We spent much of the morning walking through the extensive ruins of Beit She‘an, the only city of the New Testament “Decapolis” that is located on the western side of the Jordan River — and the place where the bodies of Saul and his son Jonathan were displayed by the Philistines after the men of the Israelite ruling family were wiped out at the foot of nearby Mount Gilboa. Fortunately, the weather was overcast today, and we even felt a few drops of rain once or twice; Beit She‘an can sometimes be rather like a blast furnace.
From Beit She‘an, we drove up to Yardenit, a site on the Jordan immediately south of the Sea of Galilee (and very near Kibbutz Deganya Alef, where I spent two highly instructive weeks back in 1978). I dislike Yardenit quite a bit. First of all, because there is no possible way that it’s actually the site of John’s baptism of Jesus. That event occurred much further south, near Jericho; I think the Jordanian site has a very good chance of being authentic. But secondly, and much more importantly, because the site is run by an Israeli kibbutz that commercializes Christian baptisms and runs a souvenir shop there with decidedly tacky stuff aimed at the Evangelical market. It just turns me off. But it’s quiet, rather pretty, and allows direct access to the river, so I tolerate it.
We had a lunch of “St. Peter’s fish,” a breed of tilapia, up the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee at a place called En Gev. Students from BYU’s Jerusalem Center regularly stay there for a couple of weeks as they do the Galilean part of their curriculum. (When I was first there, I lived in a tent.) It’s at En Gev that they sing a modified Christian song: “I Swam Today Where Jesus Walked.”
Then we drove past Bethsaida and Chorazin to one of my very favorite sites: Capernaum. Very nearly two years ago, I wrote in the Deseret News about my favorite specific site in Capernaum’s excavated ruins, and I remain very impressed by it:
We ended our tour with a stop at the Church of Peter’s Primacy at Tabgha, located on the traditional site of the events in the last chapter of John, which, Catholics believe — and I see no particular reason to disagree with them on this — reaffirm that apostle’s place as leader of the Christian movement.
Finally, in the evening, Jack Welch gave a bonus fireside on (a) the parable of the Good Samaritan as a summary of the plan of salvation and (b) the story of his discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon.
I’m still very tired in the evenings, though, and we have an early and long day tomorrow, so I think I’m going to let this suffice.
Posted from Tiberias, Israel.