June 04, 2010

What Have I Learned?

Well, it is now a year and a half after I walked into my first class in Jerusalem Israel. And now, I find myself sitting on yet another plane ride getting ready to embark upon a new adventure. So where have I been and what have I found?

Before traveling to Israel, I found myself consumed with questions about faith, God, religion, spirituality, historicity of the Bible,…. the list goes on really. Many of the questions that I was asking numerous people in western circles (United States mainly) seemed to be easily answered with the phrase, “have faith” …. My questions were so easily answered that this created a problem for me. If God can be that easily accepted and followed with answers like, “have faith” then it seems that anybody could create a god and have unknowns that are only explained with “having faith.”

When you don’t really know what it is that you are having faith in, but you are devoted, then this has the potential to be very dangerous. We have seen this play out in numerous cultic massacres. If I’m putting my trust in something whole heartedly, then I want to know who, what, when, how, and most of all why. And nobody should be scared about where it leads. Thus, my adventure to the “Holy Land” began.

I didn’t care what the truth turned out to be (even if it was drastically different than what I had thought)… I just wanted to know, from an academic standpoint, no “faith” involved. I desired to know how the claims of Christianity stood compared to the methods used in the secular realm. I wasted no time in this endeavor. My time in Israel consisted of hiking the lands of our Patriarchs, examining the cultural lifestyles from the time of Moses to the time when Babylon came and stomped out “Israel” as a nation. I studied in “the field” by going to the places mentioned in the text and by testing it for myself to see if the geography and archaeology matched. Yes, I had to use the testimony of secular and Biblical scholars who did all of the leg work before me, but I was able to pull in various opinions surrounding numerous sites. My travels took me from Egypt to Jordan and throughout Israel, including the West Bank. Many times archaeology and geography meshed nicely with the biblical stories…. sometimes it didn’t.

My pursuit of this knowledge allowed me the freedom to venture down the “forbidden trails” of …. WHAT IF GOD ISN’T WHO WE MAKE HIM OUT TO BE? More boldly stated; What if God is an entity that is completely different than who we say He is. Perhaps God isn’t anything like the being we see in our minds… the being that we have created in our own reality based on our cultural norms and in our times.

The question needs to be asked: What if God is just an explanation, like mythology that explains the unexplainable, but doesn’t really exist?

Here is what I learned. Basically, God DOES exist. There is too much history and too much evidence to deny it (coming from Biblical and Anti-Religious scholars who have discovered facts that cannot be denied).

How people worship God today differs upon the ancestors that set certain traditions and theories in motion, all according to the culture in which they lived. God did reveal himself to people in various ways. How that looked, in my opinion differed depending upon backgrounds, culture, and experience of the people involved. When Jesus spoke on the Sea of Galilee, he used fishing images to connect with the men… something that would have been foreign to people living in Jerusalem, and vise versa.

About 3 miles away from Nazareth (where Jesus grew up) a huge Roman town emerged with theaters, bathhouses, arenas, and all of the glamour of the day. Jesus and his father were both “carpenters,” or techtons. Basically, their trade was working with stones (contrary to popular belief). It is not too far fetched to believe that Jesus could have possibly worked in the city where honoring ones body and accomplishments were much more glamorous than the quiet village life that he would have been used to. Do you think he turned his head and condemned the people for following customs that had been engrained in them? Furthermore, did Jesus associate with these men at all? Did he listen to the theater as events were revealed in new and innovative ways that seemed to scream independence, opposite to the communal familiarity of Jewish life? What did he think of them? How did he treat them?

Oftentimes it is easy for us to think that the Bible is so far removed in time and culture. Therefore, it is really difficult to plan our actions or form truths around what we see written in the Biblical text. In addition to that, do we really need to model what is written if it was written so long ago and passed down through scribes years after the events took place?

I’d like to think that the determination of Paul (a follower of Christ who formerly persecuted Christians before becoming one) and all of the other Apostles stems from something that is real and tangible, even today. I’d like to rest in knowing that the 4,000 years of history that is woven into the tapestry of Israel has somehow been an accurate representation of what God would have wanted revealed about himself to us. Though several questions do exist in my mind today, just as I’m sure they existed for the disciples coming from little towns to Hellenized cities, for Elijah as he ran down that mountain to the Negev, and for Moses who wandered lost in the desert; one truth remains concrete. God is God. In our desire to know him more and in our attempt to uncover the mystery of the essence of God in the words of Ecclesiastes, “It is good that you grasp one thing, and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.” Eccl. 7:18

One thing at a time… We’ll get it figured out one day so we might as well enjoy the journey while we are able and make the most out of the opportunities that we do have. I came with many questions. I’m leaving with even more.

March 28, 2010

February 26, 2010

We made it in to Nablus!!!!!!!!

Exactly one year ago, we were not able to go into Nablus because of Political unrest... today.... we made it in to look at one of the most incredible Archaeological finds- the well that Abraham built, then was later re-established by Jacob, and was later visited by Jesus who met with the Samaritan woman! They have not found anything else that could match the exact description... so in my mind... I'm saying "this is the real deal!"

To see pics click: Samaria Pics

February 20, 2010

Benjamin Field Study

If you would like to look at pictures slowly, you can click on the Benjamin Field Study link or on Shan's pictures on the left hand side of the screen and it will take you to my albums.

Yesterday we went to the region of Benjamin. My favorite site was of Jericho (Old Testament). I liked seeing how Archaeology reveals the city of Jericho was destroyed when the walls around the entire city fell down and the city was burned, exactly as the Biblical account states.

Usually, when armies took over the cities, they would make a hole in the wall and conquer from there... furthermore they would loot whatever was in the city. In this case, Jericho's entire brick wall fell down at the exact same time around the year 1400 BC' ish. In addition to that, wheat and barley were found stored in pottery jars that were burned when the city was burned. Could this be because the Israelites offered up Jericho to God as their first fruits offering??? It was custom to offer something to God at the beginning of harvest season. Normally, all food would have been taken in a war. This does tell us that the time of year is consistent with the Biblical account as well- It was harvest time.

A famous Archaeologist, Kenyon came along and said the dates did not match to the Joshua account- however the sequence does. She, I feel, had an agenda to try and disprove the Bible based off of information that she didn't find instead of looking at what she did find. The old wall was found collapsed in around the entire city, a burn layer was found on top, and no cities existed on top of that city (following the understanding that if anyone built, they would be cursed as it says in Joshua 6).

Kenyon, uncovered the oldest building in the world in Jericho. It is a Neolithic Tower, which makes Jericho the oldest city in the world dating back to at least 9500 BC.

January 30, 2010

Back from Break

Being back home for the holidays was great! I am always so much more thankful for the freedoms that we have in America when I travel from other places who don't quite have the same thing. It was good to be home!