Matthew's Geographical Frame of Reference
The Gospel of Matthew, in general, had a broader geographic span than the Gospel of Mark. Some noticeable contributing factors are:
- Matthew's gospel recounts Jesus' birth, with references to Bethlehem and the flight to Egypt -- a time period in Jesus' life that Mark did not cover.
- Matthew provides basic orientation in history and ancestry, a common-enough feature of Jewish narratives, and so mentions Babylon.
- Matthew sees the events as taking place in a certain Jewish religious prophetic context, and so mentions the designated territories of the ancient tribes where we find much of the action of his narrative: in the land of Judah, the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali. It's arguable that the land of Judah was essentially a precursor to Judea, so "land of Judah" was combined with Judea on this map.
- Matthew provides more "red letter" text of Jesus' conversations, where Jesus makes reference to Nineveh, Sodom, and Gomorrah -- so there are conversational mentions of places that are not directly connected to a person or event in the narrative. I'm aware that there's debate not only over the placement of Sodom and Gomorrah, but even over their historicity; those debates are beyond the scope of this post where the question is more simply: what would the earliest readers of Matthew's gospel have thought?
Here, in the details of the maps, we see the beginnings of a trend: the further away a place is located (from the perspective of the original author), the more likely we are to have the place referenced by the name of a larger geographic territory, while the closer a place is (from the original author's perspective), the more likely the author is to include names of smaller regions, specific cities or towns, and landmarks such as gardens and specific individual buildings.