Original Research - Special Collection: Eben Scheffler Festschrift

Biblical cartography and the (mis)representation of Paul’s missionary travels

Santiago Guijarro
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 3 | a5575 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i3.5575 | © 2019 Santiago Guijarro | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 May 2019 | Published: 27 August 2019

About the author(s)

Santiago Guijarro, Faculty of Theology, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain; and, Department of New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Biblical cartography has elaborated a master narrative of Paul’s missionary activity. This master narrative, which clearly distinguishes between three different journeys, is omnipresent and can easily be found in Bibles and atlases. Nevertheless, Paul’s letters and the book of Acts do not support such a clear distinction. The present study contends that the distinction between three missionary journeys is a modern construct and that this way of representing Paul’s missionary activity has a significant impact on how we understand it. By representing Paul’s missionary activity as an orderly sequence of three travels, the maps not only minimise the novelty of his independent mission but also minimise Paul’s confrontation with the Jerusalem church. In this representation, he is no longer the marginal leader of a minority movement within the nascent church, but ‘the’ missionary. The portrayal of the missionary activity of Paul in biblical maps is an example of the uncritical transfer of exegetical traditions, and of the role of these traditions in the creation of a master narrative of Christian origins.


Biblical maps; Cognitive cartography; Early Christian mission; Images of Paul; The role of exegetical traditions


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