GIS as a heuristic tool to interpret ancient historiography: a case study to reconstruct what could plausibly have happened according to the accounts in New Testament texts

Vincent van Altena, J.L.H. Krans-Plaisier, Henk Bakker, Jantien Stoter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    This article examines how GIS can be used as a heuristic tool to reconstruct spatial–temporal events from narratives in order to examine whether a scenario is conceivable within the narrative world. The narrative about Paul’s escape from Berea (Acts 17:14–15) is used as a case study. Several interpretive issues related to spatial and temporal questions surround these texts. In the case study, three methods are applied: (a) least-cost path analysis on elevation data to construct journeys and travel times for Roman roads; (b) network analysis to find seafaring routes valid for ancient times; and (c) the integration of spatial and temporal data in a space-time cube. Our main finding is that the method yields insights into the spatial–temporal dynamics of the narrative. This helps a modern reader to better understand the narrative conceivability of a story in the mind of a first-century reader.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1193-1212
    Number of pages20
    JournalTransactions in GIS
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2021

    Cite this