(At the Parking Lot)
“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left” (Luke 23:33).
“And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull…then they crucified Him” (Matthew 27:33-35).
Visitors coming to tour Jerusalem learn rather quickly that it is a modern, living city. While our biblical knowledge of Jerusalem forever seals it in the past, ancient and timeless, unchanged and undisturbed, today’s reality is quite different. The blare of car horns, hordes of tourists, electronic technology and modern architecture compete with ancient ritual, bearded men, cloaked women and sites where holy events took place. If ever there is a dichotomy of space and time, it is Jerusalem with its contrast of old and new, sacred and profane, reverent and blasphemous. Continue reading » The Land of Jesus: “There They Crucified Him…” (Luke 23:33)
“This magnificent city, built by Herod the Great on the site of Strato’s Tower, stood on the Mediterranean shore 37 kilometres south of Mount Carmel and about 100 kilometres north-west of Jerusalem. Named in honour of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, it was the Roman metropolis of Judaea and the official residence both of the Herodian kings and the Roman procurators.” (Baker Encyclopedia of Bible Places, page 74).
The beautiful city of Caesarea was a very important place during New Testament times. The city stood on a busy caravan trade route between Tyre and Egypt. Though the city had no natural harbor, it nevertheless was a center for maritime trade as well. Herod the Great, when he constructed the city, built a remarkable “artificial” harbor to protect boats from stormy seas. The elaborate structure was built with materials that call to mind the concrete of our day. Volcanic ash was the major ingredient of the building material, and it proved itself to be remarkably resiliant. In fact, the walls remain to this day, though the remnant is below the level of the water, and is difficult to see from shore. Herod was a prolific builder, and the construction he mandated was characterized by the grandeur and beauty of Hellenistic influences. Continue reading » Caesarea
As long as days come and go, breezes will refresh the ancient places along the shores of fertile Galilee and the ruins of old Capernaum, the city Jesus knew so well. Matthew 4:13, “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali.” In the Bible this deep, freshwater, pear shaped lake was known by several other names as well: Lake Kinneret, Lake Gennesaret, and the Sea of Tiberias. A very unusual feature of Galilee is that it is 686 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea. Though not huge it is of respectable size in that it measures 13 miles from north to south and 7 miles from east to west with a total of 64 square miles of surface area. The Jordan River flows into Galilee from Syria and continues south from Galilee and is the main source of fresh water for the entire region. Bountiful farming and fishing have been the main reward for living in this very uncharacteristic area of the Middle East. Jesus Himself left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13-17). Capernaum was even claimed by the Lord as “His own city” in Matthew 9:1. Continue reading » Capernaum
Caesarea Philippi was located in northern Palestine, on the southern slopes of Mount Hermon. This town was located near the most eastern source of the Jordan river. There has been a city in existence on this site since Old Testament days. In Joshua’s day, it was not know by the name “Caesarea Philippi,” but probably known as “BaalGad” (Josh. 11:16-19). In later years, the Greeks conquered this land, and the city became a center of worship to the Greek god Pan. Pan was the Greek god of forests, pastures, flocks, and shepherds; represented with the head, arms, and chest of a man, and the legs, ears and horns of a goat. In honor to their god, the Greeks named the city “Paneas.” After the Romans conquered the Greeks, Augustus Caesar gave the town to Herod the Great. Herod then built a marble temple and dedicated it to the Roman emperor in 20 BC. Herod’s son Philip enlarged the city, renaming it Caesarea, to honor Augustus. By the first century, this town was called Caesarea Philippi in order to distinguish it from the seaport and capital, Caesarea Martina. In medieval times (1120 AD) the Crusaders built a castle on a mountain spur about 1,150 feet above the Jordan’s primary source and called it “The Castle of Subeibeh.”
Caesarea Philippi is known today as Banias. In 1983, the Israeli Department of Antiquities began archaeological excavations. In their digs, they have found artifacts dating back to the early Roman period. Massive underground systems of vaulted Roman buildings have been discovered, as well as other amazing artifacts. The marble temple built by Herod has not yet been discovered, but three coins that picture the structure, along with numerous other coins depicting the worship of Pan, have been unearthed. Caesarea Philippi certainly played a part in the early history of the world. Continue reading » Caesarea Philippi
It is located west of the Dead Sea in Judah. It is mountainous. It is almost completely devoid of any vegetation. It boasts an annual rainfall of less than 2 inches. Still, it is the home of nomadic Bedouin families whose lifestyles remain almost unchanged over several thousand years. It is perhaps the most striking terrestrial feature of this small, but geographically varied land. It is the Wilderness of Judea. Seeing the land brings to sharp focus various events which transpired in Bible history. From the wanderings of the Israelites in similar rugged terrain, to the temptation of Jesus before he began his public ministry, the Wilderness holds a position of drama in Bible history.
During a trip to Israel in March of 1999, I had opportunity to travel by bus from Jerusalem, along the Dead Sea, all the way south to Massada. That day I had the opportunity to put my hand in the mineral saturated water of the Dead Sea. I ascended via cable car the face of the mountain upon which the ruins of Herod’s great fortress (Massada) sits. I had opportunity to see the caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were stored by the sect of the Essenes, and eventually discovered (according to the most reliable sources) by a Bedouin shepherd boy in the 1940’s. I saw the ruins of Jericho, and traversed the “Jericho Road” on the way back to Jerusalem. All of these places impressed me deeply. However, I think the most impressive aspect of that day was the miles and miles of unending desolation that we traversed by bus. I looked at that landscape, and was able to understand better what our Lord must have gone through as He “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Continue reading » The Wilderness of Judea
Just the name conjurs up Biblical scenes to the mind and a desire to be there where God walked among men. Aside from being a prominent site in Biblical history, the Jordan river is truly a natural phenomenon. The word Jordan, from the Hebrew ha-yarden, most probably means descender or descending – and is it any wonder? The Jordan descends lower than any river in the world! The stream’s inception is in the hills of Mt. Hermon, which peaks at 9,100 ft. Descending to Lake Huleh in northern Palestine, the Jordan assumes an altitude of 230 feet. above sea level. During the next 11 miles, the river will drop 900 feet at a rate of over 80 feet per mile before emptying into the Sea of Galilee. The trip is not yet over as the Jordan descends yet another 600 feet over a course of 65 miles where it empties it’s contents into the Dead Sea at an altitude of 1290 feet below sea level. Though the distance by air between these two major lakes is but 65 miles, the river’s snaking path leads it on a course of 200 miles to the salty sea. Two of the Jordans’ greatest tributaries are the Yarmuk and the Jabbok which enter the river south of Galilee and from the east. Continue reading » The Jordan River
“…Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Mark. 1:14-18). So begins the remarkable, but short, life of Jesus in Galilee as he began the ministry which led to his crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and coronation as King of Kings.
Born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7), just outside Jerusalem, Jesus was raised in Nazareth (after his sojourn in Egypt to escape Herod, Mt. 2:13-15, 23; Lk.2:39-40) and remained there until the time of his baptism. After the death of John, Jesus moved to Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and began to preach the “good news” of the coming Kingdom. Continue reading » The Sea of Galilee
Several months ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel for a tour of the land. We truly traveled from “Dan to Beersheba,” and all points in between. We spent the first full day of our tour driving up the coast from the modern capital of Tel-Aviv. We visited Joppa, Caesarea, and looked over the countryside from the top of Mt. Carmel. We also traveled to the Jewish necropolis, (city of the dead), Beit-She’arim. We went to the ancient city of Akko (Acre), which was known as Ptolemais in the time of the Apostle Paul, who visited there (cf. Acts 21:7). Our first day ended at the Sea of Galilee, where we spent the night in Tiberias, on the western shore. Continue reading » Theme Editorial