Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NT Day 5: Bethlehem

The church is empty this early in the morning.
Beginning today, we are starting to follow in the steps of Jesus. We appropriately began our journey in Bethlehem, the birth of our Lord. The building was nearly empty upon our arrival, as they had not yet opened the caves for viewing. This time around, I was able to get down to Jerome's cave in Saint Catherine's Church as well as another pass through the site of the nativity. We then headed back to the Catholic version of the Shepherd's fields for a further lecture. To our disappoint, these were probably not the actual shepherd's fields. We really do not know where they would have been. If Jesus was born in the summer time as the text may suggest (shepherds in the fields by night – shepherds would only spend the night with the flocks in the summer), the fields could be anywhere in the vicinity. However, if it was in the fall or spring, the only fields south of Bethlehem may have been used for shepherding year round.

Dr. Wright elaborated on the Christmas rendition presented in our last class with Vern. Here in the Middle East, it was and is common practice to marry a relative. This both keeps the resources within the family and helps to ensure that the family member will be taken care of. Some have speculated that perhaps Mary and Joseph were relatives. As Nazareth is fairly new town in the first century BC and the fact that Mary goes toward Bethlehem to meet her cousin Elizabeth, leads us to believe that both Joseph and Mary were originally from the Bethlehem region. When heading down for the census, they would have gone to the family home. In Hebrew, the word translated "inn" could be better translated as "guestroom." When the scripture states that there was no room for them in the "guestroom." It probably means both that there was not room for Mary to give there with all the guests but also; the guestroom would not be the appropriate place. Mary and Joseph are now among family. Although Joseph's family may not understand what has happened, they are not going to turn family out where Mary would likely die giving birth. Rather, the women would have taken Mary into the side-room, storage-room, etc. It was this room, often a cave, where the household would bring the animals in for the winter; thus the manger being present. Most of the older women in the region were born in the stable. It is practical as this is just where "messy" things happen. As this would have been the family house, it makes sense that Mary and Joseph would have stayed for a few years.

The remains of Herod's Tomb have been reconstructed
 in the Israeli Museum
To learn more about this King Herod who wanted the little "King of the Jews" dead, our next stop was at the Herodium – Herod's final resting place. Herod originally built the site as a Palace Fortress patrolling the southern border with the Nabateans. King Herod was the first to introduce circular structures and domes in this part of the world. The Herodium is circles inside of circles. The bathhouse on the site is the only dome still standing from King Herod. In proper Herodian fashion, King Herod made the site fit for king with the architectural wisdom one may expect from Herod. With huge water cisterns, frescoes, and beautiful gardens – the Herodian would have been a site to behold. Herod had a theater built here for the visit of Mark Anthony. In the royal booth, paintings of open windows and sea life covered the walls. Within two years, Herod decided that he wanted this built up mountain to be his final resting place. Upon the construction of his mosoluem, he had the theater covered over as not to distract from the grander of his own tomb. The Zealots captured the Herodium nearly seventy years later. Heord's tomb was destroyed and site converted into living quarters. Mikvah baths and a synagogue were installed as well as more tunnels underground. 

From the Herodium we headed back up to Jerusalem to the Israel Museum, specifically to see the Herod Exhibit with his reconstructed mausoleum. Additionally, a few of his bath-rooms were reconstructed from Jericho and the Herodium, as well a few of the cut stones and pillars from the Temple Mount – a quick glimpse of Herod's amazing accomplishments. While at the Israel Museum I spent some time looking through the Archaeology department. Seeing artifacts from many of the sites that we have visited these last few weeks made the archaeology start to come alive. Many of the pieces had replicas on site such as Beit Shan, Megiddo, and Caesarea, but now we were able to view the real deal! While there, I was able to catch in on a little bit of Gabbi Barchy, one of the top archaeologists in Israel. He will be our guest speaker at JUC tomorrow afternoon. His most significant discovery are the two silver scrolls on which were inscribed a priestly blessing from Numbers and Deuteronomy. These predate the Dead Sea Scrolls by several hundred years – which puts a pretty big hole in the JEDP theory for the Torah. While at the museum, I also had a chance to stroll around the second century model of Jerusalem as well as the Shrine of the Book – dedicated to the Dead Sea Scrolls. With only twenty minutes remaining, I quickly fly through the American, Indian, and Chinese portions of the museum as well as the art displays, judaica, and the corner of the gardens. Wow! Just too much to see in only half a day!
Church of the Nativity

Looking toward the entrance

Three doors ... and they just keep getting smaller. Some
say it was to keep crusaders from riding there horses
into the church. More likely, the church was used as a fort
and the door was made smaller to restrict entrance. Even
as late as the second intifada, the Palestinian population (which
in all reality are Jordanians or Arabs who live in Israel) used
the church as their fort. It's the biggest building in town.
Dr. Wright and a group from JUC were some of the first to
return to the church after the intifada was over. One could
still see the broken glass and blood on the floor at the time. 

Halls around the outdoor courtyard of St. Catherine's
Church to Saint Jerome

Inside Saint Catherine's

Leading down to the Cave of Saint Jerome

There are actually several chambers down here. This being the entrance one

In Saint Jerome's Cave - It was here he translated the Bible into Latin

Back over in the Cave of the Nativity - Scott bending down
to touch the only piece of exposed bedrock. 

Overlooking the church

The Bell-tower 

And the Mosque just across the street

Walking to the Catholic Shepherd's Fields - there are also the Orthodox, and
Coptic versions. 

Lecture at the Shepherd's Fields ... not because it's the actual shepherd's
fields, just because it's a nice shady spot for a lecture

Looking toward the modern southern end of Jerusalem from here

Does this look familiar? It's Herod's Herodium. 

Lots of little lizards running around

Lecture with Dr. Paul Wright

Looking down toward one of Herod's pools. This would have had an island
like gazebo in the middle to sit and enjoy the view of his palace fortress

The orginal road leading up into the Herodium. Herod had
it covered and rebuilt when he had his tomb built here. 

Overlooking the fortress

One has to imagine the place covered in plaster and likely painted. 

The meeting room, later converted into a synagogue. 

Standing in the Herodium

Looking down toward the theater 

Next to the stairs and under the roof are some amazing paintings of open
widows overlooking the sea. We are not allowed in without special permission
- and a key. This would have been the royal box at the theater

Arriving at the Israel Museum ... oops, wrong entrance

Shrine of the Book (the Dead Sea Scrolls)

The First Temple Model

The Temple itself

Royal Stoa

The Antonia Fortress

Hey! We've sat on those stairs :)

And walked around the pool of Siloam ... It's kind of fun being able to identify
some of the buildings and topography on the map having experience it.

The shrine of the book - no pictures allowed - actually kind of disappointing.
Only a few fragments in the shrine. Most are not presently on display - only
pictures of what should be there. 

Reconstruction of Herod's Royal Box at the Herodium

Herod's Herodium

Canaanite Sarcophagus  

Look familiar? We saw the replica at Beersheba

Lion guards from Hazor - been there!

Saw the giant replica at Beit Shan

When we think of making a graven image or the Israelites making a
calf at Mount Sinai, we picture something quite large ... in all reality
it would have only been quite small. The one on the right is one of the


Saw the replica's at Ramat Rachel

Oldest Inscription referring to the house of King David

Warning not to open the chamber to King Hezekiah's bones

Again, saw this at Arad - the "Holy of Holies"

One of Herod's Bath Houses

Ossuary of Caiaphas the High Priest

Inscription found at Caesarea with Pontius Pilate's name

Heel bone of man crusified

Anchor recovered from the Dead Sea

Reconstructed Synagogue

Warning sign to Gentiles to not cross into the temple
courtyard on risk of death. 

I think these are the old tiles on the Dome of the Rock

One of Herod's Baths

Columns that would have adorned the royal stoa on the Temple Mount

Ceiling Tiles from the Second Temple Complex

Jars from Masada that Herod had fish sauce from Naples stored. 

Fancy Herodian Windows

It seemed a little weird to see artifacts from America on
display in Israel. ... but I guess we have artifacts from all
over the world too. 

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