Archive - February, 2009

Week 19 Sunday: the 4 Quarters, the Temple Mount, the Stations of the Cross, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Israel Museum

We used 3 categories for everything we saw to distinguish how plausible it was that something actually happened in a particular location.


1.    Category 1:  There is archeological proof that this is logically the place where “it” occurred.

2.    Category 2:  Somewhere in between Category 1 and Category 3.

3.    Category 3:  Tradition states that this is where “it” took place.  However, there is no archeological proof and usually there is 20 more feet of dirt on top of the location then there was during Jesus’ time (or whatever time we are talking about).

Old City (Jerusalem)

Sunday was our day inside Old City (Jerusalem).  The Old City is only .34 square miles in size.  However, that .34 square miles is divided into 4 Quarters: the Armenian (Christian), the Christian, the Jewish, and the Muslim.

The 4 Quarters

In all honesty, I was a wee bit confused as to which Quarter we were in sometimes.  The difference between the Armenian and Christian Quarters was hard to distinguish.  The simplest Quarter to recognize was the Jewish Quarter because walking down the alley was like walking down Rodeo Drive in California.

We entered the Old City through the Damascus Gate and walked right through the Jewish Quarter, past the Wailing Wall to the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock.  When we went from the Jewish Quarter to the Temple Mount (Muslim Quarter) we had to go through a security check point and could not bring our Bibles onto the Temple Mount.

The Muslim Quarter

King David first purchased the Temple Mount (called Mount Moriah in the Bible) with the intention of building a temple to God there.  He didn’t, but his son Solomon built the First Temple in 960 BC which was then destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar II (coolest villain name ever!) of Babylon in 586 BC.  Construction on the Second Temple began under Cyrus around 538 BC and was completed in 516 BC.  The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.  Efforts were made to rebuild the Temple, but known ever came to fruition.

In 691 AD, an octagonal Muslim building topped by a dome was built over the Rock.  This is what is still there today, but they put gold over the dome in the 1920s.  The Dome of the Rock is the third most holy place in Islam (after Mecca and Medina) because of Muhammad’s nocturnal journey that is recorded in the Quran.

Story of Muhammad’s nocturnal journey: Muhammad is met by Gabriel and taken to the farthest mosque (traditionally Temple Mount) where he goes up to heaven and meets with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.  Finally, Gabriel takes him to Allah.  Allah tells him that Muslims must pray 50 times a day.  However, Moses tells Muhammad that people will never do this so he must go back and ask Allah to lower the number.  Muhammad goes back several times until the number is finally down to 5 times a day.  Thus, the Temple Mount is the 3rd most holy place in Islam.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism.  Some Jews believe that the Rock is the Foundational Stone from which the world was created and expanded to its current form.  Jews do not believe in going up to the Temple Mount because of its holiness (this is the simple way of explaining it).  The Rock is traditionally where Isaac was almost sacrificed by Abraham and in Islam where Abraham almost sacrificed Ishmael.  Some Jews believe the temple will be rebuilt when the Messiah comes, the Third Temple.  There is a small minority who want to retake the Temple Mount for the Third Temple before the coming of the Messiah.

The Temple Mount is not viewed  the same way by most Christians.  It is viewed as the traditional place of many very important Biblically events.  We left all of our arguing for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Me and the Dome of the Rock:

The Armenian Quarter

The Armenian Quarter is the smallest of the 4 Quarters.  We walked through it very briefly.

The Christian Quarter

The Stations of the Cross

Being good Protestants, we were a bit confused attempting to do the Stations of the Cross, but it was still a surreal experience to walk where Jesus walked on his way to be crucified.

Along the way, the traditional location of each station are marked with a number.

Number marking the 9th Station of the Cross:

Stations of the Cross

  1. Jesus is condemned to death
  2. Jesus receives the cross
  3. Jesus falls the first time
  4. Jesus meets His Mother
  5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
  6. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face with her veil
  7. Jesus falls the second time
  8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls the third time
  10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
  11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus’ body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is where Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary) is located.  The location of Calvary is a category 1.  Inside the church is the traditional place where Jesus was prepared to be buried, the Stone of Anointing, and also the traditional Tomb of Jesus.  The Stone of Anointing and the Tomb are both category 3s.

This was the site that was the most surreal for me.  I have found myself each day saying, “I have been to the place where Jesus was crucified.”  I’m not sure if it is the idea that I was at the actual place where Christ was crucified (category 1) or what, but this is the site that has had the biggest impact on me.

3 Stations of the Cross are all together around Calvary.  Also, an interesting tradition I did not know is that Jesus was traditionally crucified over Adam’s skull (Adam of Adam and Eve).

10.  Jesus is stripped of His garments

11.  Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross

12.  Jesus dies on the cross


Video of Priests incensing 3 stations of the Cross (Calvary is the first stop):

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is divided up mainly among the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic with the Eastern Orthodox having the best sites.  The Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities in the 19th century around the building.  Conflict arises because all of these churches create what is called the status quo.  Much of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is common territory which all of the churches “share.”  The status quo requires all of the churches to agree when something must be done in the common territory.  So, if you want to rearrange something in the common territory, then you have would have to get all 6 churches to agree.  If you want to change a light bulb, you have to get all 6 churches to agree.

My favorite example is the “immovable ladder.”

On the window ledge over the church’s entrance there is a wooden ladder that someone put there before 1852.  The doors and window ledges of the church are common territory.  Therefore, the ladder has not been moved to this day because nobody claims ownership of the ladder and nobody will.  So, the ladder has sat on the ledge for 150 years.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 1885 (you can see the ladder below the left window above the door):

The Immovable Ladder in 1892:

The Immovable Ladder today:

The Jewish Quarter

The Wailing Wall/Western Wall is believed to be the only remain of the Holy Temple.  As I stated above, Jews may not set foot on the Temple Mount because of it is the holiest site in Judaism.  Therefore, the Wailing Wall is the closest Jews can get to the Temple Mount without being on the Temple Mount.  God’s Presence in Jewish tradition is in the Wailing Wall.  18th century scholar Jonathan Eybeschutz writes that “after the destruction of the Temple, God removed His Presence from His sanctuary and placed it upon the Western Wall where it remains in its holiness and honor.”  So, imagine how sacred a place would be if you believed that the Presence of God resided there.

The tradition of writing prayers down and placing them in the Wall did not originate until the 18th century.  I wrote my own prayer and put it in the Wall.  The Wall was completely covered in paper prayers.  It was very impressive.  There were several Jews sitting behind the Wall reciting the Torah which made me insecure about my Hebrew skills.  It was an incredible experience.

The Wailing Wall:

Me at the Wailing Wall (Up Close):

Me at the Wailing Wall (Half way):

Me at the Wailing Wall (From a distance):

I had to leave the group a day early (because of flights) and was therefore missing out on a few sites on Monday.  One of my goals was to go to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum.  However, I was VERY reluctant to spend money on a taxi and museum entrance fees, but my good friend Mary-Elizabeth helped me realize “we only live once” so I decided to take the chance.  I am very glad that I did!

The Israel Museum was smaller than I envisioned, but extremely nice (as everything was in Israel).  The Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient Biblical documents were very impressive.  I did not have a guide so it was a different experience compared to the rest of our tour.  So, it wasn’t every Dead Sea Scroll as I expected, but just part of one of the Scrolls.  It was in a large room that had humidifiers and was well protected.  I was still impressed.

The other cool part of the museum is an enormous model of Old Jerusalem during the Second Temple period (pic below).

Model of Old City (Jerusalem) during Second Temple at Israel Museum

Sunset Last Night in Jerusalem from the Israel Museum:

Our Professor very graciously had everyone meet that night so I could say my good-byes.  The group prayed for me and I felt very loved.  I also asked the group to donate feminine products (Mary-Elizabeth’s idea) and first aid kits which was a great offering which some people in Kenya really appreciated.  This will lead into my next blog post about being searched at the Israel airport with feminine products…

Have a great day!

Week 19 Saturday: Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, City of David, Upper Room, and Church of St. Peter

Saturday morning was our first day to tour Jerusalem…although we had stayed in Jerusalem for 2 nights.

Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives is Biblically famous in many ways:

First, Jesus tells 2 disciples to get a donkey for him to ride down to Jerusalem on here.  Second, He starts his journey to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. We call this day Palm Sunday now.  -Matthew 21: 1-11

It is where Jesus predicts Peter’s denial. -Matthew 26:30.

Jesus’ teaches and prophesies to the disciples. -Matthew 24-25

“Every day ‘Jesus’ was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called.” -Luke 21: 37

It is believed to be the place where Jesus ascended to Heaven in Acts 1 and is therefore also called the Mount of Ascension.  We visited the Ascension edicule which houses the Ascension rock that traditionally bears the footprint of Jesus’ right foot and is therefore his last impression (literally) on Earth.  This is a category 3.

The Ascension Rock and me (traditionally Jesus’ last foot print on Earth):

Church of the Pater Noster

We then walked to the Church of the Pater Noster (Our Father) from the Mount of Ascension.  This is the traditional place where Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11: 2-4.  Jesus also taught the Lord’s Prayer during the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6: 9-13 back up by the Sea of Galilee.  If you have time look these verses up because it is interesting how different they are.  The Church of the Paster Noster was very nice and had 154 different translations of the Lord’s Prayer on the walls of the church.  It was very impressive and reminded me of what an incredibly diverse people we are with so many languages and cultures.

The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili:

The Lord’s Prayer in Cherokee:

The Lord’s Prayer in Braille:

Pic of Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock, and me at the top of the Mount of Olives (East):

Pic of Jerusalem and Dome of the Rock from the Mount of Olives (East):

Pic of John, me, and the Dome of the Rock from the Mount of Olives (East):

Dominus Flevit (the Lord wept) church

The Dominus Flevit church is the traditional place where Jesus weeps after seeing Jerusalem and being overwhelmed by its beauty and then predicts the second destruction of the Temple.  -Luke 19:37-44.

From the pic below you can see how dominate the Temple (about where the Dome of the Rock is now) would have been looking out from the Mount of Olives.

View of Jerusalem from inside the Dominus Flevit church:

Video explanation (by our guide Peter) of Christ’s path to crucifixion from Dominus Flevit church:

The Kidron Valley separates the Mount of Olives from the Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock).  It is also know as the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Valley of Judgment) and is mentioned in Joel 3: 2, “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment there…”  Therefore, those who want to be judged first want to be buried in the Valley of Jehoshapat.  Our guide said that wealthy Jewish people pay large amounts of money to be buried here.  The picture below shows the cemetery.

Valley of Jehoshaphat cemetery:

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane is at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Kidron Valley and is where the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, he asked God to “remove this cup from me” (crucifixition) and then finds (Simon) Peter, James, and John sleeping. -Luke 14: 32-42

A Garden at Gethsemane

Gethsemane Signage

Church of all Nations (the pic of garden is just to the right of the church)

The bedrock where Jesus traditionally prayed (inside Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane):

City of David

We then journeyed to the South side of Jerusalem to the City of David.  We stopped by the Pool of Siloam which is where Jesus tells a blind man to go wash his face after Jesus spits on the ground making mud with his saliva and covering the man’s eyes with this mud. -John 9

The Last Supper (Cenacle) at Mount Zion

The Upper Room at Cenacle is traditionally where Jesus and the disciples met and had the Last Supper.  However, this church was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century and the actual Upper Room would be below the ground level of today…so this is a category 3.

This is also the site where traditionally the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in Acts 2.  Pentecostals and Assembly of God folk rejoice!

The Upper Room and site of Pentecost traditionally:

Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu

Gallicantu is Latin for cock crows, Jesus tells Peter that “before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” -Mark 14: 30  However, this is not the traditional place where this occured, but a church commemorating this verse.  A tradition in the Roman Catholic church is that Jesus’ was imprisoned here before His crucifixion in the caves below the church.

Pic of Old Jerusalem from the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (West):

Coolest church sign to date “Holy Stairs Only”:

Thus concluded our tour of the East, South, and West of Old Jerusalem.

Week 19 Friday: Masada, Qumran: Dead Sea scrolls, Jericho, and the Dead Sea


Masada is the name of a site of ancient fortifications and palaces on top of an isolated rock plateau which impressively looks out over the Dead Sea in Southern Israel.

Impressive video from Masada looking out over the Dead Sea:

Josephus, a 1st century Roman Jewish historian, is from whom all of our information about Masada comes, except for archeological evidence.  Herod the Great fortified Masada 37-31 BC as a get away place in case of a revolt.  However, a group of Jewish extremists called the Sicarii took over the Roman control of Masada.  In 72 AC, the Romans were out conquering again and wanted Masada back.  However, Masada was well fortified, up very high, and only had a snake path to get up and down.  So, they built a ramp up to the plateau supposedly using Jewish slaves which took 2-3 months.  The story says that the Romans were getting ready to take the fortress, but it was dark so they decided to wait until the morning.  The Sicarii decided they would rather die than be enslaved by the Romans.  So, each man was in charge of killing his own wife and children, then the men drew lots and killed each other while only the unlucky lot winner had to kill himself because suicide is a sin in Judaism (especially if you’re an extremist).  The Romans got up the next morning to find 936 people dead and all the buildings burned (except for the food room to show that they had enough food to survive).  In the end, 2 women and 5 children survived who had hidden and told the story of what had happened.

The story of Masada is very sacred to the Jewish Israelis, but there is a lot of doubt surrounding this story told by a Jewish historian.  Therefore, I have decided to formulate no opinion which I think is safer.

Masada model:

Masada signage:

A model of Herod’s palace on the side of Masada:

View looking down on Herod’s palace today:

A picture of us at Masada at the start of the Snake Path:

On our way down the Snake Path with cable car above and me as the little dot:

On our way down the Snake Path (the tiny dot is John):

Me at the bottom of the Snake Path (Snake Path on right):


Qumran is the settlement where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered from 1947 to 1956.  The scrolls were found in a series of eleven caves just to the west of the settlement.

Qumran with the caves in the background:

Qumran with the Dead Sea on the left and the caves on the right:

The Dead Sea scrolls consist of roughly 900 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, which were written between 150 BC to 70 AD.  This is an enormous find because the oldest Hebew Bible texts before this only dated back to the 9th century AD.  So, to find text from the 2nd century BC was a big breakthrough in textual criticism (how old are these books? Who wrote them?).  Below is a list of the books found.

Books  ↓ No. found  ↓
Psalms 39
Deuteronomy 33
1 Enoch 25
Genesis 24
Isaiah 22
Jubilees 21
Exodus 18
Leviticus 17
Numbers 11
Minor Prophets 10
Daniel 8
Jeremiah 6
Ezekiel 6
Job 6
1 & 2 Samuel 4


Jericho is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.  Archeologists have unearthed 20 successive settlements in Jericho dating back to 11,000 years ago (9,000 BC).  Jericho also has the oldest stone structure in the world.

Oldest stone structure in the world:

Biblically, in Deuteronomy 34:1 God shows Moses Jericho as part of the Promised Land and then Jericho is where the Israelites are led to by Joshua after leaving the bondage of Egypt.

Jesus heals 2 blind men or 1 blind man (depending on which book you read) as he is leaving or entering Jericho (depending on which book you read).  -Matthew 20: 29-30, Mark 10: 46-59, and Luke 18: 35-43.

Jericho is mentioned in my favorite story of the Good Samaritan. “A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers.” – Luke 10:30.

Jericho is where John Williams’ favorie story, the story of Zacchaeus, takes place. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.” -Luke 19: 1 We stopped at the traditional site of the Zacchaes story, but were told that on our possibility scale of 1 to 3…this was a 3,000.

Zacchaes’ Sycamore Tree:

Sign for Zacchaeus’ Sycamore Tree:

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is salty!  It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean with 33.7% salinity.
Therefore, animals cannot flourish there so it is called the Dead Sea.  Also, the Dead Sea’s shore is the lowest point of dry land on Earth at 1,385 ft. below sea level.  So, with this information we decided to jump in and go for a swim.  Well, not really because you can’t really swim in the Dead Sea…you just kinda float around.  The worst part was that the salt sharpens the rocks in the dead sea to where I tried to put my hand down at one point and it sliced my hand pretty good and the same thing happened with the heel of my foot.  So, if you are ever in the Dead Sea just keep floating and don’t reach down.  It was a lot of fun for everyone and surreal to be floating around in the Dead Sea with my seminary friends (just like us all riding camels by the Pyramids).

Video of Seminary crew floating in the Dead Sea: (like we do)

Pic of Seminary crew floating in the Dead Sea:

When we got out it didn’t take long for the salt to show up on our skin and make your skin feel very dry.

Salty skin after being out of the water for 3 minutes:

You HAD to take a shower.  Luckily, I had a few people go before me who learned the hard way that when covered with salt one should not start the shower on hot, but start the shower on cold until one has all of the salt off of them and then warm it up.  Another FYI for those future Dead Sea goers.  Good Dead Sea times!

Thus ends Friday…

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