Building a Better Twenty-First Century Christian– Thoughts on Real Independence

As it becomes increasingly clear that even in America the culture is moving increasingly away from Christian ethical and theological standards of all sorts, instead of ringing our hands and ushering cries of dismay, it would be better to think about how we can best do the same thing as first century Christians did--- namely become counter culture Christians who only affirm those values of the larger culture that comport with Christianity. If there is something true, good, honorable, excellent … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Thirteen

There are many sites in Israel where the tour guides will take you, and sometimes they will and sometimes they won't say 'this is the site where, according to tradition....X took place'. You should be wary of such claims. Sometimes, as at a site like Caesarea Philippi, you know you're in the right spot, and Jesus and the gang was there. Sometimes not so much. Below is a picture taken from on the Sea of Galilee of Tabgha (right end of the picture right at the shoreline) with the cliffs of … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Twelve

Certainly one of the most important sites to visit, if one wants to understand a text like Mk. 8.27-30 and its Matthean parallel is Banias or Panyas (the city of Pan) which was a Greek city Romanized by Herod Philip and renamed Caesarea Philippi. Today it is in the far north of Israel, but in Jesus' day it was a largely pagan city on the periphery of the Holy Land. And this leads to the question why in the world Jesus would take his disciples north of Galilee to a place like that in order to … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Eleven

By now the story is old news. Sea of Galilee reaches all time low ebb. First century fishing boat found in the mud near Nof Ginnosar (a kibbutz). Boat carefully extracted from the mud using space age foam. Boat cleaned, and then immersed in a liquid wax bath to hold the thing together. Problem, how to then remove the wax from the surface. Solution--- wax eating goldfish! Only problem is, they become wax goldfish! 'Look Mommy what is that dead gold thing next to the boat.... tell me it's … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Ten

After a quick lunch of Shwarma (seasoned shaved meat, usually beef these days, but traditionally lamb) and veggies on pita bread with special sauce (yummmm), we moved on to the city just over the hill from Nazareth, namely Sepphoris, to have a look at the synagogue there the one with the astrological symbols and OT stories in the mosaics on the floor.Here's how the archaeologists envisioned this 2nd century A.D. synagogue must have looked.Here is an overview schematic of … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel, Part Nine

There was a day when some more radical scholars were denying the existence of synagogue buildings in the first century, until Lee Levine and others put that myth to rest. We will be talking about the new find of the synagogue at Migdal in a later post, but here we get to look at the re-created one at Nazareth Village. Most ancient buildings, including synagogues did not have conventional windows, though they might have sky lights of a sort, but otherwise most of the light came in through the … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Eight

Among the other interesting features of Nazareth Village is the watchtower, where a villager would watch to protect the town from predators both human and animalThere is also a cave tomb to be seen here...In the back of the tomb are niches, where ossuaries, or bone boxes, could be placed.There are traditional trades to be viewed, such as wood-working, and dying of cloth. Of course the word tekton, means a craftsman, and it can be in stone or wood. No guarantee Jesus was a … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Seven

Ah viticulture. The making of wine is a very ancient practice indeed, and yes it was fermented, so yes it was alcoholic, though we are not sure just how strong it was. The process of making wine involved of course the picking of the grapes when ripe, and then the stomping of them. But here's the thing.... you need to be barefoot and you need to gently step on them so the juice will flow out into the trough, and down into the basin below. Otherwise you lose too much of the precious grape … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Six

Modern day Nazareth is nothing like the little village Jesus knew, as you can see from this picture. But fortunately, you can go to Nazareth and have an experience of what it might have been like to visit Jesus' home town if you visit Nazareth village, right in the middle of town. Built on the grounds where the old YMCA used to be, Nazareth Village is a re-creation village, somewhat like colonial Williamsburg. Here you run into first century shepherding, agriculture, wood-working, … [Read more...]