As my group of twenty-five has traversed the nation of Israel we have been seeing things and learning about things that really make the Bible come alive. What do I mean by that? Allow me to explain.
We have traveled to numerous sites and locations that were mentioned in the Bible both in Greece and Israel. We stood on the same spot that Paul did when he was accused of heresy in the city of Corinth, Greece. The exact location of the agora, the Greek word for market, is still fully in view, including the bema (a stone platform known as the “judgment seat”) where complaints were heard and judged. In the Book of Acts, chapter 18, verse 12, it says, “While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court.” This was done in the market place, out in the open for all to see.
Later we stood atop Mars Hill in Athens as I wrote about last week. Here also Paul stood and addressed the Athenians publicly regarding their religiousness (Acts 17:16-34).
Ah, but here in Israel we have been privileged to see places that go back so far in antiquity. Today, for instance, we visited the ancient City of David (Jerusalem), or at least the archeological remains that have been excavated. Then there was the Western Wall (often referred to as the Wailing Wall) which was part of the outer wall of the city of Jerusalem built by King Herod around 50 BC. Up north we visited the town of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. There we saw the foundation of the synagogue that stood there during the time of Jesus, and about fifty yards away are the archeological remains of Peter’s home where his mother-in-law was healed by Jesus.
Back in Jerusalem, we walked up the steps Jesus and the disciples would have used to enter the gates into the city. They’re still there! We saw the recently discovered Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed a blind man, instructing him to go and wash in this very same pool where he would regain his sight (John 9). There is also the possible location of Caiaphas’ home where Jesus was taken on the night he was arrested. Here he was mocked and beaten by Caiaphas’ goons. The home is no longer there, but the steps are. Jesus walked up those steps as he was finally led to the Roman judgment seat held by Pontius Pilate.
Our guide, George, made an interesting observation. It was this observation that got me thinking about writing this article. Though he’s much more a philosopher than a theologian, George said that archeological finds have always substantiated the Scriptures. He also said that no archeological find has ever contradicted the scriptures. As a teenager in the early 70s George worked summers on archeological digs in Jerusalem. At one site today, he described the dig where they discovered Cardo Street. Cardo in Latin means heart. This was a Roman Street built shortly before Jesus’ time. It was the equivalent of our Main Street. Rome built a Cardo Street in every town they conquered, and each one was a replica of the previous one. No matter where you traveled in Ancient Rome, you knew that every Cardo Street was the same. Merchants and sellers of all kinds would set up on these streets. George told us of the leader of their dig who was his mentor. This man would bring in a bunch of lemon pop sickles at the end of their day and give one to each of the young people helping in the dig. Then he would go into detail about all the things they had discovered that day. As George put it, “He didn’t have to do that. But it’s probably the reason I’ve been a tour guide for the last thirty years.”
George has done many things in his life. He is currently completing his Ph.D. He served in the Israeli military in what would be the equivalency of our Navy Seals. He has traveled extensively, including the United States, and has met some of the most notable people in the world. His work as a tour guide is normally done for private parties, so we were most fortunate that he agreed to take our group.
In a couple of days we’ll be winging our way back home to the U.S.A. I’ll be returning to my office at the church on Main Street. But I’ll also remember another Main Street, discovered by archeologists dating back to the time of Jesus, in the Holy City of Jerusalem.