Center Director Jeffrey Shoulson recently spoke at the Boston University Jewish Studies Research Forum and the BU Program in Scripture and the Arts on February 13, 2017. The seminar entitled "Mapping and Unmapping Jewish History in Early Modern Bibles" examined the role played by maps depicting the Holy Land and other biblical locations—printed in Bibles as well as in other accounts of the region—in the construction of spaces construed as “Jewish."
Synopsis: Maps first appeared in printed Bibles nearly fifty years after the first illustrated, printed Bible was produced in 1483. In the century that followed, maps became an increasingly common supplement to the new Bible translations proliferating throughout Europe. Those Bibles that contained maps were overwhelmingly Protestant editions. Not surprisingly, the new emphasis Reformers placed on the literal/historical reading of Scripture sought and found support from the visual depictions of the geography of biblical texts. And nowhere was the spread and popularity of biblical maps during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries greater than in England. As the English Reformation progressed, the visualization of the Holy Land and its inhabitants functioned as a site for contested claims about a Jewish past and present that could be aligned with or distinguished from varieties of English Protestant identity.