Bible Geography

The Church of the Holy Sepulchure in Pictures

Posted Friday, April 21, 2006 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Archaeology   Comments: None
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Since Sam just gave you all the arguments for and against the two main burial sites of Jesus, I thought I would pass along a few pictures and a few stories about them. I'm still a little unsure about how to do the picture thing in the blog, so it will be a fun experiment with this as well. Thanks to Brian for his help. This post will take a look (literally) at the Church of the Grave (as it is called in Hebrew).
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The Garden Tomb in Pictures

Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2006 by Charlie Trimm
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We have seen the Church of the Grave in pictures, now we can move on to the Garden Tomb. There are not as many stories here, however. The Protestants just get along better than their Catholic/Orthodox friends in the Church of the Grave, I guess.

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Posted Thursday, February 08, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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A tour of Israel with Charlie.

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As some of the readers of the blog know, my wife and I lived for a year in Jerusalem. While we were there I studied a variety of topics at Hebrew University and we took several trips throughout Israel and two of the surrounding countries. When I came back to the States, I taught a class (at Northwest Baptist Seminary as well as a Sunday School class at the church I attend) on Bible Geography. Some time ago I started a series on Bible Geography and got a whole two posts into it before I quote. Well, I am now going back to it. I plan to post pictures of various sites as well as a small amount of data. Hope it will be fun! We are going to start with Caesarea.

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Caeserea in the New Testament

Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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In a previous post we looked briefly at the history of Caeserea, and now we turn to what happened there in the New Testament. One of the key events in Acts is the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10. Peter was staying in Joppa (modern day Tel Aviv), a short drive down the road from Caeserea, when Cornelius calls him up to Caeserea. The difference between the two cities could not be greater: Joppa was very Jewish, while Caeserea was the epitome of Gentileness at the time.But as you know, Peter went and things have not been the same since! 
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Posted Tuesday, February 27, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Old Testament   Comments: None
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Our tour of the coastal plain continues with a visit to Gath, the hometown of Goliath. Gath was one of the five major Philistine cities and one of the two inland Philistine cities. It so happens that the three oceanside cities are still occupied today while the two inland cities are deserted and there has actually been extensive debate about whether these sites are accurate or not. Gath occupied an important place between the coastal road and the Shephelah, the lowlands entrance to Judah. The view from the top of Gath is superb, as one can see in all four directions a fairly significant distance (although there is a constant haze in Israel). Gath played a role in the Ark narrative in 1 Samuel. David's boss lived there(1 Samuel 27), but David later returned and took the city (1 Chronicles 18:1).  It was eventually taken by Aram (2 Kings 12:17) and Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26).
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Tel Aviv

Posted Friday, March 09, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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From the ancient to the modern, from a bare hill to a bustling city, from Gath to Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is mentioned in the Bible, but it is not referring to the city that we know today. A little contest: anyone know where Tel Aviv is found in the Bible? The modern Tel Aviv was founded by a group of Jewish settlers in the early part of the 20th century. Tel Aviv, however, is right next to Yaffo (Joppa), which is a biblical town. It was one of the few ports the Israelites had on the sea, but they only controlled it for a short period of time. In the NT, Yaffo was known for being distinctly Jewish, which gives a flavor to the Peter-Cornelius story. Peter was in the distinctly Jewish city of Yaffo and was called to the totally Gentile city of Caesarea to witness to a group of Gentiles.

Today Yaffo is inhabited by Arabs while Tel Aviv is very Jewish. It is not the capital, but most of the foreign countries have their embassies there because they do not recognize Jerusalem as a Jewish city. Israelis say that you go to Jersualem to pray, Haifa to work, and Tel Aviv to play, and this certainly describes the city well. It is very secular and is in many ways the center of Israeli life.  Tel Aviv used to be known as a beautiful "city of white," but today it is run down. The first block or two in from the beach are beautiful, but once you get into the heart of the city the lack of maintanence so typical of Israelis becomes very evident, as you will be able to see in some of the pictures. The weather is obnoxiously humid. One time when I flew out I left Jerusalem very early in the morning when it was quite pleasent and somewhat chilly. I arrived in Tel Aviv about forty five mintues later and just about died when I got out of the car and got slammed by the humidity, and it was only five in the morning. Tel Aviv is not a nice place to be in the summer, in my opinion. But then, I did grow up in the Northwest!

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Acco (Acre)

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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Our journey now takes us north to the Plain of Acco. Acco is spelled in a wide variety of ways, including Acre and Akko. In NT times it was called Ptolemais when Paul came through the town. The Plain of Acco is north of Mt. Carmel and the Jezreel Valley and provides a fairly direct link between Israel and Phoenicia. For this reason, the plain of Acco was usually not under Israelite control, except for the high points of Israelite history, such as the time under Solomon. Not much is recorded as happening here, although Judges 1:31 does note that Asher did not take the city. The rather strange story of the land of Cabul occurs here as well, where Solomon gives 20 cities to Tyre, but they do not like them. Perhaps they were not good enough? We are not sure.

Acco played a greater role in postbiblical history. It was the major port of the Crusaders and one of the last places that the Crusaders were able to hold on to. Most of the ruins today are from  Crusader times. Napolean was defeated when he tried to take Acco, sending him in flight back to Egypt. Today you can see the place where Napolean tried to attack the city. Acco is most famous today as a place where secular Jews go to hang out on the Sabbath for a beautiful day. 

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Posted Thursday, April 05, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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This stop on our tour will not have much Scripture attached to it because it did not exist during Bible times. It does seem rather strange that it did not exist because it seems like it would have been a great port then as it is now, but such is the way things worked out. The location of Haifa on the coast, just to the north of Mt. Carmel, could have been part of a very busy road if people decided to go around Mt. Carmel instead of going over it through Megiddo, but it seems that only a few went this way. A little elevation was better than a longer road I guess. Today Haifa is known for being the place where lots of work gets done, through the port and various industries. It is also the home to a Bahai shrine, the cleanest place in Isarel, as you will be able to tell in the pictures.
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Banias (Caesarea Philippi)

Jesus or Pan?

Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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Banias was one of the prettist places which I went, mostly because there was lots of water and trees and it made me feel like i was back in the northwest. Banias is located in the northeastern end of the Hula Valley, which is part of the Jordan Rift just to the north of the Sea of Galilee. After Banias the road begins to climb up the Golan Heights towards Damascus many miles down the road. Banias is one of the major sources of the Jordan River because several springs put out large amounts of water which eventually join the Jordan. Nothing happened here in the OT that is recorded, but in the NT it became a Roman city which was dedicated to the worship of the Greek god Pan. It was called Panias, but it changed to Banias because of the lack of a p in Arabic. During NT times it was also called Caesarea Philippi and is famous for being the place where Peter made his confession of faith. The location is a fascinating choice: it is well away from any Jewish centers and is actually in a fairly pagan city dedicated to a pagan god. I think that this fits in with the desire of Jesus to not let people know that he was the Messiah because people had the wrong idea of the Messiah. He wanted to redefine the word Messiah before he proclaimed himself the Messiah, and so when he communicated it clearly to the disciples he was away from any places that would care about the Jewish Messiah. The location probably was significant for the disciples as well: here they are comprehending the Messiahship of Jesus while sitting under the shadow of a pagan temple. The pictures include the spring, a Herodian palace and the temple of Pan. 
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Posted Wednesday, April 18, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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Capernaum occurs only in the NT, although it was perhaps the home of the prophet Nahum (the name means "village of Nahum" in Hebrew). The town is on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee and in the time of Jesus was on the international road connecting Egypt with the Persian areas. I think that this is the reason that Jesus relocated from Nazareth to Capernaum: he wanted to be in a place where everyone came. Some of the earliest churches appear north of Israel in Syria, and I think that traders and others brought the gospel north, partly because of the work of Jesus in Galilee.

Capernaum today  is not a national park, but is run by the Catholics (we saw the amusing sight of a robed monk doing a dance while his cell phone rang!). There are two main structures there that attract attention. One is a synagogue that has been partially restored. While this is not the synagogue to which Jesus would have gone, it does give a good feeling for what it would have looked like, with benches along the side and the various columns and so on. But underneath the synagogue is the foundation for the previous synagogue, which probably is the one to which Jesus went. The other structure is Peter's house. This is a house that dates back to the time of Jesus and which was expanded many times to hold large crowds. Later graffiti describes it as Peter's house. Is this really the place? Quite possible, although we do not really know. The Catholics have built a space ship church over the house. The center of the church is a glass floor through which you can look down and see the house. 

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Gamla: Masada of the North

Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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Gamla is not a biblical site in the sense that it is mentioned in the Bible, but it does play a role in the Jewish revolt around 70 AD. Gamla was one of the last Zealot strongholds which the Romans conquered. Similar to Masada in the south, the defenders ended up committing suicide rather than surrendering. Gamla is in the Golan Heights and is essentially a rocky outcrop that is almost impossible to attack. There is only a wall on one side of it because the other three sides are so steep that a wall is not needed. Today it is also a popular place to view vultures.
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Golan Heights

Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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To the north of the Sea of Galilee is the Hula Valley, the northernmost end of the Jordan Rift. To the east of the Hula Valley and the Sea of Galilee lies the Golan Heights. Throughout history, the Golan Heights have been highly contested and often fought over. In biblical times the main reason was due to the road. The road that ran from the south, reaching to Eilat, the Red Sea and the spice trade, ran north through the Golan Heights into Damascus and from there into Mesopotamia. There was also a stretch of the International Highway that went along the coastal plain of Israel which went through the Golan Heights. Whoever controlled the Golan Heights also controlled the revenue that went along the roads. The Golan Heights is not referred to by that name in the Bible, but such cities as Ramoth Gilead, Karnaim and Aphek are in the Golan Heights. Israel and Aram often fought over cities in this region. The Golan Heights region is also known as Bashan in the Bible, a place of luxuriant growth. It was the home of one of the Amorite kings before he got his life cut short.

            Today Syria and Israel are fighting over the region. In the War of Independence Syria took over this land and then used it to position artillery to regularly shell targets in Israel, an easy task since the Golan Heights overlooks many Israeli settlements around the Sea of Galilee and in the Hula Valley. Then in the Six-Day War Israel took the Golan Heights after Syria attacked them. Quenetria, a city of 30,000, now sits deserted since it is in the middle of a UN demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria. Syria still wants the Golan Heights back, and it is a possibility that someday Israel will give back the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for formal recognition, similar to the trade of Sinai to Egypt for formal recognition. Would this be a good idea? I don’t know.
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The Jordan River

Posted Friday, May 18, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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The Jordan River is part of the Jordan rift, which runs from the Hula Valley in the north to the Red Sea in the south. The Jordan starts from several springs in the north, runs into the Sea of Galilee and then eventually ends its journey in the Dead Sea. In contrast to many rivers in the ANE (such as the Nile), the Jordan was not the center of transportation and life. Instead, it served more as a barrior between two regions. The river is not usually very broad or powerful: we floated down it quite slowly on a raft once.

Crossing the Jordan is an important biblical theme. The most important instance is the crossing during the Conquest, which corresponds to the crossing of the Red Sea 40 years earlier. The grammar describing the crossing of the Jordan exhibits some oddities, which emphasizes the importance of the crossing and helps the reader to feel the crossing. The theme is reversed many years later when David crosses the Jordan in the other direction and the grammar acts the same way it did in Joshua: David has now left the land.

In modern times the Jordan is a firestorm for politics because it is a water source. Syria and Israel debate over the river and who gets to use what percentage of the water. We met a man in Jerusalem (from the Northwest) who was trying to achieve an example of peace in the Middle East through water. He thought that if the nations could agree about water, then that would provide a stepping stone for other negotations. I thought it was very interesting work and it could have good long range results. 

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Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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Hatzor (usually spelled Hazor) was a very important city just north of the Sea of Galilee. It's importance was due to its site along the major international road leading from Egypt to Babylon. Hatzor is also important for biblical studies because serveral major events happen in the city which can be connected with places actually found at the site.

The first mention of Hatzor is in Joshua 11, when Joshua kills all those in Hatzor and destroyes the city by fire. Hatzor is one of only a few cities which were physically destroyed during the exile. The second major story about Hatzor is found in Judges 4 and the story of Deborah and Barak. They fight Jabin, who was king of Hatzor. Since he is also called the king of the Canaanites, it seems that Hatzor was a very large and important city of the time. A Canaanite palace has been found at Hatzor which might be from this time period.  There is also a burn level that dates to around this time. 

During the Israelite period, Solomon fortified  Hatzor (1 Kings 9:15). This is seen today in the Solomonic gate at Hatzor which dates back to the time of Solomon. A century after Solomon a water system was dug to allow access to water during a siege. 


Unfortunately for those at Hatzor, these measurs did not help much and the city fell to the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29). 

The tel at Hatzor is one of the largest in Israel. Even though digging at Hatzor has gone on for decades, only a small percentage of the site has actually been dug. They are currently searching for a library at Hatzor, and I hope that I am alive to see the day when they find it.  

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Mount of Beatitudes

Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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We have little idea where the Sermon on the Mount was actually given. But this place is a good guess! It is on top of a hill, is near the Sea of Galilee and can hold large crowds. So why not? There is a very nice church on top of the mountain as well, where you can see the coat that the Pope wore on his visit here. One of the times we were here there were a large number of security people wandering around, which was unusual because this was a Christian site in Galilee. No worries about bombings here. The reason for the security was shown halfway through our visit when even more security showed up, along with the president of Germany. The president of Germany, like Israel, is mostly a figurehead, but he is still worthy of lots of security I guess!
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Nimrod's Fortress

Posted Monday, July 09, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
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Nimrod's Fortress has nothing to do with the Bible. But my excuse for putting up pictures is just that it is a cool place to wander around. It was built by the Muslims to guard against the Crusaders. It is just to the west of the Golan Heights and to the east of Banias. It sits on a hill and has a commanding view of the Hula Valley. Great views if there is no fog!
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