I’ve got to catch up here. I vowed to myself that I would, at a minimum, keep up a running account of our adventures here in the Holy Land. But I’ve scarcely been able to sustain even that minimum. Jet lag continues to intervene, on top of a very full schedule and the typical internet problems occasioned by travel in foreign places. And, every night, I hit a wall of fatigue.
But I’m going to try to cover yesterday and today in this post, however cursorily.
We started yesterday off with an hour-long boat ride (in a private vessel) out on the Sea of Galilee. It’s always helpful to stand out off shore a bit and look at Tiberias, Migdal, Capernaum, Bethsaida, and etc. People begin to see how very small the world of Jesus’ Galilean ministry was, and to understand their Bible maps. We set out from Tiberias, just a short walk from our rooms at The Scots Hotel, and landed northwards at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, where we had a look at the so-called “Jesus boat,” a fishing vessel allegedly dating to roughly the first century that was discovered in the muck along the shore of the lake when the still-continuing drought had lowered the water level and exposed it.
I spoke to the group there, and then again at the Mount of Beatitudes, not far away:
From Benito Mussolini’s Chapel of the Beatitudes — beat that one for irony — we drove up into the north of Israel, near the border with Lebanon and Syria, to one of my personal favorite sites in the Holy Land: Banias or Caesarea Philippi. Perhaps, at some point in the future, I’ll explain why I enjoy this place so much, and why I think its physical character so helpfully illuminates the relevant New Testament text:
Then we drove southward again — I’m in no particular mood to go into Syria at the moment! — past the ruins of Chorazin and Bethsaida, past Gadara (of demonic-swine fame) and Gamla (famous for its martyrs during the first Jewish revolt and for the fact that the famous Jewish historian Josephus, umm, failed to be martyred there) for a lunch of “St. Peter’s fish” (a freshwater tilapia) at Kibbutz En Gev. And, from En Gev, we drove to the ruins of ancient Capernaum, the home of Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, and Jesus. (Just slightly more than two years ago, after a previous visit to Capernaum, I published an article about it in the Deseret News.)
We had planned to visit Tabgha and the Wadi al-Hammam, as well, but the weather was simply too hot and humid, and we decided to go home, instead. After a rest, we had another excellent meal in a restaurant in Tiberias. The group we’re with enjoy good food, and it’s good to be with them.
Some had planned to go waterskiing very early this morning, but that plan proved a bit impractical. So we awakened, had breakfast, and headed up through Cana (where there was once a wedding feast, long ago) to Nazareth, where we visited the beautiful modern Catholic Church of the Annunciation, built over a traditional site for the home of Joseph and Mary. I’m something of a skeptic about “holy sites,” but ancient Nazareth was so small that, in my view, this small complex of ruins could well be the actual place. In any event, the real location can’t be too far away.
We went next to Mount Precipice, the traditional location where a mob from Nazareth tried to throw Jesus off the cliff. It offers a spectacular view of the Jezreel Valley (= the Valley of Armageddon), Mount Tabor (a traditional site for the Transfiguration), Nain, Mount Carmel, and so forth. Then we drove past the spectacular Tel Megiddo, but the vote was that it was too hot to stop there.
Up onto Mount Carmel, we discussed the contest between Elijah and the priests of Baal, and then had a falafel lunch in a Druze-owned restaurant.
Our last visit for the day was to the spectacular seaside ruins of Caesarea Maritima, the ancient Roman capital for the province of Judea, seat of the procurators Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus, where Paul defended himself before King Agrippa and where, earlier, Peter, coming up the coast from Joppa (or Jaffa, or Yafo), baptized the Gentile centurion Cornelius, thus paving the way for Christianity to spread throughout the Mediterranean (and go well beyond being merely a small schismatic Jewish sect).
Finally, up into the mountains, back to Jerusalem and to our very nice hotel on King David Street. Later. our group met with my long-time friend and colleague Kent Jackson, currently serving as associate director of BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, for an excellent seafood dinner in a nearby restaurant.
This place is endlessly interesting.
Posted from Jerusalem, Israel.