jesus

MASSIVE PRAYER MEETING AT THE WAILING WALL

Last evening thousands of Jews gathered in the Old City of Jerusalem at the historic Western Wall (aka “The Wailing Wall”)  to pray that God would preserve Israel now seen by many there as threatened by American middle eastern policy. They view current US policy with alarm and as counter to the interests of the State of Israel.

The echoing sounds of  trumpets rang out across the crowded square as bearded rabbis prayed fervently to “Adonai” and “Elohim”, Biblical names for G-d (Jews so respect the name of God that they will not fully spell it out).

They prayed that “G-d would cancel the decrees” of John Kerry, that Israel would “stand firm against the difficult pressures coming from the other side of the ocean” and that their leaders would resist American pressure and that G-d would give them “fear and great awe of You that they will fear greatly to harm our holy land”.

 

The Obama Administration, in ways both subtle and open, has made it quite evident that they have chosen sides in the ongoing competing interests of the Arabs and the Jews. This tilting of American foreign policy away from US long standing support of the State of Israel to a not always veiled belligerence towards the Jewish State, has marked the Obama Administration since day one.

In spite of that fact American Jews have remarkably  remained firm supporters of this president.

Secretary of State John Kerry has been quietly pressuring the European powers to tighten the pressure on Israel in regards to the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in favor of the goal of declaring Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian State.

Orthodox Jews gather at the waiing wall for prayers on a regular basis

Orthodox Jews gather at the waiing wall for prayers on a regular basis

The plaza where this mass prayer meeting took place is quite significant and historic. The huge stones at the base of the wall were placed there at the time of Jesus by King Herod the Great and are all that remains of the Temple structure from that time. This is the western wall of the huge plateau on top of which then stood the 2nd Temple of Israel and where now stands two important Muslim buildings, the El Aksa Mosque and the gold covered Dome of the Rock built over what many believe to be the place of Old Testament sacrifice going all the way back to Abraham 2100 years before Jesus. The Muslims believe that it was from this spot Mohammed ascended into heaven on the back of a white stallion. These competing traditions about this site come laden with deep emotion and remain a tinder box that could easily ignite a new war.

In 1967 when, during the 6 day war, Israel took Jerusalem, this made it possible for Jews to again visit this wall, their most treasured site. They had been forbidden to go there when it was in Jordan. Its capture was greeted by great joy and celebration

I have stood there many times on our many Holy Land tours, first in 1967 just 6 weeks before the 6 day war and as recently as last February. We will go there again next December and January.

When I first went to the Holy Land  in 1967  the location of this huge prayer meeting appeared quite differently than it does today. There was no wide open plaza then that we now see. Then the area was a mass of slummy homes that crowded up against the base of the wall. It was not until, after weaving about through these dwellings  you suddenly rounded a corner and you could actually see where you were. And your eyes involuntarily turned up

One of the first things Israel did in 1967 was to clear away these modest Arab  dwellings, open the area up as we see it today and pave the filled in Tyropaean Valley from the time of Jesus (aka valley of the Cheesemakers) to accommodate the thousands that appeared there last evening.

There is great apprehension in Israel over the stance of the present US Administration and with good cause due to President Obama’s positive predisposition towards Islam due to fond memories of his childhood in Muslim countries.

One of the great values of travel to that part of the world is the  gaining of an understanding of the real politic issues that abound there and also a deepened understanding of the Biblical background and significance of the site

Dr. Robert Grant has been traveling to the Middle East for 46 years going there about 125 times and so has a unique understanding of the places important to Bible students and also what is reported on the evening news. Each year he takes Christian pastors and their church members on journeys there. His new book can be downloaded FREE at

http://www.holylandguru.com/ebook-for-you/

New Holy Land Discoveries Since ’67: Temple Steps, Pontius Pilate & City of David

There have been some marvelous discoveries since my first trip to The Holy Land in 1967. Probably too many to mention, so I will offer just a few and let that suffice as we continue the discussion.

Holy Land Discovery: Pontius Pilate Inscription?

 

pilate inscription

For years skeptics questioned the accuracy of the Bible account by pointing at Pilate and observing that there was no mention of this Roman official outside of the New Testament. Surely they reasoned, one would expect to find mention of him somewhere else in the literature or on the inscriptions and monuments. Mystery solved: A stone containing the inscribed name of Pilate was recently found in Caesarea Maritime, the great sea port built by Herod the Great. A replica is on permanent display near the amphitheater for tourists to view while the original is safely tucked away in a museum.

Holy Land Discovery: The Steps Jesus Would Have Used to Enter the Temple

In 1967 following the war that brought Jerusalem under Jewish control, the Israeli archaeologists began excavating at the Southern wall of the Temple Mount (which is  also the Southern wall of the city). They uncovered an enormous flight of stairs that led up from the Ophal Valley to the South and the Pool of Siloam, into the Temple through a set of gates. This well preserved flight of steps would have been used by Jesus and the Disciples as they entered the temple on feast days.

 

Much of the present day gates at the top of the stairs, (some from the time of Herod and some from a later time) are walled up. Limited access isjerusalem steps available into the Temple Mount at this point but the good news is that, once inside, the original ceilings and walls appear just as they did when Jesus walked the Earth. This section survived the almost total destruction caused by the Romans in 70 AD. It is however difficult to gain access to the inside section of this discovery as access is controlled by the Muslim authorities and is rarely granted.

 

In addition to the steps, extensive digging along the entire Southern Wall of the Temple platform, has resulted in the uncovering of the foundations of homes and public buildings from the time of Jesus as the mountain of dirt has been systematically scraped away leaving the remains on view. The exciting truth is that there is much more to be uncovered all the way from the walls to the City of David  down in the Kedron valley. 

Holy Land Discovery: City of David

city of davidThe city of David was still much just a mound of dirt in 1967 but is now an extensive archaeological dig. Much of it, until recently was hidden below the paving of a parking lot. Buildings going back to the time of David are being uncovered and it is quite apparent now that this was not a huge city but more like a mud village perched on the side of the Kedron Valley at the Arab town of Silwan.

 

Stay tuned as I keep you updated on ongoing and new Holy Land discoveries and archaeological finds!

 

It is my intention to address a wide variety of issues related to the Holy Land. We cover the gamut of history, theology, current events, archaeology and the current political tides. As such we welcome and encourage your comments and healthy interchange as we continue to learn together. 

 

BURIAL OF JESUS’ BROTHER JAMES DISCOVERED?

The trial has dragged on for years.

Around 2000, a noted Israeli collector of antiquities named Oded Golan, came into possession of an old stone box identified as an ossuary. It had been discovered in Silwan in the Kedron Valley, south of the old city of Jerusalem, about where the city of David once stood. (If you have followed my series of articles you will remember the one about the pillar discovered  jutting out of the ground also in Silwan. Go to the blogs at my website) .

The Old City of Jerusalem as seen today

The Old City of Jerusalem as seen today

This particular ossuary was special because of the amazing inscription found on it: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”.

Ossuaries were used to store the bones of the deceased, once the flesh had decayed away,  in order to save space. Such boxes were common in Israel around the time of Jesus.

The reported find of this box containing the inscribed name”Jesus “ set the Archeological and Biblical studies worlds virtually in a swoon.

Here, finally, was a concrete mention of Jesus from outside of the Bible. If true it would be astounding and significant.

The existence of what became known as the James Ossuary was made public in 2002 and almost immediately the controversy exploded.

The dating of the James Ossuary was not in dispute and was apparently universally recognized as contemporaneous with Jesus.

The ”brother of Jesus” inscription however was a different matter.

Mr. Golan was accused of creating a forgery and perpetrating a fraud and put on trial. One might wonder, why would he cook up such a fraud?  Follow the money is always good advice.

In 2012 the court proceedings came to an end and he was found not guilty of fraud but this did not clear up the controversy about the authenticity of the inscription itself.

Scholars remain divided as the dating and the significance of the inscription.

One pointed out that it was unusual for someone to identify themselves as “brother of” someone. That would seem to argue that the referred to deceased’s brother must have been  of some significance.

Another scholar indicated that this might even be a form of family  bragging.

What we do know of James, the brother of Jesus, was that he was slow to accept the miraculous nature of his older brother. One can understand that as they grew up together. One could almost hear him wondering: is it possible that my brother is the Messiah?

May have seemed incredulous to him at first.

It was only following the resurrection and his personal confrontation with the risen Christ  that he fully came into his own and became  the leader of the Jerusalem church.

As if to underscore this fact, Paul in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians made a point of stating that the resurrected Jesus appeared to James.

So bottom line: Is this the Ossuary of James, Jesus’ brother? Maybe.

But it doesn’t really matter now ? Does it?

Just kind of interesting.

Dr. Robert Grant has been traveling to the Middle East for more than 46 years and has been there more than 125 times as he hosts holy land tours for his friends. As a result he has been designated, much to his amusement, the holy land guru, by some.