Tag Archives: Palestine

Palestine Exploration Fund’s photostream

The Palestine Exploration Fund has posted some fascinating historical photos from the nineteenth and early twentieth-century that will be of interest to students of historical geography and archaeology. The link is here.

Once you get there scroll down to the second line of photos where you will see a photo made sometime between 1930 and 1936 of John Garstang working at Jericho. He is making photos of the abundance of pottery found at that spot.

Working through this collection is going to be fun.

The photos are marked “© All rights reserved.” Those who wish to use them for educational purposes should be able to do so under the copyright Fair Use provision.

HT: Paleojudaica and Biblical Paths.

Palestine nineteen centuries ago

Alfred Edersheim wrote his Sketches of Jewish Social Life in 1876. He tells us how the land of Palestine looked after three and a half centuries of Ottoman Rule. If you have read after some of the older scholars you know they were fond of long paragraphs. A far cry from the single sentence paragraphs we see in newspapers today. It says a lot about the readers, I suppose. Anyway, I have divided the single paragraph into four for ease of reading.

Eighteen and a half centuries ago, and the land which now lies desolate—its bare, grey hills looking into ill-tilled or neglected valleys, its timber cut down, its olive- and vine-clad terraces crumbled into dust, its villages stricken with poverty and squalor, its thoroughfares insecure and deserted, its native population well-nigh gone, and with them its industry, wealth, and strength—presented a scene of beauty, richness, and busy life almost unsurpassed in the then known world.

Then, he tells us how the land was described eighteen centuries prior to his day:

The Rabbis never weary of its praises, whether their theme be the physical or the moral pre-eminence of Palestine. It happened, so writes one of the oldest Hebrew commentaries, that Rabbi Jonathan was sitting under a fig-tree, surrounded by his students. Of a sudden he noticed how the ripe fruit overhead, bursting for richness, dropped its luscious juice on the ground, while at a little distance the distended udder of a she-goat was no longer able to hold the milk. “Behold,” exclaimed the Rabbi, as the two streams mingled, “the literal fulfillment of the promise: ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’“ “The land of Israel is not lacking in any product whatever,” argued Rabbi Meir, “as it is written (Deuteronomy 8:9): ‘Thou shalt not lack anything in it.’“ Nor were such statements unwarranted; for Palestine combined every variety of climate, from the snows of Hermon and the cool of Lebanon to the genial warmth of the Lake of Galilee and the tropical heat of the Jordan valley. Accordingly not only the fruit trees, the grain, and garden produce known in our colder latitudes were found in the land, along with those of sunnier climes, but also the rare spices and perfumes of the hottest zones.

Fig growing at Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fig growing at the Banias River, Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Similarly, it is said, every kind of fish teemed in its waters, while birds of most gorgeous plumage filled the air with their song. Within such small compass the country must have been unequaled for charm and variety. On the eastern side of Jordan stretched wide plains, upland valleys, park-like forests, and almost boundless corn and pasture lands; on the western side were terraced hills, covered with olives and vines, delicious glens, in which sweet springs murmured, and fairy-like beauty and busy life, as around the Lake of Galilee.

In the distance stretched the wide sea, dotted with spreading sails; here was luxurious richness, as in the ancient possessions of Issachar, Manasseh, and Ephraim; and there, beyond these plains and valleys, the highland scenery of Judah, shelving down through the pasture tracts of the Negev, or South country, into the great and terrible wilderness. And over all, so long as God’s blessing lasted, were peace and plenty. Far as the eye could reach, browsed “the cattle on a thousand hills”; the pastures were “clothed with flocks, the valleys also covered over with corn”; and the land, “greatly enriched with the river of God,” seemed to “shout for joy,” and “also to sing.” Such a possession, heaven-given at the first and heaven-guarded throughout, might well kindle the deepest enthusiasm.

Bethlehem – the Birthplace of Jesus

Years ago we would say that Bethlehem is located in the hill country of Judea about six miles south of Jerusalem. Today, Jerusalem stretches all the way to Bethlehem. It is no longer easy to get to Bethlehem. The massive wall built by Israel (Israelis call it the “fence”) separates Bethlehem from Israel.

During the Patriarchal period the town was called Ephrath (Genesis 48:7; 35:9-27). Later, as part of the territory allotted to the tribe of Judah, it was the home of Ruth and Boaz and became the birthplace and early home of David (1 Samuel 17:12, 15). The town was sometimes called the “city of David” (Luke 2:4, 11), but is most famous as the birthplace of Jesus (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-15; Matthew 2:1-16).

When one visits the Bible lands today he must realize that 2,000 years of history, involving both repeated building and the destruction of what has been built, has left nothing to remind one of the original place where Jesus was born. Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 160) said Joseph “took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village.” Origen (mid-third century) said the cave where Jesus was born was being shown and even the enemies of the faith were talking of it. Jerome, a resident of Bethlehem (A.D. 386-420), tells how the birthplace of Jesus and other places associated with the ministry of Jesus were defiled from the time of Hadrian to the reign of Constantine. The Church of the Nativity now stands at this spot.

Today I have chosen to include a photograph of vineyards in the hill country immediately to the west of Bethlehem.

Terraces in the hill country of Judea near Bethlehem. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Terraces in the hill country of Judea near Bethlehem. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Gordon Franz has written a good article about Bethlehem which is posted on the ABR web site. Read it here.

Jerome in Bethlehem

Recently I was reading a manuscript written by a friend on the general subject of how we got the Bible. Of course, he mentioned Jerome and his work of translating the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into what would be called the Latin Vulgate.

The earliest English versions of the Bible were translated from the Latin Vulgate. Even though the translations of today rely mostly on the Hebrew and Greek texts, we are still indebted to the work of Jerome.

Jerome lived in Bethlehem from about 384 A.D. to 420 A.D. In the front of the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem there is a modern statue of Jerome showing him in the act of writing. Everyone always asks about the skull at the foot of the statue. Some have suggested that Jerome kept a skull on his desk to remind him of his mortality. That would do it for me!

Statue of Jerome in front of St. Catherine's Church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Jerome in front of the church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Underneath the Church of the Nativity there are a series of grottoes or caves. One of these is said to have been the place where Jerome did his work of translation and writing. This sign presently marks the place where he once lived.

The place where Jerome once lived. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The place where Jerome once lived. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

McGarvey’s Land of the Bible

J. W. McGarvey was one of the best scholars of the 19th century Restoration Movement. He was president of the College of the Bible in Lexington, KY. One of my first books was his practical New Commentary on Acts of Apostles (1892). He had earlier (1868) written A Commentary on Acts of Apostles dealing with some of the critical issues of the book. McGarvey addressed some of the critical questions of the day in The Authorship of Deuteronomy, Jesus and Jonah, and Biblical Criticism.

McGarvey visited Palestine in 1879. His former students paid for the trip [I like that!], with the understanding that he would write a book. They would get their money back from the sale of the book. His book, Lands of the Bible, was published by J. B. Lippincott & Co., London and Philadelphia, in 1881. The title page indicates that 15,000 copies were printed. Impressive for a book on that subject.

J. W. McGarvey’s Lands of the Bible is available at the Restoration Movement pages here. For other works by McGarvey and other Restoration leaders begin with the home page here.

When I led my first group to the Bible Lands in 1967, one friend in the group had studied McGarvey’s book carefully. He took a tape measure with him. When we came to certain sites he took out the tape to take measurements. He wanted to be sure he was at the same place McGarvey visited.

Chapter IX in McGarvey’s book is titled “Argument from the Agreement of the Land and Book.” I have an outline of this material in my Introduction to Christian Evidences [OP], and use some of this material in my Daily Life in Bible Times series. One would be mistaken not to move beyond McGarvey, Thompson, Robertson, and the other early explorers. On the other hand, it would be amiss to dismiss what these scholars wrote.

What prompted all of this? Todd Bolen recently wrote a post on The Acoustics of Mounts Gerizim and Ebal in which he quotes from one of McGarvey’s letters here. I urge you read his post now. Also follow the link to the Biblical Studies and Technology Tools post showing the valley between Ebal and Gerizim using digital mapping tools.

I wanted to contribute something to this study by including here a scan of the plate from my original edition of Lands of the Bible (opposite page 288).

Shechem from the West. McGarvey, Land of the Bible.

Shechem from the West. McGarvey, Land of the Bible.

Todd Bolen has a great photo of Mount Ebal from Mount Gerizim. I would like to add the other side of the valley. Here is a photo showing Mount Gerizim from above Mount Ebal. It is an aerial shot made for me by the well known photographer Zev Radovan.

View of Mount Gerizim from above Mount Ebal.

View of Mount Gerizim from above Mount Ebal.

Maybe later we will discuss some of the important biblical events that took place in this area. For not let us note that this is where the blessings and curses of the law were read after the children of Israel entered the promised land (Deuteronomy 11:19). Here is the account of that event:

All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.  There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them. (Joshua 8:33-35 NASB)