5, Mark 3:8).

The regions of Galilee (mentioned sixty-six times and located just south of Syria) and Perea (not named in Scripture) were added to the province of Judea in 44 A.D. under Emperor Claudius.

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Cities within the Judea provincial area include Antipatris (Acts 23:31), Azotus (Acts 8:40), Bethabara (John 1:28), Bethany (Matthew 21:17, 26:6, etc.), Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1, 5 - 6, 8, 16, Luke 2:4, etc.), Caesarea (Acts 8:40, etc.) and Cana (John 2:1, 11, 4:46, 21:2).

Additional cities of Israel in this province include Capernaum (Matthew 4:13, etc.), Chorazin (Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:13), Emmaus (Luke 24:13), Gaza (Acts 8:26), Jericho (Matthew 20:29, etc.), Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1, etc.) and Joppa (Acts 9:36, etc.).

The Judea province also included Lydda (Acts 9:32, 35, 38), Magdala (Matthew 15:39), Nain (Luke 7:11), Nazareth (Matthew 2:23, etc.) and Sychar (John 4:5).

The most well-known Roman ruler over Judea is Pontius Pilate, who governed as a Prefect from 26 to 36 A.D. Mentioned more than fifty times in the New Testament (Matthew 27:2, Mark 15:1, etc.) he was the person who had the legal authority to put Jesus Christ to death (John 18:31, 19:10).

Proof that Pilate governed for Rome in Judea, at the time of Christ, was found in 1961. A carved limestone block called the Pilate Stone was found in Caesarea, the provincial capital, that not only listed his name but also labeled him the Prefect of the province.

Judea was a tumultuous province to govern. In 66 A.D., it began a war against Rome that ultimately resulted in the total destruction of Jerusalem's temple in 70 A.D. and ended with the taking of Masada in 73. In 132 A.D., another rebellion was started known as Bar Kokhba's revolt. It brought a short-lived independence from the Empire that was ended in 135 and cost the lives of more than half a million Jews.

Emperor Hadrian, after the rebellion, expelled all Jews from Jerusalem and combined the provinces of Syria and Judea into a new provincial territory called Syria Palaestina.


Along part of the northeastern border of Judea existed the Roman province named Decapolis ("ten cities"). Decapolis is mentioned by name three times in the New Testament.

And great multitudes followed Him (Jesus) from Galilee, and Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Then he (a man who had a legion of demons cast out of him by Jesus) departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

And after departing from the district of Tyre and Sidon, and passing through the middle of the borders of Decapolis, He (Jesus and his disciples) again came to the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:25, Mark 5:20, 7:31, HBFV).

Biblical references to places within this region next to Judea include "the country of the Gadarenes" (Mark 5:1) and "the country of the Gergesenes" (Matthew 8:28). The Decapolis is one of the few areas Jesus traveled to where Gentiles composed the majority of the population. It did not become a part of a Roman province until the reign of Emperor Trajan (98 to 117 A.D.).

Additional Study Materials
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Palestine under the Maccabees Map
How many times did Rome attack Jerusalem?
How did Rome help spread the gospel?

New Testament
Roman Provinces
Series Introduction
Asia  /  Bithynia  /  Galatia
Cappadocia  /  Cilicia  /  Lycia
Greece     -     Judea

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