Editor's note: This has been previously published on the author's website.
The scriptures happened in real locations with real people. Our faith is not some ethereal experience disembodied from the grounded reality of location and time. Situating the scriptures into their geographical context gives nuance and perspective to the stories of faith and hope that inspire us.
Have you ever wondered where the apostles of Jesus traveled to spread the word of God? Have you ever wondered where the specific events of the New Testament (or the Old Testament) took place? Have you ever wanted to visually walk through a map of where Jesus and his disciples walked?
Now you can explore the New Testament, as well as Old Testament and Doctrine and Covenants, chapter by chapter with every location mapped to Google maps.
Go to scriptures.byu.edu/mapscrip/.
Together with my BYU colleague Steve Liddle, we wanted to create a scripture reading experience that visually mapped the locations mentioned in the scriptures.
Our interface places the scripture reading pane on the left-hand side of the page, opened to whatever chapter you wish to read, taking up about a one-fourth of the screen. Then on the right-hand side is a Google map with red markers identifying each of the locations mentioned in that chapter. The Google map occupies the other three-fourths of the screen. Within the text, geographical references are marked in blue font and are linked to the map. Simply click on the geographical reference in the text and the map will zoom into that location.
This tool allows you to read the scriptures geographically.
You can now read the Old Testament, New Testament and the Doctrine and Covenants with all the locations mapped chapter by chapter.
Acts 1: Jerusalem, Samaria, Galilee
Acts 2: Jerusalem, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia (modern day Turkey), Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, and Rome, Nazareth
Acts 3: Nazareth, Jerusalem Temple (Beautiful Gate)
Acts 4: Jerusalem, Nazareth, Cyprus
Acts 5: Jerusalem Temple (Solomon’s Porch)
Our hope in creating this tool was to increase scripture engagement and comprehension. For so many years, the best that scripture readers had were flat, static maps of scriptural locations. By mapping the scriptures onto Google maps, readers can now visually explore the scriptures in their geographical contexts, zooming in for lots of detail, or zooming out for wider perspective.
Have fun exploring at scriptures.byu.edu/mapscrip/.
Now you might wonder if there is a map for the Book of Mormon. There is, created by the Virtual Scriptures group at BYU led by me and my colleagues Tyler Griffin (the lead on the Book of Mormon map) and Seth Holladay. The BYU Virtual Scriptures group created an “internal” map of the Book of Mormon, meaning that the map is based on a close reading of the Book of Mormon’s internal references to its own geography. You can find a free version at virtualscriptures.org/book-of-mormon-map.
Why an internal map? As the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have recently reiterated in an official essay on Book of Mormon geography (see "Book of Mormon Geography" under "Gospel Topics" on churchofjesuschrist.org), the church has no official position on where the Book of Mormon occurred, other than we know that its peoples migrated from the ancient Near East to the New World.
I hope you find these resources enlightening and exciting. Feel free to send any feedback to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For another article on the value of reading the scriptures geographically see Taylor Halverson's “Reading the Scriptures Geographically: Some Tools and Insights” on mormoninterpreter.com.