Friday, July 5, 2013

NT Day 1 - Herodian Jerusalem Part 1

Arriving at the Dung Gate
Today we were off to another great start with the second class of Jesus and His Times! This two-week class is for two additional credit hours. As it only two weeks, there are a lot more people here this trip. They have split us into two groups – one with Dr. Paul Wright and the second with another lady professor. There are several pastors and families auditing the class as way to become better acquainted to the land. We were reminded again in the orientation, this is not a tour group – this is an academic course where we will be working. Whereas the last class primarily focused on rocks and routes, this class will be primarily focused on cultural understanding of the first century. After the initial orientation, we had our first lecture on "Building Jewish in the Roman East." Among our many topics, we walked through Jewish history – particularly the Persian, Maccabean, and Roman periods; we discussed the struggle between Hellenism and Jewish culture, Herod the Great, and Rome's strategies to control these "rebellious Jews." It quickly became apparent that things really do not change all that much … many of the same problems in the first century, we still have today, and how do we deal with those issues? Do we accommodate or confront? The four main groups in Jesus day had radically different solutions. The Essenes chose to withdrawal from the system, the Sadducees accepted the system, the Pharisees worked within the system, and the Zealots fought the system. … How do we respond within our own corrupted system? Do we fight it? Do we retreat? Do we go with the flow? Etc. As much of a hassle we give the Pharisees, Jesus Himself was aligned the closest to the Pharisees. He even told the people to do as they say, but not as they do for they did not practice what they preach. … Some good food for thought.

First glimpse of the Dome of the Rock
In the afternoon, we headed out to the old city for our Herodian City Tour (Part 1). We began by heading up to the Temple Mount for a feel of just how open and "different" it is from the rest of Jerusalem. We headed through Israeli security without any problems, but once on the Temple Mount, our group was pulled aside since many in our group were considered "indecent" and needed a scarf to cover themselves. The Arab informed us that he was "giving" away scarves for only 25 shekels. Although the group had "dressed modestly," apparently they were a bit more picky today. Any man that had shorts on (even if they covered the knees) needed a scarf for his legs, and any women with any neck larger then a tee-shirt or sleeves that did not come to the elbows were pulled aside. Thankfully, amongst the group, we were able to come up with enough "modesty" pieces to look around. It was somewhat funny to walk around and see all these men with scarves tucked into their belts to cover their legs. ;) …  Anyhow, I was very impressed by how large and open the Temple Mount was. Today it is literally a very green park with lots of trees. The atmosphere was very light – kind of what one may expect at any public park where you may take a picnic. Although there were a few Muslims who were deep in prayer, most where strolling about leisurely, some Palestinian kids playing a form of kickball, etc. It was not nearly as much of a "holy place" as I was expecting. Although in Jesus' day, the Temple itself would have been a "holy place" the rest of the Temple Mount may have had a much similar atmosphere as it does today. Coming up to this large open space from the crowded, bustling, dirty streets, would provide one with a great place to just come and hang out. Although it took awhile to make our way onto the Temple Mount, it took only a moment to pass through the Gate of the Merchants. Similar to the first century era, shop vendors were ready to make a sale just through the gate. We exited in the Muslim quarter, and proceeded back into the Jewish quarter to the Archeological Park. 

Looking out from the temple stairs.
Although a few of us who had been here for the previous program had already been here, Dr. Wright brought out many different aspects of the site with a few alternate views. We specifically focused our attention in on Herod the Great. From our lecture site, we had an excellent view of the remains of Robinson's Arch and the southwestern portion of the wall. Here we could get another glimpse of just how massive of a project Herod took upon Himself. Although the portion we were looking at would not have been built until at least twenty years after Herod's death, it was certainly within his grand plans. Today, we still have no idea how they managed to build this wall. One of these stones weighed 250 tons! Simply amazing! The streets however, were redone by King Agrippa only months before the invasion of Titus. We then looped around to the stars that would have ascended into the Temple Mount. It was on these steps Jesus likely addressed the people in Matthew 23. From the Talmud, we learn that Rabbi's would teach here on these steps. Again, the steps were purposefully created so that one would have to walk slowly to the top. Interestingly, there is one-step for each of the Songs of Ascent from Psalms 120-134. If time availed itself, it would be cool to walk up the stairs, reading one song at a time.

Our final stop for the afternoon was back at Christ-church. Although this is now my third visit to the church, I catch new details each time. We again when to the back of the church to look at another first century tomb – a rough idea of what Christ's may have originally looked like. While we were there, the Armenian church conducted a service. It was an experience to see them chant the litergy and smell the strong incense. They made several stops around the church, ending in the Armenian Chapel.

We were asked to reflect upon Herod the Great and in a sense what he is up to. Separating Herod's wicked, brutal, murderous side, he was an absolutely brilliant man in many areas. Politically he was able to play both sides, securing himself as king of the region. However, as he was under Roman control, he could not "expand" his boarders. He was stuck just out of reach of the coastal trade of Tyre, the spice routes of the Nabatetans, the grain fields of Egypt, etc. However, Herod secures the few trade routes he has, builds his own port city with new Roman technology at Caesarea, constructs massive forts and palaces round the country including Masada, Jericho, Caesarea Philippi, the Herodium (his mausoleum) and others. Not being able to expand without, he builds up the nation within. He helps to make Jerusalem and specifically the Temple Mount very Roman, yet authentically Jewish – again playing both sides. Anyone of these projects would be an accomplishment of a lifetime. However, Herod manages to build all over the country introducing the latest and greatest Roman technologies. If left here, it would be easy to expound on his brilliance and greatness. However, Herod has a sinister side. He murders much of his family – even his own sons if they pose a threat to reign. He slaughters the children at Bethlehem. He is sneaky and wily. He even orders many of the Jewish leaders to be executed upon his death so that there would be weeping at his funeral. Taken in a larger picture, Herod seems to be insecure in regards to his reign and prestige. With the building of so many magnificent structures, he seems to crying out to be remembered … and he certainly has been. 

Passed through Security and heading up to the Temple Mount

Overlooking the Western Wall

Ramp leading up to the Temple Mount

We're Up!

This gentleman tells us our group has to follow him ...
what's going on.

So apparently members of our group are "immodest" and are being "asked"
to buy modesty scarves. Guys, if you've got shorts on, looks like you'll have
to have a make-shift skirt!

Dome of the Rock

Not sure what this is, but it looks like a cool gazebo ;)

I'm surprised by how open it is up here ... 

And how green it is! It's a forest up here!

This Muslim boy is praying so sincerely ... oh Lord, reveal yourself in a way that
only you can. ... 

Amazing tiles!

Lots of Angles before running out!

Exiting through the Merchant's Gate

And what are they selling in the gate? Toys and Candy!? Seems odd
for such a "holy site" 

Walking back through the Muslim Quarter

Robinson's Arch at the Archaeology Park

Notice first the long cut line - this was from Byzantine water pipes. Second,
notice the long stone with the hole on the right side. - That is enourmous!
One of the large stones. We have no idea how they got these stones here.
They are something like 15x larger than anything used in the pyramids!

Side view of Robinson's Arch

Rubble fallen from above, smashing the road below. This
road was just replaced under King Agrippa a few months

Lecture here at Robinson's Arch.

The damaged street from the falling arch.

Lecture on the temple stairs.

What do you think of my new hat? Kind of Texan ... thanks Pete!

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

No comments:

Post a Comment