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SEMINAR #8 IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE STORY, YOU BETTER UNDERSTAND THE PLACES THAT PLAYED A MAJOR PART IN THAT STORY…IMPORTANT PLACES IN GALILEE

Because there are many such places that deserve mention. I am going to spit this up into 2 sections or seminars. This one will deal with the important places in the Galilee, in the North.

A later Seminar will deal with important places in Judea and in the South. Those who participate in the February 10, 2014 journey with Dr. Bob will go to most of the places listed here.

JERASH

Also spelled Gerash, this city is located on the East side of the Jordan River in the modern Kingdom of Jordan.

If you are traveling with Dr. Bob on the February 10, 2014 journey then you will actually go to this remarkable site.

Jerash was a prominent Roman/Greek city, in fact, one of the ten so called cities of the Decapolis (means 10 cities).

Amman Jordan (Biblical Philadelphia) was another.

Jerash serves as an illustration of what a major Roman city of the time of Jesus looked like with all of its grandeur.

Its history can be traced back about 4000 years. Some of the ruins we will see are from the time of the Roman emperor

Hadrian who was in control there in the first quarter of the 2nd century.

Jerash was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 747 AD and actually became covered over with sand and lost from sight for many centuries, until the modern interest in archeology increased when it was rediscovered.

NAZARETH

Jesus spent more time in this town than anywhere else.

Jesus’ mother Mary  came from there and his earthly father relocated there from his home in Bethlehem. (Matthew 1:18f Luke 1:25f)

It was here that the angel appeared to the engaged but yet unmarried teenager named Mary and told her the unsettling news that she was going to participate in a miraculous, world changing birth. She was to become the virgin mother of the Son of God.

Following their marriage, the holy family was forced to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem to register in a census there because it was Joseph’s hometown.

There Jesus was born in Bethlehem, fled the rage of Herod the Great into Egypt, and then, following the death of the tyrant, returned to Nazareth where Joseph had a carpenter business. Presumably Jesus worked alongside Joseph in the shop.

Truthfully we know little about what happened to him during these many so called “silent years”.

In the Middle Ages a lot of fanciful stories were in circulation as people speculated about Jesus’ life, many of them attributing fantastic miracles to Jesus during those silent years. None true.

Jesus was no doubt highly regarded in this small town. (Matthew 2:53) Everyone knew everyone there and he was a standout in every way. You can well imagine neighbors thinking that he would be a great catch for their daughters.

Basically Jesus lived a quiet life as a small village blue collar worker and became an avid student of the Old Testament Scriptures with which he became well versed.  So much so that he saw their fulfillment in himself and that led to big time trouble.

In the tiny Nazareth synagogue one day, Jesus announced that the Scripture portion that he had just read was, that day, finding fulfillment in him personally.

The towns folks were enraged and tried to kill him for blaspheming, and so Jesus left Nazareth, probably filled with sadness over their rejection, and made his way down to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee that then became his headquarters.

You can well imagine some of the older people of Nazareth remembering that, 30 years earlier, Jesus had been the subject of another scandal due to the unusual circumstances of his birth and they may have complained that, here it was happening again, he was again bringing scandal to their town and that was not acceptable to them.

We don’t know that Jesus ever returned to Nazareth.

Today, Nazareth, population of about 210,000,  is the largest primarily Arab town in Israel and is largely Muslim. A new Jewish Nazareth suburb has grown up in recent years.

When I first went there they had a Communist mayor.

Now it is a center for hi-tech development. An estimated 6125 hi-tech companies are located there. Its inhabitants are full citizens of Israel and live in a general state of peace with the Jewish state.

TIBERIUS                                       

This modern, popular, Israeli city was founded by the Romans during Jesus’ time around 20 AD by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great  who tried to kill the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

It was named by him in honor of Tiberius Caesar.

At first the Jews stayed away from it because it was supposedly established on an old cemetery.

Tiberius was also famous for its natural hot springs which still flow today. The Romans were big on hot springs and, whenever they were discovered, the Romans would build communal baths.

Some of Jesus’ miracles were reputed to have been done there, according to the early church.

Today, located as it is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, it is a favorite for recreation and for swimming and fishing and water skiing.

Lots of restaurants and hotels.

Prior to June 1967 it was a frequent target of the Syrian artillery located high up on the looming Golan Heights. Now that the Golan is in Israeli hands, the area is peaceful and tranquil.

Those who travel on the February 10, 2013 journey, will stay there for 3 wonderful nights.

SEA OF GALILEE

The Jordan River system, of which the Sea of Galilee is a part, begins in the North where the snow on Mount Hermon melts and trickles down and forms the headwaters of the Jordan River.

The  Jordan then finds its way down and widens into what we call the Sea of Galilee. At this point it is about 700’ below sea level.

This water system flows down the length of Israel in a geological rift that actually extends all the way down into Africa. This is the so called rift valley.

The Hebrew name for the Sea is Chinneroth, also called the Sea of Tiberius.

It is the lowest fresh water lake on earth.

It measures about 13 miles by 7.5 miles and is 200’ deep at its deepest point.

It is the primary source of water for Israel (and also the Jordanian farmers along the Jordan Valley).

The Jews have controlled its flow since 1932, before the establishment of the state of Israel, when a dam built.

Water is now regularly diverted from the Sea via a pipe line to the Negev desert far to the south.

Water is an understandable bone of contention with the farmers of Jordan who also depend upon it for irrigation.

The late Yasser Arafat first came to notice when he and some other PLO terrorists invaded this area from Lebanon and tried to blow up this water system, hoping thereby to spark a confrontation between Israel and the Arab nations that would result in the destruction of the new Jewish nation.

He failed in his quest and ended up being arrested by the Lebanese.

A favorite lunch served there is called St Peters fish or musht.

Those on the February 10, 2014 journey will have the opportunity to purchase this at a restaurant directly on the edge of the Sea of Galilee.

CAPERNAUM

The word Capernaum means, town of the prophet Nahum.

It is situated on the Northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

When the people of Nazareth tried to kill Jesus, he made his way down through the valley of the pigeons to this sea side fishing village.

It became the headquarters for his miracle ministry in the north and many of the famous miracles occurred there.

Peter had a home there and its foundations have been uncovered and can now be seen. The reason they are confident that this is the site of his home is because the early Christians built a church over its foundations in order to preserve it and this church now assures us that this site was very early on, recognized as authentic.

Over the years the Franciscans have been very active in excavating the area and much of the first century ruins and foundations have now been uncovered.

The most prominent artifact there is the old synagogue that dates from a later time than Jesus but was actually built on the ruins of the synagogue that Jesus frequented and that is mentioned in the Gospels.

When we get to the seminar that discusses Jesus miracles we will explore the many events that happened here.

Sufficient to say that Jesus recruited many of his disciples here as indicated in an earlier seminar. 

TABGHA

Tabgha (Matthew 14:13-21) was a small fishing village near Capernaum and is the location where some place the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 with a small lunch of fish and bread..

A lovely little church has been built there to commemorate that event.

The Sea of Galilee is prone to sudden storms that can be quite violent as it sits in a pocket surrounded by mountains. Sudden strong winds can be generated from the hills to the West and Nazareth, and from the Golan Heights to the North East.

In 1992 one major storm there sent 10’ high waves crashing into Tiberius.

So harbors were of great importance.

Tagha was one such harbor.

 

THE MOUNT OF BEATITUDES

When you describe a place as being on a “mountain” you get a certain picture in your mind of a high place, perhaps with a snow covered peak. Mount Hermon is such.

The place described as the Mount of Beatitudes is better described as a sloping hill that gently coasts down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

At its highest I would guess that it is probably no more than 150’ above the level of the Sea of Galilee.

You used to be able to actually sit on that slope and read the Scriptures and quietly contemplate the peaceful setting and ponder what Jesus said there.

Not any more as it, like many sites, has been “improved”. This is yet another name for buildings and churches and facilities.

“Improved” indeed

Nevertheless the view is stunning and as you would expect.

Picture perfect.

Scholars debate whether Jesus gave one long sermon here as captured by Matthew (chapter 5 and following) or whether Matthew brought together the many sermons that he had heard, perhaps frequently, into one for literary reasons, as, for about 3 years, he traveled with Jesus and heard what he said. Regardless, the Sermon on the Mount is a challenge both to understand and to live up to.

The beautiful church that stands there and provides a veranda from which we will view the Sea, was built by the World War Two, murderous Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini.

MOUNT HERMON

This snow topped mountain can be seen looking when North from the Sea of Galilee. It is the main source for the water that flows into the Sea of Galilee. It is one of the 2 sites that Bible scholars point to as the location of the Transfiguration of Jesus.

The other is Mount Tabor across the valley from Megiddo. Mount Tabor is the more likely site. The Israelis love to go skiing on Mount Hermon in the winter.

CAESAREA MARITIMA 

There are 2 places called “Caesarea” in the New Testament.

One is Caesarea Maritima which is located on the coast of the Mediterranean, between Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Those on the February 10, 2014 journey will visit there.

The other Caesarea is Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13), and it is located North of the Sea of Galilee at the headwaters of the Jordan River.  Also called Paneas, after the Roman god Pan that was worshipped there and to whom shrines were constructed.

Jesus went “near” this town but no mention of him actually entering it.

It was near this location that he asked his disciples the discerning question as to who did they think he really was.

He relented in asking this until Peter got it right and blurted out that he was “the son of God”.                                                                                                      

We will probably not go there on this journey.

Back to Caesarea Maritima, which we will visit.

It plays a major role in the Bible story.

This magnificent sea side city was built by Herod the Great around 20 BC. Herod, despite being a cruel and hateful and murderous man, was also one of the truly great builders of the ancient world.

He built the magnificent temple in Jerusalem to ingratiate himself to the Jews. He made of Caesarea the most important sea port on the Mediterranean and had the great good sense to name it appropriately after his master, Augustus Caesar.

In order to make this port usable, given the stormy conditions that ships had to face on the Mediterranean, he had to construct docks and breakwaters to shield the ships from the storms.

Caesarea was Herod’s signature accomplishment. For a time it was the civilian and military capital of Judea. At one time it was the largest city in Judea. It became a major Christian city with prominent early Christian scholars like Eusebius the historian and the theologian Origen living there. Some speculate that the Nicene Creed, the most concise statement of Christian beliefs ever penned, may have originated there before it was debated on  and affirmed in Nicaea near Istanbul.

It was in Caesarea that Peter baptized a Roman Centurion and his household and all of his soldiers. Imagine that.

A lot of Caesarea has been excavated in recent years while most yet remains buried beneath the sand. The ruins that are to be seen represent many periods of history and I, along with our guide, will help you to sort that out on the February 10. 2014  journey.

What can be found there now to view is the great theater that Paul probably spoke from in his eloquent defense of Jesus before the Roman and Jewish leaders. That theater has been fully restored and is used by the Israelis for live performances now. The acoustics are marvelous. The ancients had figured that out, probably of necessity, because they did not have Sony to depend upon, and had to be able to project the human voice to thousands of theater goers at a time.

Great theaters like this dot the landscape of the Roman world across Europe and the Middle East including the great theater in Ephesus. The April 26, 2014 friends who travel with us then will see this famous site.

The story of Paul in Caesarea (Acts 23:13f) is one that we will read while seated in the context of the theater in February and it will make even more significance to you in that setting.

Herod also built a magnificent palace jutting out into the Mediterranean in Caesarea, little of which remains.

Herod also a built a magnificent aqueduct to bring water from the distant springs to satisfy the needs of this large city. The ruins of that great water system are there to explore, as is also the recently uncovered hippodrome where they used to enjoy chariot races.

One additional really significant find there, from an archeological standpoint, is a stone, discovered in 1961, bearing the name of Pontius Pilate, who condemned Jesus to death.

Skeptics of the Bible used to point to Pilate and observe that this name was missing from all other historical records, save the Bible, and so, obviously, the argument went, no such person ever existed really existed and the Bible record was therefore obviously mistaken.

It was indeed peculiar that Pilate seemed completely missing from extra Biblical history, but then, recently, in 1961, his name was found inscribed on a stone in Caesarea thus putting that issue to rest.

A replica of that “pilate” stone is on display near where it was discovered. The original is in safe keeping in a museum.

MEGIDDO 

meggido

The history of Megiddo goes back to the early pages of the Old Testament where it is mentioned as early as the book of Joshua.

It is one of the most thoroughly excavated sites in the Middle East and one of the most fascinating to investigate.

An exciting way to discover Megiddo is the read The Source written by James Mitchener about 60 years ago as he peels away the layers of the various civilizations that occupied that site way back to the stone age and up to the 20th century.

Ancient cities were built for specific reasons.

Among them were the following:

  1. They contained a source of precious water. Absolutely essential in case you came under siege as often happened.
  2. They occupied a location that could be defended from a military point of view.
  3. They had an important purpose for being, like defending a major trade route.

Megiddo met all of these requirements.

It is perched on the Western side of the great Plain of Esdraelon, also called the Valley of Megiddo.

Those who accompany us on the February 10, 2014 departure will be impressed by the view from on top.

On the North side of the valley is Nazareth in the distance.

To the East is Mount Tabor.

To the West behind Megiddo, is Mount Carmel.

Jesus, as a child, would have known of all of these places well.

He knew what the Bible of his day, the Old Testament, said had occurred in these places, and the stories and characters that had lived and died there. He could even see these places from his home town of Nazareth,

More wars have been fought in that fertile valley than anywhere else on earth. This valley, also known as the Plain of Esdraelon and the Plain of Jezreel, was the location of countless battles in world history. It was also the place that the Bible identifies as the location for the last great battle to be fought in human history, the battle of Armageddon.

Ruins you will see there go back about 9000 years we are told.

The earliest mention of Megiddo in the Bible was at the time of the conquest of the land by the children of Israel under Joshua.

It appears more prominently when it is mentioned as one of King Solomon’s fortress cities about 1000 BC.

Megiddo’s prominence is attested to by the fact that “it is the only Israelite settlement mentioned by every great power of the ancient Near East”.                                                                                                                                

The essential Via Maris trade route (means Way of the Sea) a route of great international importance, passed nearby and Megiddo provided a role in its protection.

Megiddo began to assert power about the same time as Egypt was beginning to come into its own militarily. This resulted in Egypt capturing Megiddo. The Egyptians actually invaded and conquered Megiddo from the Canaanites there in the valley below Megiddo about 1463 BC.

So much to see there, including:

  1. This historic “tel” itself is a perfect example of how some archeologists explore a site. They sometimes treat it like a giant pie and simply cut a slice out of it like you would a pie. This technique allows them to readily see the various layers of civilizations that have existed there. At least 20 layers ( Archeologist Yadine claimed 72 levels) of civilizations can be identified there in the cut.  What is a tel? It is an artificial hill created by the accumulation of the ruins of civilizations that have come and gone and been built on top of. The ruins of the previous civilizations create a hill as a result.
  2. The ruins of the stables where King Solomon kept his horses for his soldiers that manned this outpost of his empire.
  3. The engineering wonder of the hidden water source that goes back to the 9th century and King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. It enabled the occupants to access water that was outside the city walls and not be discovered by the enemy in the process.  They dug a shaft down deep about 120’ in the center of the tel and then dug a sloping tunnel about 215 ‘ long out to the spring so that they could retrieve water. Then they covered the spring over and so were now able to come and go for water, undetected. The marvel is that they dug from both ends and met in the middle.                                          The round Canaanite sacrificial alter still exists there. This is a silent reminder of the plague of Baal worship imported from Lebanon by Jezebel that the Old Testament recounts as being a constant temptation to Israel.
  4. The broad blood soaked fertile pain of Esdraelon/ Valley of Megiddo, Plain of Jezreel, different names for the same place, is where so many thousands of people have died over the centuries and where the Book of the revelation predicts that many more will someday die.

CANA   

There is more than one Cana and that is why this one is designated as Cana of Galilee.

Its location is subject to dispute.

Its fame rests on the famous story in John 2 of Jesus’ family being guests at a wedding there.

Jewish weddings usually went on for a week.

Some translations of John 1 read “On the third day” there was a wedding in Cana.

Be that as it may, this wedding provided an unlikely place for Jesus to begin his series of miracles.

Unlikely though it may seem, the miracle described as occurring there, is much more than meeting the embarrassment of a wedding host who had run out of wine , a breach of courtesy to say the least.

Why did Jesus respond to his mother Mary’s appeal to step in and provide the needed beverage? Seems like a mundane waste of a miracle?

But consider for a moment what the miracle involved and what it tells us about the power of Jesus.

Producing wine out of water involved speeding up the fermentation process even if there were grapes available to be employed in the process. The record says nothing about such. But it required by-passing the laws of physics and resulted in the producing of the best of wine.

Did that miracle happen in the town now identified as Cana of Galilee? We don’t know for sure. The visit there is still well worth the experience.

Often group like ours will use the occasion to invite member couples to rededicate their wedding vows there and this is a very meaningful experience to remember.

vows

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