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Mapping Medieval Biblical Exegesis in the Reformation: Putting Cyprus on the Map

CATHERINE DELANO-SMITH

 

Abstract

Maps and plans have been drawn from the early fourth century onwards as aids to Christian biblical exegesis. In their essentials of content and style they remained unchanged for the first millennium or so, as may be expected in the case of drawings made to explain a text that itself remained unchanged. By the sixteenth century, however, stylistic changes to the exegetical diagrams were being introduced
to make the traditional diagrams appeal to a new readership, outstandingly that using the version of the Holy Bible approved by John Calvin and published in Geneva from 1559 (in French) and 1560 (in English) onwards. From the start of the Reformation, Christians in western Europe were encouraged to read the Holy Scriptures for themselves, but these independent readers needed to be guided towards approved interpretations. New maps were included as reader aids. Thus maps showing Paul the Apostle's voyage to Rome, and including the island of Cyprus, were amongst those added to the traditional corpus of exegetical mapping. An attempt by Peter Plancius at the end of the century to transform the old plan of the Desert Encampment (Num. 2-3) to accord with key Calvinist ideals at the expense of textual accuracy, however, was quietly dropped.

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