2019 Israel Trip – Day 7

Our final day in Israel was a whirlwind.  We went from a full day of touring to our farewell dinner, then almost immediately to the airport and (for me) 25 hours of travel (including layovers, flights, and driving).  Consequently, I’m only now able to upload the photos for Day 7.

Israel Museum

Our last day included stops at two major museums in Jerusalem.  The first is the Israel Museum.  It includes two major exhibits – a model of the city of Jerusalem at the time of the 2nd temple (1st century before 70 AD) and the Shrine of the Book which displays fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Unfortunately, photography is not permitted in the Shrine of the Book.  However, it has long been a dream of mine to visit this museum and see the Isaiah scroll.  It was amazing.

Here are shots of the huge scale model of the 1st century city of Jerusalem and the 2nd temple.P1040411

This is a view of the city from the north.P1040412 P1040413 P1040414

Here is the Pool of BethesdaP1040415

The original “Golden Gate” in the eastern wall of the city.P1040416 P1040417

The Antonia fortress where Pilate conducted Jesus’ trial.P1040418

A view of the Golden Gate and the temple from the Mount of Olives.P1040420 P1040421

The Southern Steps and the Hulda gateP1040422 P1040423

Robinson’s Arch (at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount)P1040424

A view of the city from the south.  The City of David with the Pool of Siloam at the extreme southern end.P1040426

The Pool of Siloam.  Note the Herodian street that can be traveled all the way from the pool to the Temple Mount.P1040427 P1040428 P1040429

A view of the city from the west.P1040431 P1040433

In the lower right corner you can see the gate traditionally thought to be the one from which Jesus exited the city while on his way to His crucifixion.  The “rock” in the lower left corner is the representation of the traditional site of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified.  Closeup photos follow.P1040434 P1040436 P1040438

More shots of the model from various anglesP1040442 P1040443 P1040444 P1040445 P1040446 P1040449 P1040450 P1040452 P1040454

Exterior shot of the Shrine of the BookP1040456

The theology of the Essenes, who lived at Qumran and were responsible for copying and hiding the scrolls now known as the Dead Sea scrolls, concentrated on the ongoing war between the Sons of Light (themselves) and the Sons of Darkness.  Directly facing the Shrine of the Book is the black wall that represents the Sons of Darkness.P1040459

After the Israel Museum, we visited Yad Vashem, the Israel Holocaust Museum.  No photography is permitted inside Yad Vashem.  I strongly encourage people to visit the museum if they travel to Jerusalem.  It is very powerful.

Jaffa Gate – Old City; Christian Quarter

After finishing with the Museums, we went to the Old City near the Jaffa gate to have lunch and do some shopping in the Christian quarter.P1040460

David’s Tomb & The Upper Room

These buildings are “traditional” sites for the tomb of David and the location of the upper room (where Jesus held the Last Supper with His disciples).  There is no evidence that David is buried here, and even the Jews don’t believe it is so.P1040462 P1040464 P1040465

All of the architecture is from the Crusader period.  You can see from the stained glass windows that the crusader church was converted into a mosque.P1040467 P1040468

This is the entrance to “David’s Tomb”.  It now houses a YeshivaP1040470

On our way to the next site, one of the people in our tour pointed out this wall.  It’s the wall that divides Jerusalem from the West Bank.P1040471

House of Caiaphas

This church is the site of Caiaphas’s house.  Caiaphas was the High Priest who tried Jesus.P1040472 P1040474

This path is likely the route taken when temple guards brought Jesus from His arrest at the Garden of Gethsemene to the House of Caiaphas to be tried before the High Priest.  These are first century paving stones.P1040476

Beneath the current church, there are underground caves.  Jesus was imprisoned here overnight after his trial before Caiaphas before being tried before Pilate at the Antonia fortress.P1040478 P1040479 P1040480

We’re standing in the lowest level cave.P1040481

Looking up you can see the hole where Jesus was likely lowered by a rope into this pit.P1040482

Golgotha and the Garden Tomb

Our final stop was at the “alternate” location for the crucifixtion and burial of Jesus – the Garden Tomb.  Most evangelicals (myself among them) believe this is a more likely site for these events than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for the following reasons: (1) It is outside the city, (2) it is in proximity to a rocky hill that (even after centuries of erosion) still has the appearance of a skull, (3) it is located along a road, and (4) is the location of an early Christian baptistry and winepress.

No matter which site is “authentic” the important thing to remember is that Jesus is NOT in the tomb.  He is risen from the dead and we await his second coming as King!P1040483 P1040484

This is a photo our guide showed us (from several years ago).  Here you can clearly see the “skull” in the rock formation (two eyes and nose are particularly prominent).P1040489

This photo is from today.  Erosion has taken it’s toll.  The “skull” formation is at the right.  A large portion of the “nose” has fallen away, but the “eyes” are still clearly visible.P1040493

The site (except for the rock wall/hill” is privately owned by a Scottish missionary agency.  That’s one of the reasons why no large church has ever been built here.  They made a conscious decision to retain the site as close to its original state as possible.  The guides that take you through the site are faithful to share the Gospel story and the hope of the resurrection with tour groups.P1040496

The exterior of the garden tomb.P1040498

The adjacent winepressP1040499

The tomb contains three alcoves where bodies would be placed: left, center, and rightP1040500 P1040501 P1040502

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2019 Israel Trip – Day 6

These first few photos are actually from last night (Day 5), but it was too late to post when we got back to the hotel.

Western Wall

The lowest level of the western wall of the Temple Mount consists of foundation stones (Herodian) from the time of Jesus.


Under the old city, running parallel to the western wall is a tunnel with several openings and rooms.  What is now a tunnel actually follows a 1st-century Herodian road that starts at the Pool of Siloam and runs all the way to the Temple Mount and followed the Western wall.

This single stone is nearly 48 feet long and has been chiseled as a single piece of limestone (part of the Herodian foundation).  The stones are set on top of each other without mortar.P1040285 P1040287

At one point you can look down (from the bridge inside the tunnel) and see that the foundation of the temple mount goes nearly forty feet below the original, first-century street level (which is already well below the modern street level)P1040292 P1040295

Note how precisely these huge stones fit together.  The level of engineering is amazing.P1040296

The walkway in the tunnel has several “windows” in the floor that allow you to look down.  Here you can see stones from the 1st century temple that were thrown down during it’s destruction in 70 AD.  If you look closely you can see evidence of burning on some of them.P1040297

The tunnel comes to an end where the 1st century street originally ended . The paving stones we’re standing on are Herodian (first century).P1040300 P1040301 P1040302


You must first traverse modern Jericho to reach the excavations of the site of ancient Jericho.  Here is one of many mosques in the city.P1040305

This fountain greets visitors to the site of ancient Jericho, which claims to be the oldest city in the world.P1040307 P1040311

This is the remains of a tower that also functions as a mausoleum.  P1040315

On the hills overlooking Jericho is a monastery.  It actually projects back into the mountain.P1040319 P1040320 P1040322

Remains of another tower that anchored a portion of the city wall.P1040326

This is an example of a “double-wall”.  Between the inner and outer walls there were rooms where guards and the poor resided.  This is the type of dwelling where Rehab lived (in the wall).P1040329 P1040330

Climbing down from the telP1040331

We visited a very interesting ministry in Jericho called Seeds of Hope.  They provide education and activities for children in the city, regardless of their religion.P1040333 P1040334 P1040335

Ein Gedi

Deep in the Judean wilderness, near the Dead Sea there is an amazing oasis.  It was here that David hid in caves while Saul was pursuing him.P1040339 P1040341 P1040343

There is plenty of wildlife in Ein Gedi.  These little guys (hyrex) were everywhere.  They look something like a groundhog, but they are great tree climbers.P1040345 P1040346

The “lower” falls at Ein GediP1040348

The cliffs surrounding the oasis are riddled with caves.P1040352 P1040353


An ancient fortress in the far south of the country, adjacent to the Dead Sea, Massada is most famous for the last stand of Jewish rebels against the Roman 10th legion.  Before that time, it was one of a string of fortresses constructed by Herod.  The ruins of one of his palaces is here.

You can walk up the “snake trail” to reach Massada, but old guys like me prefer to take the cable car to the top.

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Even after a long cable-car ride, there’s still more walking uphill.  Whew!P1040362 P1040364 P1040365 P1040366

It’s certainly worth it for the magnificent view of the Judean wilderness and the lower portion of the Dead Sea.P1040370 P1040372 P1040374 P1040378 P1040380

Here’s Vince and Gretta, one of the couples in our group.P1040386 P1040388

On the back (west) side of Massada the dropoff is less severe.  Here you can see the remains (unexcavated) of the Roman encampment.P1040391 P1040393

This is what remains of the earthen ramp that the Romans constructed in order to reach the city and eventually batter down it’s gates.P1040397

This is a synagogue on the summit of MassadaP1040400

These are the ruins of a Byzantine church constructed on the site.P1040403

One of the floors of the church has a beautiful and nearly-intact mosaic floor.P1040407 P1040408

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2019 Israel Trip – Day 5


View of the Temple Mount (with the Dome of the Rock) from the top of the Mount of Olives.

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The Dome of the RockP1040156

The Al-Aqsa mosque (on the south end of the Temple Mount)P1040162

The Golden Gate (east wall of the temple mount).  It’s been sealed and a Muslim cemetery placed in front of it.P1040165

Dominus Flevit Church

Bone boxes (Ossuaries).  In Jewish burial, the body is wrapped in a shroud until it completely decays.  Eventually, when on the bones remain, they are gathered and placed into an ossuary for final burial.P1040167

This photo is taken from the traditional location where Jesus stopped and wept over the city.  In the foreground is the largest Jewish cemetery in the world (located on the Mount of Olives)

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Garden of Gethsemane

Inside the private side of the Garden of GethsemaneP1040178

Worship and devotions inside the Garden of GethsemaneP1040181 P1040183

Olive trees in the Garden.  Of course, this is the Mount of Olives!P1040184 P1040185

The Old City of Jerusalem

Here we’re entering the city through the “Lion Gate” (also known as Stephen’s Gate)P1040190

This is the church of Saint Anne.  It is immediately adjacent to the biblical site of the Pool of Bethesda.  It is known for it’s amazing accoustics.P1040192 P1040196

Our small group sang a hymn and it sounded like a 100-person choir!P1040197

The Pool of Bethesda

This is the sight of one of Jesus many miracles, where he healed a lame man.  The ruins are of a church that was constructed over the poolP1040198 P1040199 P1040200 P1040202 P1040203 P1040204

Another exterior shot of the church of Saint AnneP1040206

Via Delorosa (The Way of the Cross)

We’re moving to the first station on the Via Delorosa.  The (now destroyed) Antonia Fortress would have been located immediately to our left.P1040207

Our guide shows us a model of 1st century Jerusalem.  The building we are standing in is built on top of the court outside the Antonia Fortress, where Jesus was tried before Pontius PilateP1040209 P1040210

Beneath the church is the original first-century court of the Antonia FortressP1040211

This lighted paving stone is inscribed with a game that Roman soldiers played with prisoners – essentially heads you die, tails you die.P1040212

It is believed this is the location where Jesus was forced to pick up his cross and begin His journey to the place of execution.  Those are first century paving stones.P1040213

That moment is depicted in a tile mosaic adjacent to the site.P1040214

Continuing along the Via DelorosaP1040215

At this site it’s thought that Simon the Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus’ cross for HimP1040217

This is the entrance to the square in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  It is traditionally the site where Jesus was crucified and buried.  Most evangelicals reject this and believe he was crucified outside the city and buried in the garden tomb (also outside the city).P1040218

The church of the Holy Sepulcher


Any example of “graffiti” (etchings in stones) from the Byzantine era inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  People have been writing on walls for centuries!P1040221

The Temple Mount Institute

The Temple Mount Institute has been preparing for the rebuilding of a third Jewish temple on the Temple mount by preparing all of the temple vessels, instruments, garments, etc for use in that temple.  I”ve been following their progress for years.  Their visitor center has all of the items on display.P1040222 P1040223 P1040224

Unfortunately, no photography inside the exhibit is permitted.  However, I snapped this photo of a model of the 2nd Temple before that announcement came over the speakers.P1040225

The Southwestern section of the Temple Mount

There is a large museum with exhibits and display here, including this timeline of history.P1040227

Here’s a wide shot of the southwest corner of the Temple Mount.P1040229

These steps are the southern approach to the Temple Mount (now blocked).  The gate in this wall is the “Hulda” gate.  It is the gate most often used by the poor.  The lowest steps here are first century and were certainly used by Jesus and His disciples when they visited the temple.P1040231 P1040232 P1040233 P1040235

Closeup view of 1st century steps to the Temple MountP1040237

This Mikvah (ritual bath) is located just before the gates.  Anyone entering the Temple courts would have to purify themselves before proceeding.P1040241

Here you can see (jutting out from the wall) the remains of Robinson’s Arch.  It originally stretched to a building on the left and provided access to the temple mount.  When the arch collapsed, it broke the paving stones below and created a hole that you can see today.P1040243 P1040244 P1040246

This is the location of the “other” side of Robinson’s archP1040247

Palace of David

This site, which provides access to Hezekiah’s tunnel was only excavated 8-9 years ago.  Many scholars believe that it is the ruins of the King David’s palace that was built by for him by the King of Tyre.P1040252 P1040254

In the foreground is a “toilet”.  Part of the evidence for this being David’s palace is that carbon 14 dating of the “contents” in this toilet date to the 10th century BCE (the era of King David)P1040255

This model shows what the houses constructed adjacent to the palace would have looked like.P1040256

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

There are actually two tunnels that were excavated to bring water into the city during a time of siege.  The earlier tunnel is Caananite.  It is much shorter, (250 feet), not as difficult to navigate, and dry.  It’s dry because it is too high to provide water to the city when the water level is so low.  In other words, it’s useless

The second tunnel was constructed during the reign of King Hezekiah.  Workers started from both ends (at the pool of Siloam outside the city and inside the city walls).  The total distance covered was 1,750 feet.  Even with not modern equipment, the two teams met in the middle.  The tunnel is very narrow and (right now) is filled with water above your knees.

Below were are entering “Warren’s Shaft”.  At the base you can either either the “dry” tunnel or the “wet” tunnel and proceed to the Pool of Siloam.P1040261 P1040263 P1040264 P1040265P1040267 P1040268 P1040269

Here we are moving down the “dry” tunnelP1040270 P1040271

You can see that it gets a bit narrow in spots.P1040272

And here’s evidence that I didn’t wimp out!P1040273

Pool of Siloam

Only a small portion of the Pool of Siloam has been excavated.  Much of the property is owned by the Greek Orthodox church which refuses to permit any additional excavations.P1040276

At the Pool of Siloam you can see the beginning of a 1st century (Herodian) street that runs all the way from this point to the southern steps of the temple mount.  That’s quite a distance.  It’s not currently open.P1040279

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2019 Israel Trip – Day 4

Gideon’s Spring

Located at the bottom of Mount Gilboa is Ein Harod, or the “Spring of Harod.” This is the pool where Gideon chose his 300 warriors to battle the Midianites. The warriors were chosen based on how they drank water (Judges 7:1-8).

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Beit She’an

During a battle against King Saul at nearby Mount Gilboa in 1004 BC, the Philistines prevailed and Saul together with three of his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchishua, died in battle (1 Samuel 31; 1 Chronicles 10). 1 Samuel 31:10 states that “the victorious Philistines hung the body of King Saul on the walls of Beit She’an”.

During the 1st century the city of Beit She’an was occupied under the new name “Scythopolis.”  It was a large roman city complete with temples, markets, theatres, hippodrome, and bathouses.P1040040

This is the “tel” behind the roman ruins of Beit She’an.  Buried under layers of earth is the original Israelite and Philistine city.P1040042

A model of the Roman ruins helps us to get our bearings before entering the ruins.P1040043 P1040047 P1040048

A Roman bathhouseP1040049

This is one example of how large stones could be transported with a minimum of human labor.P1040053

Inside the main section of the bathhouseP1040054 P1040057 P1040058

The “hot room” of the bathhouse.  A furnace (outside) would pump hot air into the space between the small pillars shown here.  On these pillars would be a floor that would heat up.  Water was scattered on the floor to make steam (a Roman version of the sauna).P1040061 P1040062 P1040064

A view of the “cardo” or main road from the bathhouseP1040068

Smaller pools in the bathhouseP1040069 P1040070 P1040072

The “cardo” or main road of the cityP1040073 P1040076 P1040078

Ruins of the market, facing the theatreP1040079

Ruins of a Roman templeP1040080 P1040081

These toppled columns (and their capitals) date from the earthquake that destroyed the city in the 700′s ADP1040082 P1040083 P1040084 P1040086 P1040087 P1040088

This is a Roman “latrine” or public toiletP1040090

Out guide, Benny, “demonstrates” how the wall toilets were used.P1040091

A view from inside the theatreP1040092 P1040094

Qasr el Yahud

One of two locations thought to be where John the Baptist baptized people (including Jesus).  This is more likely the historic site.

The buildings you see across the river are in the country of JordanP1040098 P1040100 P1040102 P1040104 P1040105

This is the beginning of the Judean wilderness.  It’s amazing how different it looks from Galilee in the north.P1040106


Qumran is the location where, in 1947, the first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  It was inhabited in the first century by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes.

These are replicas of the clay jars the first scrolls were found in.P1040107

Cooking vessels used by the Essene communityP1040109

One of the primary tasks of members of the community was to work in the Scriptorum, producing copies of the scriptures and also teachings of their own High Priest.P1040110

The mountains at Qumran contain thousands of caves.  The Essenes didn’t inhabit these caves, but they did use them to hide their collection of scrolls when they were in danger from the Romans.P1040112 P1040113 P1040114 P1040115 P1040116 P1040117 P1040118

The Essene sect was obsessed with physical purity.  The bathed in a ritual bath (Mikvah) twice each day, before the morning and evening meal.  There are several Mikvahs at the site.P1040119 P1040121

A cistern (used for storing water)P1040122 P1040124

The Dead Sea

Located 1,412 feet BELOW sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest body of water on earth.  It is extremely salty (more than 10 times saltier than sea water).  People visit here to float in the waters and use the “black mud” as a skin treatment.  Cosmetics made from Dead Sea materials are very popular.P1040125 P1040127

There was a rare sighting of a breaching whale at the Dead Sea!  Seriously, if this water lets me float, it will hold up anyone!P1040141 P1040143

Of course no collection of photos from the Dead Sea would be complete with a picture of a camel.P1040147

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2019 Israel Trip – Day 3


This is one of the three cities that Jesus pronounced “woe” on because they didn’t believe in spite of the miracles done in them.

These are the ruins of a “ritual bath” (mikvah) used for purification.

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These are the ruins of a synagogue in ChorazimP1030915 P1030916

Below is a replica of the “Seat of Moses” found in the ruins of this synagogue.  Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 23:1-3, “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you [a]to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works…”P1030918 P1030920P1030916P1030922

Ruins of a “house” in ChorazimP1030925

Inside a grain mill in ChorazimP1030927

Tel Dan

Tel Dan is a beautiful natural area in Northern Galilee.  When entering the tel, you first walk through some lovely wooded paths that follow (and cross) the Dan Spring, one of the three primary sources of the Jordan river.P1030930 P1030931 P1030932 P1030933

After Solomon, the kingdom was divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.  Jeroboam, king of Israel, set up two centers of idol worship so that his people would not go down to the temple in Jerusalem.  One of those centers was at Tel Dan.  Below is an aluminum outline of how the pagan altar would have looked.   Beneath are the remains of the original.P1030935

A cistern adjacent to the altarP1030939

One of the most fascinating discoveries at Tel Dan is a city gate that dates from the time of Abraham.  It is covered because (unlike most ancient structures in Israel) it is made of baked brick rather than stone.  The covering is to protect it from erosion by rain.P1030942

From Tel Dan you can see the Golan Heights, the border (often contested) between Israel and Syria.  As you drive around this part of northern Galilee you find many areas fenced off with barbed wire and signs warning you of land mines left over form these conflicts.P1030947

Another city gate of Dan, this one from the Israelite period.P1030949 P1030951

This pagan alter stands outside the city gate, waiting for departing travelers to offer sacrifices for safe travel or arriving travelers to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving for safe travel and success within the city.P1030953

Caesarea Philippi

This is one of the cities visited by Jesus in northern Galilee.  A major site of pagan worship, it is the location where Jesus asked His disciples who men said that he was.  It is also where Peter declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Most High.”

Jesus responded to Peter’s declaration by commending him and stating that the “Gates of Hell” would not be able to stand against it.  This location had a temple to Pan adjacent to a cave in which was a fissure that appeared to be bottomless and thought by the ancients to be one of the passages to the underworld, or literally, “the gates of hell.” Josephus refers to this in Antiquities of the Jews 15,10,3.  Here is that cave.  Seismic activity has since caused the fissure to be sealed.P1030956 P1030960 P1030962

The cliff wall that contains the cliff also has many grottos carved into it.P1030963 P1030965 P1030967 P1030968

Ginosar – Ancient Galilee Boat Museum

In 1986, a boat dating from the first century (contemporary with Jesus) was discovered in the Sea of Galilee during a period of severe drought.  It is likely the same type of boat referred to in the Gospels used by both Jesus and his fisherman disciples.P1030969 P1030971 P1030972 P1030975

Sea of Galilee Cruise

To finish up our day, we took a boat tour on the Sea Galilee.  It was an amazing experience to be on this same body of water that is so often referred to in the Gospels.P1030979 P1030980  P1030983 P1030984

I couldn’t resist taking several “sunset” pictures of the sun setting over Mt. Arbel and the mountains behind the modern city of TiberiasP1030981P1030994 P1040003 P1040004 P1040005 P1040006 P1040017 P1040022

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2019 Israel Trip – Day 2

Example of a Tomb

Our guide commented that most old cave tombs in Israel (like the one Jesus was buried in) have their round sealing stones stolen (to be used as building materials).  We drove past an intact example, but were unable to stop.  That’s why this picture is taken from inside the bus.


Tel Megiddo (Armageddon in the Bible)

At the base of the tel (hill/mound) starting our walk up to the ruins of the city.P1030818 P1030819 P1030820 P1030821

City gate from the Canaanite periodP1030822 P1030823

Inside the Canaanite gate.  The city date from the Solomonic period is up and to the right of this photoP1030825

City gate from the Solomonic period (center passage is sealed with stones)P1030826 P1030827

Ruins of a Canaanite worship space / templeP1030829 P1030830

The oldest example in Israel of a Canaanite altar (round)P1030833

Looking out over the Jezreel Battle where the final battle of Armageddon (Har Megiddo) will be fought


This looks like a well or cistern, but it is actually a grain silo.  Megiddo was a military city where many horses and chariots were kept.P1030837

Ruins of stablesP1030840

Feeding and watering troughs for horsesP1030843

These stairs lead down to a tunnel that provided water from a source outside the city.P1030846 P1030848 P1030849 P1030851

Walking through the tunnel (you can’t see it but there is water under the “bridge” where we are walking.P1030853

Mt. Arbel (northern Galilee)

This is the beginning of our ascent to the peak of Mt. ArbelP1030856

Looking out on the sheer cliffs of Mt. Arbel (and the cities and villages of northern Galilee below)P1030857 P1030859 P1030861

A Bible study at the top of Mt. ArbelP1030865

Capernaum – Jesus’s “home base”

The entrance to the site of Capernaum (a fishing village during the 1st century mentioned several times in the Gospels)P1030868

Ruins of a 4th century Byzantine synagougeP1030869

A modern catholic church literally built “over” the traditional site of Peter’s house in Capernaum.P1030870

Multiple churches were built on the traditional site of Peter’s house.  The actual house is the square walls at the center.P1030872

Ruins of other houses (walls) in CapernaumP1030876

The “white” synagogue dates from the 4th century AD, but is thought to be built on the foundation of an earlier (possibly 1st century) synagogue.  Jesus activity at the Capernaum synagogue is documented multiple times in the Gospel accounts.P1030877

Here you can clearly see how the “white” synagogue sits on the foundation (black stone) of an earlier structure.P1030878

Inside the ruins of the 4th century synagogueP1030882 P1030883

Additional ornamental pieces excavated from the white synagogue.P1030884 P1030885 P1030886

More ruins in CapernaumP1030887

Magdala – The Home of Mary Magdalene

This was probably the most interesting site we’ve visited so far.  So many first century ruins no longer exist in situ (or have other structures – usually churches – built on top of them).  In 2009, archeologists unearthed the ruins of this first century synagogue in Magdala.  While not mentioned in the New Testament, because of it’s proximity to Capernaum (Jesus’ home base in Galiee) and the fact that one of his closest followers was from this village (Mary Magdalene) it is VERY LIKELY that Jesus taught in this synagogue.


Central stone in the 1st century synagogue, likely used as a table to roll out the Torah scroll when it was read.P1030892 P1030893

Tile mosaic floor of the 1st century synagogueP1030894

Entrance to the 1st century synagogueP1030895

Site of the market in MagdalaP1030898

A modern church built in Magdala by the Roman Catholic church, but available for use by all denominations.  It specifically honors women from the New Testament.P1030899

Prayer chapels, each with a mosaic depicting events from Jesus ministryP1030900 P1030901 P1030903 P1030904

Main Sanctuary


This prayer chapel (on the basement level) has been repaved with 1st century stones excavated from the streets of Magdala.  It is set up like a synagogue (stone benches along the walls, six pillars, and a space in the front for the Torah scroll.  The painting depicts the healing of a woman afflicted with a hemorrhage when she touched Jesus’ robe.P1030905

The lobby area outside the main sanctuary.P1030906

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2019 Israel Trip – Day One

Airport to Jaffa

Day One started with a trip from Ben Gurion Airport to Jaffa


Tel Aviv skyline in the background






Typical buildings and architechtureP1030743 P1030746 P1030748 P1030749

St. Peter’s ChurchP1030751P1030759

Mediterranean Sea and Tel Aviv skylineP1030753

Old City of Jaffa P1030761 P1030763


Traditional location of the house of Simon the Tanner (where Peter stayed and received a vision)


Caesarea Maritime

The Theatre at Caesarea

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View towards Herod’s PalaceP1030777

Excavated ColumnsP1030778

Restoration work continues at the site (only about 15% of Caesarea has been excavated)P1030779 P1030783

Part of the “small” hippodrome (chariot and horse races held here)P1030785

Another view of the TheatreP1030786

ColumnsP1030787 P1030789 P1030791

Replica of an inscription found at Caesarea.  The only external evidence (non-biblical) for Pontius PilateP1030792 P1030793

Part of “Crusader” CaesareaP1030794

View of the Med from Herod’s palace site

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Long shot of the “small” hippodromeP1030797

More ruins from the crusader periodP1030803 P1030804 P1030805


Mt. Carmel – Carmelite Monastery


Statue commemorating Elijah’s destruction of the Prophets of Baal on Mt. CarmelP1030810

Views from the roof of the Carmelite MonasteryP1030807 P1030808

Bible Study in the gardens adjacent to the MonasteryP1030812


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Is Adam Historical (Part 2)


For Adam was formed first, then Eve;

1 Timothy 2:13

Last Wednesday (4/24/2013) I wrote about how many evangelicals are reconsidering the historicity of the biblical Adam. I had planned to write about why I consider belief in Adam’s historicity to be essential to the Christian faith. I’ll deal with that issue in two parts. Today I’d like to share why I’m comfortable affirming that Adam was a historical individual, the first and unique man created by God. Later this week I’ll discuss some of the theological implications of rejecting Adam’s historicity.

First, let me be clear that I believe a person can have authentic, saving faith in Jesus Christ while rejecting the historicity of Adam. While I think the issue of how we interpret Genesis 2-3 is vitally important I consider it an “internal” discussion between believers in Christ and not a reason for division. While I may strongly disagree with a brother or sister who rejects that Genesis 2-3 presents a narrative account of actual, historical events I would not reject such a person a non-believer simply on that issue. I am completely convinced that if we consider the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God we must conclude that Adam was a historical figure as described in the Genesis account, but such a belief is not necessary for true salvation.

As I stated in the first article in this series (see here), my belief in the historicity of Adam is based on a number of presuppositions. The first and most central of these is, “I accept the overwhelming evidence (both internal and external) that the Bible represents a trustworthy and supernatural revelation given by an all-powerful, all-knowing God who exists independent of and outside of linear time.” I recognize that since my reasons for accepting Adam’s historicity are based on the testimony of the Bible, my arguments will do little or nothing to convince those who reject the Bible’s authority or trustworthiness. For those of you who affirm the authority and divine origin of the Bible, here are my reasons for accepting Adam as a historical person.

  1. There is nothing in the literary form of Genesis, chapters 2-4 that would cause us to understand it as anything other than a narrative of actual, historical events. The events described (the creation of Adam, Eve, their temptation and fall, their expulsion from Eden, the birth of their children, the first murder, etc.) are given in exactly the same manner as events in other Old Testament narratives whose historicity has been confirmed by modern archaeology. The writer of Genesis (Moses) recorded the events of Genesis 2-4 in the same way he recorded events in the lives of the patriarchs and the Exodus.
  2. Adam is affirmed as a historical person in genealogies in both the old and new testaments (Genesis 5, First Chronicles 1, and Luke 3). Genealogies were of great importance to the Hebrew people, being the primary mechanism for the inheritance of land and their identification as God’s special covenant people. It is extremely unlikely that a “mythical” person would be given a place in a genealogy.
  3. The length of Adam’s life is given in Genesis 5:5. While not impossible, it seems odd that such a concrete fact would be recorded about a mythical person.
  4. God, speaking through the prophet Hosea, refers to Adam and to his sin of rebellion as a historical event. The testimony of this latter Hebrew prophet confirms his understanding of Adam as an historical figure.
  5. Jesus gives every indication of understanding the Genesis account of man’s special creation literally. When challenged by the Pharisees in Matthew 19 on the issue of divorce, He responded, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
  6. The apostle Paul affirmed Adam’s historicity multiple times. In Romans, chapter five, he states that it is through Adam’s sin that death entered into the world. In First Corinthians 15, he affirms that the first man (Adam) was created from the dust of the earth and became a living being. In First Timothy, chapter 2, he refers to Adam who was formed, “before Eve” and was not deceived as she was. There is nothing in any of Paul’s references to Adam to indicate that he understood him to be anything other than who the author Genesis presents him as; the first, uniquely created man.

I think the testimony of scripture, both old and new testaments, is very clear. There is nothing written to indicate or even imply that Adam is either mythical or symbolic. The scriptures present him as the first man and the father of the race of man.

In the next article I’ll conclude with a discussion of theological implications of rejecting the historicity of Adam. Stay tuned…

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Is Adam Historical? (Part 1)


The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)

Last week I was reading a blog post by Peter Enns titled, “Framing the Evangelical Discussion of Adam and Evolution.” Enns was recently asked to present a paper at the northeast regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on his book, “The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins.” His blog post of April 8, 2013 gives the major points of his paper, and by extension, his book on Adam and human origins.

I’ve noticed in the last few years a growing number of Christians (laity, clergy, and theologians) who identify themselves as “evangelicals” but are increasingly interested in accepting the theory of evolution and denying the biblical account of Adam and a literal understanding of the first few chapters of Genesis. This represents a radical departure from traditional “evangelicalism” which has historically affirmed both special creation and the historicity of Adam as the first created man. Enns agrees saying, “Already among their [evangelicals'] ranks is a critical mass of thoughtful, yet quiet, people who are eager to find ways to move beyond the current impasse [on the issue of Adam and evolution].”

I am especially troubled by what Enns describes as his starting point for addressing the conflict between evolutionary theory and the historicity of Adam. He writes:

“My starting point for how I handle this issue of Adam is twofold: (1) I accept the overwhelming scientific consensus concerning evolution, and (2) our considerable knowledge of how ancient stories of origins functioned.”

To be honest, everyone’s perspective on any issue is framed by certain presuppositions (i.e. background beliefs). Enns has identified two of his presuppositions (above) that frame his evaluation of the Biblical account of Adam. I reach very different conclusions about the doctrines of special creation, a literal understanding of Genesis, and the historicity of Adam because I begin with completely different presuppositions.  Here are some of them.

  1. I accept the overwhelming evidence (both internal and external) that the Bible represents a trustworthy and supernatural revelation given by an all-powerful, all-knowing God who exists independent of and outside of linear time. God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible is often called “special revelation.”
  2. God has also revealed Himself in creation (sometimes called “natural revelation”).
  3. God cannot lie, as it would violate His very nature (Numbers 23:19).
  4. Since God cannot lie, both of His revelations (the Bible as “special revelation” and creation/nature as “general revelation”) must be in perfect harmony.
  5. Man has developed systems for interpreting and understanding these revelations. Theology is a system designed to interpret special revelation (the Bible) and science is a system designed to interpret general revelation (creation/nature).
  6. Since both of these systems (theology and science) are developed by man, they may lead to conclusions that are incorrect..
  7. Because both of God’s revelations must be in perfect harmony, any apparent conflict between those revelations (the Bible and creation/nature), is the result of a problem in man’s interpretation of those revelations (i.e. either our theology is wrong, or our science is wrong, or both).  God’s revelation in the Bible and creation/nature is never “wrong.” However, only our interpretations of these revelations is frequently wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m by no means calling Peter Enns a fool. I’m particularly conscious of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:22 not to do such a thing. I do, however, strongly disagree with his self-stated “starting point” for handling the issue of Adam’s historicity. I think that a critical examination of any topic must begin with, “the fear of the Lord,” which, “is the beginning of knowledge.” Having a fear (awe and reverence) for God necessarily includes having a high regard for His revelation of Himself in the Bible. Therefore, the proper starting point for examining the question of Adam’s historicity is to first determine what the Bible says about it.

On Friday, I’ll discuss why I’m convinced that an acknowledgement of Adam as a historical person is essential to the Christian faith.

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Social Justice and Our First Love


But Jesus said, “Leave her alone; why berate her for doing a good thing? You always have the poor among you, and they badly need your help, and you can aid them whenever you want to; but I won’t be here much longer.”

Mark 14:6-7 (The Living Bible)

Picture the scene; Jesus is having supper with his disciples at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany. A woman comes into the room with an expensive bottle of perfumed oil which she proceeds to break open and pour onto Jesus’ head. The guests at the table are immediately angry. This foolish woman has “wasted” this valuable resource (other accounts place its value at nearly a year’s wages for a common laborer). Doesn’t she know that this treasure could have been sold and the proceeds used to provide for the poor?

Rather than rebuking her, Jesus rebukes her critics, asserting that what she has done is a “good thing.” I think we can learn much from this story about Jesus’ view of what our priorities should be.

We live in an age when many young Christians are extremely fervent for social causes. They are passionate about promoting social justice, ending slavery, providing for the poor, and easing the struggles of the oppressed and downtrodden in both the inner city and the third world. They reflect attitudes common among their generation, often termed “Millennials” by social scientists. I think that their attitudes toward the poor are laudable and represent a well-deserved rejection of the insular and self-centered mindset common among many Christians in my generation (“Baby Busters”).

However, this story illustrates that while concern for the poor is a good thing, it is not the most important thing; Jesus is! As His disciples, our lives and attitudes should be centered on Him; especially on worshiping and adoring Him as this woman did with her singular act of worship. Our “good works” (like pursing social justice) should be an outgrowth of our love for Jesus, not the central focus of our Christian lives. It is too easy to make even a “good thing” into an idol and God has declared that He will not tolerate the worship of any other god.

Consider Jesus’ warning to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-4;

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

Revelation 2:2-4 (ESV)

This church was doing “good things,” but they had abandoned their first love! We need to be careful that in our zeal for doing “good things” for Jesus that we don’t allow those “works” to become idols that usurp His rightful place in our hearts. Only He is worthy of our worship, devotion, and adoration; not any works of our hands, however good they may be.

Jesus goes on to warn the Ephesian believers;

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

Revelation 2:5 (ESV)

The “works” that Jesus wanted the Ephesian church (and us) to do are not the pursuit of social causes, but simple acts of worship for the Son of God, like those of that anonymous woman at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany.  Then, out of our deep love and devotion for Him, should flow our compassion for the poor among us and our care for them.

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