The Pilgrimage: Israel, Part Twenty One

Like most tours of the city of Jerusalem, we started at the top of the Mt. of Olives, because of course, that's where the vendors take the pictures of a group with the Dome of the Rock and the old city lurching in the background. It is a nice view from in front of the Seven Arches Hotel (a sad old place at this point), but the shots taken from lower down the hill at the chapel known as Dominus Flevit (the Lord wept) are just as grand, and closer to the old city as well. Check out these … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Twenty

On the way up to Jerusalem, we passed through Jericho briefly, long enough to see a giant Sycamore tree (not old enough to be climbed by Zaccheus, but you get the mental image),We then went up the old Roman road to Wadi Quelt, a wadi is a dry river bed, and in this case we are talking about a deep ravine into the wall of which was built St. George's monastery.....It's one of my favorite places to be at sunrise or sunset, just across the ravine from the monastery, on a hill overlooking it. … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Nineteen

What would a trip to the Dead Sea be without a dip in the Dead Sea, perhaps with the help of a coat of protective mud....So you run into the mud people...Our Yuliya decided just to dip her toes into the chemical bath which is the Dea Sea (honestly its rather slimy and requires a quick shower. It's good point--- you can't sink). It was also about 100 degrees, not surprising at the lowest point on earth.If the Dead Sea is not your cup of tea (and I hope it isn't-- you can't … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Eighteen

The ride through the desert (not on a horse with no name please--- it's too hot) is a long one to get to Masada, especially from Galilee where we started the day. You can however see the bluff from a great distance as you ride along beside the every dwindling Salt Sea (can you say, too much mining by the Ahava cream people?).The famous Israeli warrior turned archaeologist, Yigal Yadin was originally responsible for the dig here, and he is commemorated in the entrance building to the … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel, Part Seventeen

Our next destination as we head south to Qumran and the Dead Sea is Beth Shean/Scythopolis, or more properly speaking, just the latter. There isn't time to do both in one day. Scythopolis or the city of the Scythians (I'll let you look them up. They are mentioned in passing in the NT). This is the only city of the Decapolis, the league of ten Greek cities, that is within the traditional borders of Israel. It is a further reminder of how Hellenized Israel was long before Jesus was born. This … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Sixteen

Our next place to visit is Migdal or Magdala, the hometown of you know who. Our previous mental image of a quaint little impoverished fishing village has been completely blown out of the water by the recent excellent archaeological work done on this site. Kudos to the team. My group was fortunate enough to have Richard Bauckham (who was there at the time) to come give an excellent lecture on what has been found at Migdal.... which is to say, a considerable synagogue (which Jesus may have … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Fifteen

Unlike at Tabgha, when you get to Capernaum (the ancient name is Kefer Nahum, which means the village of the prophet Nahum) you have arrived at a spot where it is certain Jesus did a variety of things. This was his home base once the Galilean ministry started (notice for instance the end of the Cana wedding feast story, where they go down to Capernaum after the celebration). It would appear that he stayed in the home of Peter's mother-in-law (which of course means Peter was married, like the … [Read more...]

The Pilgrimage: Israel Part Fourteen

Bethsaida was the home of Peter, and Andrew, and Philip. It is today an important archaeological site dug by Rami Arav and company. But before we got there we had some lunch at St. Pete's restaurant, and when we left we discovered a hyrax climbing a interesting critter to say the least. Imagine a ground hog out on a limb...It's amazing the lengths some will go to have a tasty bit of lunch...Just to review here is a map to show you where Bethsaida is, right at the … [Read more...]

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...]