God's Geography Header


[Map from the Perry Castenada Library,
Courtesy The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin]

Italy is the most obvious geographical symbol in the world. It's a large boot, and in this study we'll try to understand why, at least in part. We'll also look at Italy's island of Sicily.

[Image 08162003 courtesy NASA's Earthobservatory]

The general shape of Sicily is triangular which is reflected in its ancient name of Trinacrion that means 'three points'. Sicily is about 170 miles long on its northern and south-western coasts, and 120 miles on its eastern coast. It's very mountainous, and its most famous mountain is also a volcano called Mt. Etna. Sicily is separated from the toe of Italy by the Strait of Messina which is only 2 miles wide at its narrowest point. It was through this strait that the apostle Paul passed on his way to Rome in Acts 28 after they left the isle of Malta:

11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.

Syracuse was on Sicily.

13 And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli.

Rhegium was on the boot (I assume at modern day Reggio). And the narrow point between them is in the shape of a very sharp prick against which the toe of Italy is kicking:

Paul's journey to Sicily

Paul is also associated with a prick during his conversion in Acts 9 which he recounted in chapter 26 just prior to his journey to Rome:

13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.' 15 And I said, 'Who art Thou, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest.'

The basic point is that sometimes God's children get in His way, and only end up hurting Him and themselves. It's like kicking against a sharp object such as a prick on a cactus. Up to that point, Paul was working against God. Here's a closeup of the Sicilian prick:

Sicilian prick
[Image STS-090-715-060 courtesy Earth Sciences and Image Analysis,
NASA-Johnson Space Center Astronaut Photography of Earth]

The Greek word for 'prick' is kentron (Strong's Concordance #2759), from which comes our word 'centre'. It is also a 'point' or a 'sting' or a 'goad' (a cattle prod such as a stick with a nail on the end). It literally refers to the center of a circle or the prick of a compass. So if you kick the prick or center, you mess up your whole circle; you lose your focal point. I think that's why Jesus asked Paul, "why persecutest thou Me?" It's as though Paul was kicking at our Lord.


This takes us to the next step, Mt. Etna.

Mt. Etna

Mt. Etna is Europe's tallest and largest volcano, and one of the world's most active. It's over 10,700 feet high and covers more than 600 square miles. Locally, Mt. Etna it is known as the Devil of Sicily because it erupts so often; spewing forth Hell's fury I suppose. Here's an image of Etna's eruption in July of 2001:

Mt. Etna erupting
[Courtesy the NOAA; larger version at the Naval Research Laboratory]

I believe the presence of this volcano near the prick is intended to illustrate the burning pain of a thorn. It's another visual clue, helping us to get the message about kicking a prick. Don't work against God.

Part 2

2006 God's Geography
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