The Madaba Mosaic Map Revisited. Some New Observations
on its Purpose and Meaning

by Irfan Shahid

The Importance of Moses

Why in Madaba?

Why in the Sixth Century?

Why a Map?

The Purpose of the Map

In spite of the lapse of a hundred years since the discovery of the Madaba Mosaic Map,1 there has been no consensus on the meaning and purpose of this unique monument of Christian art. But a measure of agreement has been reached on two important points: that the map goes back to the sixth century, more specifically its second half;2 and that the primary source of the mosaic was the Onomasticon of Eusebius and with it, of course, the Bible.3
To these two conclusions may be added a third, namely the paramountcy of the Jerusalem panel in the entire map. This has miraculously survived the fragmentation that attended the discovery of the map and the preservation of its various parts.
Before I come to the subtitle of my paper, I should like to discuss two views that have been in vogue related to the purpose of the Mosaic, namely, Pilgrimage and Edification:
1- It is difficult to believe that pilgrims would have been advantaged by looking at this non-portable map. Pilgrims needed practical aids, portable maps, and local guides to help and protect them. And these were available even in the fourth century when Egeria availed herself of their services. The Madaba map was a work of art and not a practical itinerarium that could help pilgrims peregrinate from one holy place to another.
2- Edification is more germane to Christian art in view of the well-known dictum of Pope Gregory the Great, namely, that "pictures are the book of the illiterate". The many and copious captions that go with each toponym on the map clearly indicate that it was not meant to be the book of the illiterate. As for those who were not "the literati" a recent article has shown the complexity of the problem, in addition to exploding the myth that art is the book of the illiterate.4 As far as the Madaba Map is concerned, this view assumes that the church of St. George functioned as a venue for a Sunday school class or a Bible study group -- pure speculation that awaits validation.
It cannot be ruled out that some pilgrims might have wandered into the church and identified holy sites they wanted to see or have actually seen or that a student of sacred geography might have done the same. But this was not and could not have been the primary purpose of the mosaicist or the ecclesiastic who commissioned this expensive monument of Christian art, consisting as it did, of hundreds of thousands of mosaic cubes, 2.5 million in the calculations of Avi-Yonah. Besides, these two views do not address the crucial question that must be asked if a correct answer to the problem of meaning and purpose is to be found, namely, why was this unique map crafted only in this particular spot of God's earth, namely, Madaba, and not somewhere else? and the related question why in the sixth century?
That thought crossed my mind before I found that H. Leclercq had already posed it lightly when he subscribed to the view that the Map represented the vision of Moses of the Promised Land,5 a view repeated by R. T. O'Callaghan,6 who concluded his article by hoping that this view would receive a serious treatment for its vindication. This I propose to do in this paper.

A view of Mont Nebo and the Jordan Valley

As you may recall, this idea was advanced by the one who first commented on the map almost immediately after its discovery, the Frenchman, Ch. Clermont-Ganneau. Although withdrawn by him almost as soon as he expressed it,7 it was adopted by others in the first half of this century. But it has receded in the background in the second half before the views that favored pilgrimage and edification. Before I come to its defense, I should like to dispose of the three objections that have been advanced against it.8
1- The orientation of the map was thought to be fatal to this view because it was to the east, that is, it presented the Promised Land to a visitor coming from west of the Jordan not east of it, where Madaba was. But in orienting the map to the east, the mosaicist was following the rule strictly observed in those days, namely, the orientation of all churches to the east and so with it, the mosaic. Furthermore, the mosaicist, who was guided by the Onomasticon of Eusebius, may have followed a map attached to the Onomasticon that was oriented to the east. So there was or must have a technical reason that induced the mosaicist to orient the map in this fashion; hence the orientation, far from being fatal, may be adjudged not significant.9
2- The second objection derives from the view that the map shows more than Moses could have seen from the top of Mt. Nebo, as the Promised Land, such as portions of southern Lebanon and Egypt. This view does not take into account the fact that there are two versions of the Promised Land in the Pentateuch. Those who objected must have had in mind the one in Deuteronomy, where indeed neither appears. But there is another version, namely, in Numbers, which encompasses both.10 Besides, Moses was Christianized by Church Fathers and Christian writers, including Eusebius himself; here his vision becomes not only a vision of the Jewish Promised Land but of the Christian Holy Land to which both Egypt and Southern Lebanon belonged. The first hosted the Christian Holy Family - Joseph, Mary, and Jesus - as well as the patriarchs of the Old Testament, while the second witnessed Christ's presence when he visited the region of Tyre and Sidon, where he performed a miracle, healing the daughter of the Canaannite woman.11 The same may be said of the privileged position of Jerusalem in the map, not as the City of David but as that of Christ, dominated by the Constantinian complex of the Martyrium and Anastasis, even as the entire map is dominated by Jerusalem. Church Fathers made Moses prefigure Christ.
3- The third objection is related to the fact that the map was not found in a church on Mt. Nebo whence Moses saw the Promised Land. But Madaba was the episcopal see of the bishopric to which Mt. Nebo belonged, where the bishop resided and where a flourishing Christian congregation was to be found that could respond to the map, which, as we shall see later on, had an important function during the celebration of the divine liturgy. The map was placed in the floor of what apparently was a large church, not a small one as is now the case, where it forms part of the floor of the new church of St. George. Mt. Nebo, holier than the city of Madaba as a locus sanctus, did not have the community of Christian worshippers to whom a map of liturgical function would have been meaningful. Besides it was not easily accessible, as Egeria was to find out.12
The rejection of these objections thus leaves viable Clermont-Ganneau's view, which I shall defend and support with elements from the sources that have not been tapped and I shall raise some new pertinent questions, which also support the view that the map represents the vision of Moses.
The defense of this view turns round the following elements and they are five:
1- The strong presence of Moses in the three centuries of the proto-Byzantine period, especially in the fourth and the sixth centuries, most relevant to the Map
2- Why was this unique map crafted in Madaba of all places?
3- Why in the sixth century?
4- Why was Madaba's association with Moses expressed in this unique fashion--a map?
5- What function did the map have in the Madaba church of St. George?

The Importance of Moses
After and in spite of St. Paul's pronouncements against Moses and the Law,13 the latter experienced a strong and pervasive presence in this proto-Byzantine period beginning with Eusebius, the principal source of the Map. As the biographer--even hagiographer of Constantine--he chose as the latter's model Moses, not the Moses of the Tablets and the Decalogue but of the Rod with which he cleft the Red Sea and so led his people out of captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land. This is how Constantine appears in the Vita of Eusebius, an image the emperor himself accepted in his address to the bishops assembled at Nicaea.14 As is well known, the Rod had a fateful history in Byzantium: a church was built in which it rested, Theotokos tes Rabdou; it was later transferred to the imperial palace, and it remained with the True Cross, one of the two most important relics to be displayed on ceremonial occasions, expressive of imperial sovereignty.15
Even more important for the map than the Vita of Eusebius is his Praeparatio Evangelica, which has not been tapped in discussions of the map. Moses appears in that work prefiguring Christ and the Trinity and speaks proleptically of both.16 So, the Father of Ecclesiastical history drafted Moses theologically in the service of Christianity and when Moses surveys the Promised Land from the top of Mt. Nebo, in Christian Ecclesiastical circles dominated by Eusebius, the Founder of Judaism appears both as an Old Testament figure for Old Israel and also as a Prophet for the New. One of the two objections to Clermont-Ganneau's view thus collapses even further in addition to what has already been said. The other version of the Promised Land in Numbers, as we have seen accommodated the appearance of Egypt and Southern Lebanon within the Promised Land, but not Jerusalem. The Praeparatio does this and explains the appearance of Jerusalem itself in a map that represents the Vision of Moses.
To sum up, although the Onomasticon of Eusebius has been accepted as a principal source for the map, two other works of his are as important for understanding the structure of the map and the inclusion of certain sectors in it, and they are the Vita and the Praeparatio Evangelica.

Why in Madaba?
Churches in this period were built on the relics of martyrs and Saints but post-Biblical figures could not compete with those of the New Testament, especially Jesus and the Twelve. When these were not available those of the Old came to the rescue and solved the problem, especially after Christian theology enlisted them in the service of the new faith as its proleptic spokesmen. Such was the situation in Madaba, which unlike some other Trans-Jordanian places had no Christian associations with any New Testament figure. But it had with the Old, with none other than its principal figure, the Founder of Judaism, Moses himself, and its associations were very close. It was conquered by Moses; it was a city of Moabitis,17 where the most important scenes of the book of Numbers and the whole of Deuteronomy were enacted. It was within the share of Reuben as allotted by Moses, and above all its territory which included Mt. Nebo witnessed the moving scene of the last days of Moses: the end of drama of the Exodus, the speech of Moses, his farewell, his vision of the Promised Land, and his death. Madaba in Moabitis was truly Moses' country. The search for identity, Biblical identity in Madaba, thus must have ended with the realization that it was a Biblical locus sanctus, related to Moses. That Eusebius had already transformed Moses into a proleptic spokesman of Christ and the Trinity was an added attraction, which enabled Moses to appear in a Christian Church as a figure of the New Testament as well as the Old.
Related to the choice of the Vision of Moses as the inspiration of the Map is another important element in the discussion. The late Kurt Weitzmann isolated the loca sancta of the Holy Land as a special category of Holy Places for the development of Christian art.18 They are loca sancta defined by Holy Land terms, the geographical area encompassed by the Three Palestines and the provincia Arabia, in Trans-Jordan. Unlike Christian churches that were built outside the Holy Land over relics translated often from some other distant locales, Christian churches in the Holy Land were built whenever possible over sites that actually witnessed the presence of some Old or New Testament figure, who was associated with them. A church in Bethlehem could reflect in its Christian art the Crucifixion but it was the Nativity that related most intimately to Bethlehem and gave it its identity as a Christian locus sanctus, just as the Incarnation/Annunciation and the Crucifixion/Resurrection gave Nazareth and Jerusalem their respective identities. Hence, the representation of the Vision of Moses in the Madaba Church, a Holy Land locus sanctus that wanted to reflect its Biblical identity through an important event in the history of Salvation that took place in its very territory. The Vision of Moses thus reflected the Biblical identity of Madaba, and Madaba was the only spot in Bible land whence the Promised Land could be seen from the perspective of Moses.19

Why in the Sixth Century?
The artistic expression of Christianity was one of the most powerful affirmations of that faith after some three centuries of persecutions, suppressions, and repression, during which the holy places in what later came to be called the Holy Land were neglected, even spurned. Now these Biblical sites recover their identity and monumental structures are erected over them, a process that both sharpened the image of the Land as Holy in the perception of the outside world and enhanced and deepened the religious experience of its Christian community. The process began in the fourth century with Constantine and it gathered momentum in this proto-Byzantine period. Against this well-known background of the Holy Land in this period, the Madaba map may now be set as a sixth-century work of Christian art:
This century, and more specifically, the reign of Justinian, is the one that witnessed the explosion of Christian art in Byzantium--its golden period, both in the Capital and in the provinces, involving the provincia Arabia where Madaba was located and the Three Palestines--the administrative units that constituted the Christian Holy Land. Madaba was a Trans-Jordanian bishopric of the Holy Land and in this century these bishoprics rose in importance, witness the interest of the Popes, Gregory and later Martin in courting them.20
Their self-image or rather that of one of them, Madaba, as an important center of Christianity in the Holy Land is most tellingly reflected in the well-known mosaic in the Hall of Hippolytus where the personifications of three cities appear on the same pedestal,21 two of which are Madaba and Rome itself, the most distinguished of the Five Patriarchates or Pentarchy, a self-image, perhaps not unjustified in the consciousness of the Madaba hierarchy, in view of the fact that the Madaba region was the richest of all Trans-Jordanian regions in Biblical associations.
The sixth-century dating of the map may also be related to the fact that this work of art was a mosaic; it was in this century and specifically in the reign of Justinian that mosaics were more widely used than in any other reign. The 2.5 million mosaic cubes of the apse in Hagia Sophia are eloquent testimony of the fact and the Madaba Mosaic did not lag far behind Hagia Sophia. Avi-Yonah has calculated from the evidence of what has survived that 2.3 million mosaic cubes must have been used for the entire map.22
In addition to the explosion of Christian art in this century, the prosperity of the Trans-Jordanian region may be added as another factor for a sixth-century creation of the expensive map. This was due to the diversion of trade routes from the Mesopotamian to the West Arabian route involving Trans-Jordan after the outbreak of the Persian Wars,23 and the security that reigned owing to the powerful federate shield that protected it against the pastoralist threat from the Arabian Peninsula. One of the watchmen of this frontier was Abu-Karib who has emerged in the most favorable light in one of the recently discovered Petra papyri.24
So much for the sixth century as a background for the feverish building activity in Trans-Jordan and the creation of the Madaba mosaic map. Let us now relate the sixth century to the theme of the Map, namely, the vision of the Land both Promised and Holy, by Moses in whom there was a resurgence of interest in this century. While in the fourth it was Moses of the Rod that dominated the scene, in the sixth it was Moses of the Two Tablets of the Decalogue that came to the forefront and this for a good reason. The century witnessed the publication of the Corpus Iuris Civilis and naturally Justinian, who was behind it, associated himself with Moses the Lawgiver, who in this capacity appears reflected in the Christian art of the reign in San Vitale in distant Ravenna. In the Holy Land he appears on Mt. Tabor, thought to be the scene of the Transfiguration;25 and possibly, the Rod in Constantinople was also transferred from the Church, Theotokos tes Rabdou, into the Imperial Palace during the reign.26 But most relevant for our purpose was the renewal of the memory of Moses by Justinian's building of the monastery fortress on Mt. Sinai, the site of the Decalogue. This site had been a major pilgrimage destination even in the fourth century and the erection of the monastery/fortress only enhanced its prestige and the presence of Moses in the Holy Land, to which Mt. Sinai in Palaestina Tertia belonged.
Related to our theme is the continued Christianization of Moses in the sixth century, a process begun by Eusebius in the fourth. John Philoppnus, in De Opificio Mundi makes Moses speak proleptically of the Trinity, thus including Christ as its second Person.27 The artistic cycle in the Sinai Monastery identified the Burning Bush with the Virgin Mary, and the transfiguration fresco naturally reflected Moses in a Christian context testifying to the Messianship of Jesus.28
Thus the sixth century witnessed both an explosion of Christian art and renewed interest in Moses expressed imperially from the capital and transmitted to the provinces, including the provincia Arabia where Madaba lay. It was only natural that Madaba, which was in a special relationship to Moses, should also celebrate him in the dimension that characterized his presence in its region, namely, his last lingering look at the Promised Land.
And surely such an association must have crossed the minds of the ecclesiastics of the sixth century, as it did those of the fourth when Egeria, a pilgrim from the distant West, came to re-capture that Vision of Moses on Mt. Nebo, which thrilled her and elicited from her a spirited apostrophe on the spectacle that unfolded before her eyes from the top of that mountain.29 Sinai, Tabor, and Madaba thus are the three loca sancta, which in the sixth century reflected three different dimensions of the presence of Moses in the Holy Land.

Why a Map ?
That Madaba should have expressed its Biblical identity through a map and not something else has made this expression unique, since nothing like it has existed or survived as a monument of Christian art. And this was only natural for an episcopal see that tried to express accurately and truly the nature of its character as a Biblical locale and its connection with it -- namely, the last days of Moses, which consisted of the blessing, the prayer, the vision of the Promised Land and his death. This has remained a mystery and so has the location of his grave. Thus of all that happened in these last days, the Vision of the Promised Land -- that emotionally charged phrase -- was the element that admitted of visual artistic expression, the panorama that unfolded before his eyes. This naturally could have been represented most appropriately in a map, this mosaic which has miraculously survived for some fourteen centuries, as does the panorama that it represented, till the present day. The creation of the Madaba Mosaic Map elevated the science of ancient cartography to an art.
As Madaba has been related to the sixth century in the previous section of this paper, so can also be related to the same century the choice of this particular form of the artistic expression of Madaba's identity, namely, the cartographic. It was in this century that the concept of the Holy Land matured. It was owed to Constantine and Helen in its primitive form as a collection of Holy Places over which imperial monumental structures were erected, but the concept was not Scriptural like the Promised Land and so had no precise boundaries. These were charted gradually by the feet of pilgrims who started to flock from all parts of the Christian world and with this the term itself came to be used in the sixth century. The loca sancta became the Holy Land, terra sancta,30 and the term must have become so familiar that even Arabic knew it and it appears in the Holy Book of Islam in the seventh century, the Koran,31 the only holy book of the three Abrahamic religions that has the term in its Christian acceptation. And it was easy to relate Moses' Vision of the Promised Land to the Christian concept of the Holy Land, since the New Chosen People accepted the Book of the Old and Christian Fathers made its figures speak of the new Dispensation proleptically and present the Old as Praeparatio Evangelica. One could go further and say that if the map had been only a map of the Christian Holy Land minus the Vision of the Promised, it would not have had the same resonance in a Christian place of worship, since the Christian Holy Land had no Scriptural attestation and authority, and was a post-Biblical concept. But involving it in the Vision of Moses gave it that necessary Biblical association which related it to the powerful figure of Moses and thus made it the illustration of a Biblical pericope. In this sense, the map becomes very Eusebian, combining his Onomasticon and his Praeparatio Evangelica. The connection of this unique Christian work of art, a map, with Moses has one more dimension especially important in this sixth century. Although he was the great prophet and lawgiver, Moses was also the great cosmographer, and as such he was very much alive in this proto-Byzantine period especially in the sixth century, and, what is more, was specifically associated with maps.
Towards the middle of this century, a former monk or ecclesiastic, Cosmas Indicopleustes, traveled in the East and wrote his Christian Topography, expressing in an entire book the vision of the entire cosmos as expressed in the book of Genesis, and as a counter-blast to the pagan Greek view of the universe as spherical; he also presented Moses prefiguring Christ.32 Thus Moses experiences a strong resurgence in this century not only as a lawgiver, the model of Justinian, but also and more relevantly as a cosmographer. What is even more relevant to the theme of this paper is that his conception of the universe as interpreted by Cosmas was also expressed in maps, some drawn by Cosmas himself and some by others whom Cosmas employed. Thus Moses' vision of the universe received cartographic expression in the Christian Topography of Cosmas as did his vision of the Promised Land receive a similar treatment or expression in the Madaba Map. And so, one and the same century witnessed a Moses resuscitated as the inspirer of two concentric maps: one for the whole universe and another, smaller one, for the Promised Land, the center of which was Jerusalem. And both maps have survived till the present day in manuscripts of Cosmas whether original or derivative,33 and on the floor of the Church of St. George in Madaba.
That imperial Byzantium was also aware of Moses the Cosmographer in the sixth century is reflected in the fact that none other than Justinian himself spoke against the pagan Greek spherical view of the Universe and clearly implied strong support for the opposite conception, originally owed to Moses in Genesis, and held strongly by the School of Antioch, when he thundered his anathemas against Origenism at the council of Constantinople in A.D. 553.34

The Purpose of the Map
It has been argued in the second section of this paper that the map representing the vision of Moses reflected the self-image of the Madaba bishopric as a Biblical locale. But the map, it must be remembered, was not placed in a museum of Christian art but in a place of Christian worship--a church. Hence it could not have been crafted only for the greater glory of Madaba but also ad majorem Dei gloriam. The views that it was meant for pilgrims or edification have been weighed and found wanting. If it performed such functions, these must have been utterly peripheral to its main purpose. The map has been shown to be a work of Christian art, the function of which must be related to what has been generally recognized as the function of that art--namely, the enhancement of the religious experience of the worshipper, which could be effected and achieved either individually and privately or communally during the celebration of the divine liturgy. And there is much agreement that the map is a revelation of the story of Christian salvation. I subscribe to this view and should like to bring this paper to a close by making the following observations on the unique features of this map in this liturgical context, which will distance it even further from pilgrimage and edification:
1- The map represents the history of Christian salvation in its entirety encompassing both the old and the new chosen peoples. That this was and must have been the message of the map is clearly indicated in the prominence given to Jerusalem in which the Church of the Holy Sepulchre dominated the city and the city dominated the map. The survival, almost intact, of the vignette of Jerusalem in the map was a singular stroke of fortune, without which it would have been practically impossible to guess what the message of the map was.
2- It is not difficult to visualize how the map functioned during the liturgy in the sixth-century church of St. George. The map lay between the priest at the altar or in the chancel and the congregation stood -- as was normal in those days -- at the other end of the church.
Thus, the map would have enhanced the religious experience of the worshippers who in addition to the auditory dimension emanating from the celebrant would have had now the visual one from the map. The orientation of the map towards the east, which had been advanced as an objection to the interpretation of the map as the vision of Moses, can now be seen to have been an important element in the liturgical function of the map, as it enables the congregation to establish direct contact with the map with its central piece Jerusalem, the climax of the story of salvation. The map creates the general ambiance of the history of salvation geographically, as the panorama of the Bible land, where the story of salvation had been enacted, unfolds before their eyes.
3- The liturgical function of the map is also reflected in the fact that the mosaic map was not a wall mosaic but a floor one. If it had been the former, it would have been difficult for the congregation to see it collectively and recover its message during the celebration of the liturgy. That it was a floor mosaic lying right before their eyes in the most favorable position for its visibility speaks for itself.
4- Finally a word on the originality of conception that informs this unique work of Christian art:
a- Christian art illustrates passages from the books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, either individual figures or episodes or sequences. The map is consonant with this, but is unique in that it is a vast canvas that encompasses the entire panorama of the history of Old Israel in one Testament and that of the New in another. What the literary art of the spoken word had separated, that is, the last chapters of Deuteronomy from the last chapters of the Gospels, are now united by the only art that can unite them, namely, visual art, which thus presents them simultaneously and synoptically, as literary art could not. The climax was the depiction of the Holy City not as the City of David but as that of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, which dominates the entire map, conveying unmistakably the message of Christian salvation.
b- Christian art had been attracted by the figure of Moses and had depicted various episodes in the drama of his life from his birth to his death. In addition to art expressive of single episodes such as the Crossing of the Red Sea or the receipt of the Tablets, there have been works expressive of sequences of Moses' life such as the ones in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. But never has there been a representation such as the one presented by the Madaba Mosaic Map, namely his vision of the Promised Land.35 The map, therefore, is a tribute to the imaginative power of the Madaba mosaicist who executed it or to the ecclesiastic who commissioned it, and who, thus synoptically, re-told the history of Christian salvation, as it had never been told before--namely, through the evocative power of the toponymy and topography of a mosaic map.
c- Finally, Moses himself would have been pleased with this performance of the Madaba mosaicist. He had come down from the top of the Holy Mountain with Two Tablets in his hands and Ten Commandments, the first and the most important of which was the expression of strict monotheism and interdiction on graven images or pictures in places of worship. Since then, Judaism has scrupulously observed the interdiction on the use of painting and sculpture in synagogues as Islam has done in mosques.36 Christianity circumvented it and argued for the legitimacy of representational art and filled its churches with paintings and sculptures, in direct violation of the First Commandment. Thus the Madaba Mosaic Map, although set in the floor of a Christian church, not only represents the vision of Moses, which has been the thrust of this paper, but also breathes the spirit of the First Commandment in the Decalogue. The execution of the Madaba Mosaic Map was a splendid example consciously or unconsciously of the Imitatio Veteris Testamenti for which the Christian Orient, especially the Semitic, had a natural propensity, and which survives till the present day in its most visible form in Christian Ethiopia.37


1 For the map and the literature on it, which is extensive, see Donner and Cuppers 1986, pp 148-180; Donner 1992.

2 For a departure from this chronology, see Donceel-Voute1988, pp 519-542.

3 For other sources, see Avi-Yonah 1986, p 136ff

4 Duggan 1989, pp 227-251.

5 Leclercq 1931, col 807.

6 O'Callaghan 1953, Fasc XXVI, col 704.

7 Clermont-Ganneau 1901, pp 235-246 For his other related contributions, see a list of them in Piccirillo 1989, index, p 350, s.v

8 For the three objections, see Avi-Yonah, op cit., pp 33-34 The first two were advanced by Clermont-Ganneau himself while the third was advanced by Avi-Yonah

9 Both points of this first objection were appreciated by Clermont-Ganneau, op cit., pp 245-246

10 For the Promised Land see Deuteronomy 34:1-4 and Numbers 34:1-12

11 Matthew 15:21-29; see also Genesis 49:13 for Sidon and Zebulun Questions have been raised as to why Egypt, so rich in Biblical association, was not adequately represented in the Madaba Mosaic Map; furthermore, what appears of Egypt in that map was based on Herodotus' description of the Delta and on a Roman-Byzantine itinerary Perhaps the answer may be sought in the following: the Biblical sites of Egypt during the Israelites' stay in Egypt (from Joseph to Moses) were only a few and mostly Pharaonic such as Pithom and Raamses, the two cities the Israelites built for Pharaoh; as for sites and regions associated with the Israelites, such as the Goshen, these may not have been clearly indicated in maps at the disposal of the mosaicist, who, not wanting to leave Egypt blank, dotted it with toponyms derived from non-Biblical sources For a discussion of Egypt in the map, see Donner 1984, pp 249-257

12 Some consider the sixth century church of the Mosaic Map in Madaba a cathedral; see Donner p 11 Others do not, and believe the cathedral of Madaba was another church; see Piccirillo, pp 21-40 I should like to thank Father M Piccirillo and Professor J P Sodini for some fruitful conversations on this problem and also on the name of the saint to whom the church was dedicated After speaking of the monks "who had the energy to ascend Mount Nebo", Egeria described the ascent: "So we set out and came to the foot of the Mount Nebo; it was very high, but mostly possible to ascend on donkeys, though there were some steeper parts where we had to dismount, and it was hard going"; Egeria's Travels, trans John Wilkinson, (SPCK, London, 1971), p 106.

13 For Paul on Moses and the Law, see The Epistle to the Hebrews, especially chapters 3, 7-10, 12.

14 For Eusebius' perception of Constantine as the New Moses who led his people to the light of the New Faith as Moses had done in former times, see Vita, Heikel 1902, p 13: xii For Constantine's admiration of Moses and implicit acceptance of him as a model, see his Oration to the Assembly of the Saints (at Nicaea), ibid., p 177: xvii

15 On the Church of the Rod in Constantinople, see Pseudo-Codinus in Scriptores Originum Constantinopolitanarum, ed T H Preger, (Arno Press, New York, 1975: reprint of the Teubner edition,), p 247: 88 The construction of the church by Constantine is legendary; see Janin, Pars I, Tomus III, p 239: 100

16 See Praeparatio Evangelica, ed E des Places, Schroeder 1975), VII, 12, 8-12, vol XI, 14, 2.

17 Hence also the locale, where the first chapter of the Book of Ruth in later times is set.

18 See Weitzmann, pp 33-55.

19 That the map represents the vision of Moses is further supported by reference in the map to the tribal lots portioned out by Moses in the penultimate chapter in Deuteronomy, followed immediately by his vision of the Promised Land and his death Four of these tribal lots have survived on the map, namely, Ephraim, Benjamin, Dan, and Symon and not only their names but also some of the blessings related to them, quoted verbatim The mosaicist involved Jacob in the blessing of two of the four, those of Joseph and Benjamin, but in this matter Moses takes precedence over Jacob since the former, not the latter, was the leader of the Exodus, which ended with the occupation of Canaan and the partition of the Promised Land into the twelve tribal lots The reference to Dan comes from the song of Deborah in Judges 5 For these blessings and references to tribal lots, including Zebulun, see Avi-Yonah, pp 26-27

20 For the interest of Gregory the Great in the Provincia Arabia, the Ghassanids, and Gerasa, see the present writer's Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, I.1, pp 602-605 and I.2, pp 935-938 For the interest of Pope Martin I (649-655) in the following century, see Donceel-Voûte, op cit., pp 536-538.

21 See Piccirillo, Madaba, p 57 What the third personification, Gregoria, stands for is still unclear, apparently not related to the name of the Pope.

23 See Avi-Yonah, , p 18 For Herbert Donner, the number is 1,116,600; see, p 28

23 For this, see the present writer, The Arabs in the Peace Treaty of A D 561, Arabica 3 (1956), pp 181-213.

24 For this important papyrus, see the preliminary description by Frösen 1966, no 4122

25 The exact dating of the basilica dedicated to Moses on Mt Tabor is not clear Pilgrims in the sixth century spoke of it and so it may have been built in this century or the fifth; see John Wilkinson 1977, p 173 s.v

26 Given Justinian's interest in Moses For the Rod in the Imperial Palace, where it rested in the oratory of St Theodore, see Le Livre des Cérémonies, ed and trans Vogt 1935, tome I, p 4; for the commentary on the Rod and the Oratory, see Commentaire, pp 23-24

27 See De Opificio Mundi, ed W Reichart (Leipzig, 1893), Book VI, Ch 4, pp 235-237 I owe this reference to Leslie MacCoull

28 For the artistic representation of Moses in the Monastery of Mt Sinai, see Forsyth and Weitzmann 1965, Plates CXXVI, CXXVII; and Theologos Chr Aliprantis 1986; and Manfis 1990, Plates, 8-10, 36-37.

29 Because of the importance and relevance of Egeria's visit to Mt Nebo, the passage in which she describes that visit is quoted here in extenso:
Soon we had had the prayer and the other things which were usual in a holy place, and we were about to leave the church Then the presbyters and holy monks who were familiar with the place asked us, "Would you like to see the places which are described in the Books of Moses? If so, go out of the church door to the actual summit, the place which has the view, and spend a little time looking at it We will tell you which places you can see." This delighted us, and we went straight out From the church door itself we saw where the Jordan runs into the Dead Sea, and the place was down below where we were standing Then, facing us, we saw Livias on our side of the Jordan, and Jericho on the far side, since the height in front of the church door, where we were standing, jutted out over the valley In fact, from there you can see most of Palestine, the Promised Land and everything in the area of Jordan as far as the eye can see

30 The use of the term in the early sixth century is evidenced by such works as De Situ Terrae Sanctae of Theodosius in which the denotation of the term terra sancta is clearly not the limited one involving Jerusalem and the surrounding region but the extensive, involving the Palestines and the region east of the Jordan; see Tsafrir, op cit., pp 129-134.

31 Koran, chapter V, (al-Ma'ida), verse 21.

32 For Cosmas' work, see the three volumes of Wolska-Conus 1968-73. On Moses as prefiguring Christ, see vol II, pp 167-171 On Moses' tabernacle as a replica of the universe, see ibid., p 39.

33 For the conclusions of the editor, Wanda Wolska-Conus, on the maps and illustrations in Cosmas, see Paul Lemerle's preface, pp 9-11, where he points out that of the three manuscripts of the work, those of Florence and Sinai are the best for the maps and illustrations, and closest to the original sixth-century illustrations.

34 For those anathemas, see The Seven Ecumenical Councils in A Select Library of Nicene and Post and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1956), pp 316-320, especially p 318, no iii, and p 320, nos iv-vi The two contrasting cosmologies, the Greek spherical, adopted by the school of Alexandria and the cubic Biblical one, adopted by the school of Antioch, clashed in this proto-Byzantine period In the sixth century, they existed simultaneously in Alexandria represented by John Philoponus and Cosmas Indicopleustes, for which see W Wolska-Conus 1962 On the respective cosmologies of these two and the longevity of Cosmas' view in the Middle Ages, see ibid., pp 147-192, especially 182-183.

35 This is necessary to emphasize since Clermont-Ganneau, strangely enough, thought that one of the mosaics in Santa Maria Maggiore represented Moses looking at the Promised Land from Mt Nebo He went on to argue that if an artist in Rome crafted this scene, what was more natural than that the same scene should have been crafted in the Madaba region itself, where Moses actually saw the Promised Land according to Deuteronomy; see Clermont-Ganneau, op cit., p 244.
Guided by Clermont-Ganneau's reference to Garrucci on Santa Maria Maggiore, I traced this reference and found that the mosaic does not represent what Clermont-Ganneau had thought but something else, namely, Moses' handing over the Book of Deuteronomy to the Levites before he ascended Mt Nebo, where he is presented as resting on his left elbow after he died; and all this is clearly visible in the illustration to which he refers, (Tav XXCC, 3) The annotation on the mosaic, however, may have misled him with its veduta la terra promessa But this does not refer to anything in the mosaic; it only summarizes Deuteronomy 34:1-4 The annotation reads:
3 (Ciampini, LX, 2) Con questa scena si pone termine alla istoria di Mose, il quale avendo consegnato il libro detto Deuteronomio, o sia seconda legge, ai Liviti, perche il riponessero accanto all'arca del Testameneto, sali sul monte Nebo, come Iddio volle, perche veduta la terra promessa chiudesse i suoi giorni nel riposo dei giusti (Deut XXXII, 49, 50; XXXIV, 5) E riposo di fatti chiama la Scrittura una tal morte; alla quale idea attenendosi l'artista, il rappresento sull'alta vetta del Nebo, che ebbe nome Fasga, in atto di giacere tranquillamente appoggiato sul gomito sinistro.
See Garrucci 1877, vol IV, tavola CCXX, 3 This mistake was repeated by R T O'Callaghan in his article in the Dictionnaire de la Bible (Supplement), fasc 26, (1953), col 703 So, the Madaba Mosaic Map is truly unique I should like to thank warmly Professor Dale Kinney of Bryn Mawr College for helping me trace the reference in Clermont-Ganneau to Garrucci, whose work was inaccessible to me.

36 The Dura Synagogue is the exception that proves the rule.

37 See Ullendorff 1967, (Oxford University Press, 1968).

This contribution was first published in: The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 147-154.

logo logo

Created Saturday, December 16, 2000 at 11:32:00
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
Webmaster: John Abela ofm - Space by courtesy of Christus Rex
copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000