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Showing posts from 2008

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem...

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A Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. Or as they say in Greece, "Kala Christougianna!" As millions of people across the globe pause this day to reflect on the birth of Jesus the Anointed One by Mary, the elect, chosen one of God, I felt it appropriate to skip ahead in the Israel recap and tell of our experience in the Little Town of Bet Lekhem. Bet Lekhem, or as we say "Bethlehem", is one of the most hotly disputed cities on the face of the planet. It's only 10km south of Jerusalem and is located within the West Bank. No Israeli citizen, whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, or atheist, is allowed to enter the city limits. We had to unload the bus and get on another one with a Palestinian driver and a Palestinian Christian tour-guide. The entire city is surrounded by cement walls about 15ft high with barbed wire across the top. After passing through the checkpoints it was as if we had entered another world, and in a way we did. Bethlehem is a Muslim city. …

12 Days of Christmas

Some of you may have heard it already, but Straight No Chaser has a Christmas album out that has my favorite version of "12 Days of Christmas." Here it is if you want to hear it.

Holy Land Saga, pt. 2.1

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Day 3: Tue 11/18/08Tel-Dan:When thinking about historically/biblically important cities and/or archaeological sites, the ancient city of Dan might not make the top of your list. However, as I found out today, it is actually very important for several reasons.First, from the archaeological evidence in the layers of the city, we can tell that there were three distinct times when the city was completely destroyed and then rebuilt. The first dates back to the time of the Exodus/ Conquest of Canaan (ca. 13th Cent. BC). The second dates back to the 11th Cent. BC, which lines up perfectly with the biblical account of the tribe of Dan’s moving from southern Israel to the northernmost territory and destroying the city of Lashish. The third destruction layer dates to the approximate time of the Assyrian invasion of Israel.Secondly, it confirms the account in the Old Testament of King Jeroboam’s construction of two cult centers for Israel, one of which was right here in Dan. The remains of the f…

Holy Land Saga, pt. 2

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Day 2: Mon 11/17/08Bethsaida:This was the home town of Peter, Andrew, James, and John. It was a small fishing town off the coast of the Sea of Galilee with a population less than 800. I say “was” because Bethsaida is one of the three cities in which Jesus preached that is no longer a city. Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Korazin are the three towns that Jesus actually prophecies against because of their unbelief, and none of those three towns are functioning cities today.One of the coolest parts about the site is the location. From the hill upon which the town was located you can see the Mount of the Beatitudes, the Mt. of Tiberius, Capernaum, and most of the rest of the Sea. I would like to have seen it in the days of Jesus.Sea of Galilee:After seeing Bethsaida, we went down to the Sea of Galilee and were able to take a boat out onto the water. The feeling of being out on the very Sea that played such an important role in the ministry of Jesus was incredible. Words cannot accurately descri…

Holy Land Saga pt. 1

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Day 1: Sun 11/16/08Caesarea Maritime:The first stop on our journey through the Holy Land was Caesarea Maritime, the famous port city established by King Herod the Great, as well as the location of Paul’s trial before being sent to Rome (Acts 25).We learned a lot about Herod the Great. As far as his kingship goes, he was a very successful leader. He remodeled the Temple, he built great palaces and fortresses (e.g. Massada), and he also constructed the first and largest man-made port in ancient Rome in the city of Caesarea. Politically, he had a very successful run. Morally, however, he was a vicious man. After marrying his wife and bearing two sons with her, he decided that anyone in the bloodline of the previous royal family had to die because they were seen as threats to his throne. Thus, he had his wife and sons murdered. When Caesar Augustus heard this news, he is recorded as saying, “It is better to be one of Herod’s pigs than one of his sons.”This is the same king, as you might r…

Good Ol' US of A

Well, 3 plane rides, 6 hours worth of layovers, and one 30-hour day later, I am back in the United States. I must admit, I am going through a bit of reverse culture shock. America is so different than any place on earth if by nothing more than the fact that we have by far the most diverse population demographics. I was used to looking around Greece and seeing Greeks. I looked around Italy and saw Italians. I looks around Israel and saw Jews and Palestinians. Not a whole lot of diversity around, save the tourists (like us). But when I look around America, I see people of all descents, races, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, color, body build. So much diversity leads to a very unique way of doing things. Here are some of the key differences I see between America and the rest of the world: On the whole, Americans do not realize how much the US effects the rest of the worldAmericans care way less about the environment than most of EuropeAfter being overseas for so long, it's s…

The time has come

It's hard to believe, but our time here in Greece is almost up. We leave tomorrow morning, flying out of Athens to Rome to begin 13 days of travel through Europe. Along the way we will see Rome, Florence, Pisa, Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London. It's going to be a lot of fun but very stressful at times. Please keep us in your prayers for the next two weeks until we get back home to Columbia. I will try to update all about Israel and free travel when I get back home. God bless. PS - I added my calendar to the bottom of the blog page so you can see what's coming up on the schedule and when we'll be where.

Israel...go ahead and be jealous

I don't have time right now to update much about Israel, and I can't guarantee that I'll get very far this week with finals and everything coming up. Just so you know what's coming, here's a list of all the places/sites we visited on our trip through the Holy Land: Caesarea MaritimeNazareth/Church of the Immaculate ConceptionBethsaidaSea of Galilee boat ride"Jesus Boat" MuseumCapernaumMt. TiberiasMount of the BeatitudesDan Nature ReserveTel-DanBanyas Falls in the Golan HeightsCaesarea PhilippiFortress of NimrodBaptistery at the JordanMt. Horeb/Springs of Harod (Gideon in Judges 7)Valley of JezreelQum'RanEin GediDead SeaMt. SodomMasadaBedouin campBe'er ShevaHa Ella Valley (David and Goliath)Bet GuvrinBet ShemeshBethlehem/Church of the NativityJerusalemMt. of OlivesGarden of GethsemaneSt. Anne's CathedralPools of BethesdaChurch of the FlagellationChurch of the CondemnationVia DolorosaChurch of the Holy SepulchreTemple MountWestern WallHezekiah&#…

Olympia - as in the Olympic Games

Olympia was definitely my favorite place on the Southern Greece trip. It was extremely beautiful, there were trees that were actually changing colors, and it was really the first time all semester that it actually felt like fall. I loved it there. We started by going to a really cool museum where we got to see lots of amazing statues (Like Hermes, and Nike) and some really cool artifacts, like weapons and armor dedicated to Zeus. Speaking of Zeus, he was the patron god of Olympia (even though it is no where close to Mt. Olympus). The Olympic games, which were held every 4 years, were dedicated to Zeus. The Temple of Zeus, which is now mostly in ruins thanks to earthquakes, used to house the great statue of Zeus, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Unfortunately, like all but one ancient wonder the Statue of Zeus is now destroyed. We got to see a really nice artist's rendition of it, though... The site of ancient Olympia was one of the prettiest places I have been in Greec…

Epidaurus Health Club and Resort

Epidaurus (Epidavros in Greek) is basically set up as an all-inclusive health club and resort. This is where wealthy Greeks would come for treatment of certain diseases or just to obtain better overall health. The patron god of this town was Asclepios, the healing god. His priests were also doctors at the resort. I call it a resort because it wasn't really a town of its own. Very few people actually lived there. Most people only came for short periods of time (a few months at most) and lived in hotel rooms of sorts. They had everything there - Roman-style baths, gymnasiums, a track, a theater for entertainment (the most well-preserved ancient theater in the world, I might add). The theater was a masterpiece, accoustic perfection. Our tour guide gave a demonstration to show us just how amazingly sound could be carried. I and several others went to the very top of the theater and could hear everything as if our guide were just a few feet away. We could hear him crumple and rip a pi…

Citadel of Mycenae

Yet another fortress on a hill. We see a lot of those in this part of the world, and don't worry - there are plenty more to come. Mycenae is one place I had been looking forward to seeing for a long time. Anyone familiar with the works of Homer or the movie Troy will recognize this as the home of the Greeks who waged war on Troy. They were very much a warrior society, with gigantic fortress walls, elaborate tombs full of votive weapons, not to mention being the victorious in one of the most famous battles in history that may not have happened... Regardless of the accuracy of Homer as an historian, the Mycenaean civilization left behind a lot of good stuff for modern archaeologists to oogle at. The most impressive of which is definitely the Lion Gate in the "Cyclopean Wall". It is called the Cyclopean Wall because when the classical Greeks first stumbled upon this citadel, they thought that there was no possible way humans could have built such a wall out of such large …

Nafplion - another fortress on a hill...I'm sensing a trend

Nafplion and the Fortress of Palimidis: To be honest, although this is one of the more interesting hilltop fortresses which we have visited, it has absolutely nothing to do with ancient Greece or anything biblical (the two main focuses of all our tours thus far). The fortress itself was not even constructed until the middle ages and saw a lot of action during the skirmishes and quarrels between the Ottoman Turks and the Venetians. This fortress, also called Acronafplion, would be a great setting for a giant game of paintball, or even hide-and-seek. The structure sits atop a hill overlooking the Sea to one side and the city of Nafplion to the other. This was a very strategic location for a fortress like this because it is basically on the other side of the isthmus from Corinth, a major trade route from Southern to Northern Greece. It was really nice to just be able to have about 30 minutes of free time to walk around this gigantic structure exploring all the side rooms, prison cells,…

What Happens in Corinth Stays in Corinth

Well, I have completed my recap of our journey through Egypt. Some of the highlights: Abu Simbel, Great Pyramids, Luxor, Nile Cruise, breakfast at our tour guide Osman's home. Some of the not-so-highlights: night trains from Cairo to Aswan and then Luxor to Cairo, the nasty Zoser Hotel. I know there is much more I could write about, but I feel like I have hit the main protions of our trip and must move on to tell about our trip down to the Peleponnese. Corinth: Our first stop on the excursion through Southern Greece was the famous (more like infamous) city of Corinth. Honestly, this has been one of my favorite ancient Greek cities...go figure. Corinth is a town where Paul spent 18 months evangelizing. It was a thriving port city located on the narrowest point between two Seas. Amazingly, before the canal was built they had a system set up to actually pull large merchant vessels out of the water, drag them across the 10-mile stretch of land, and deposit the ship on the other side.…

Eucharistia (Thanksgiving)

My God and my Lord, Father of mankind, and Creator of all, Thank you. You have blessed me abundantly more than all I have asked or imagined. I thank you for the incredible opportunities with which you have blessed me, and I am grateful for your safe-keeping on our journeys. I am truly blessed to have been able to visit Greece, Egypt, and Israel on this trip and for the knowledge I have gained through experiencing these places. I thank you for allowing your word to come to life for me by walking where your son and servants lived, walked, talked, and interacted with your creation. May I never lose these memories, and may I use this experience to spread your word. I thank you for blessing me with the people in my life, for my close friends, my family, and my best friend and wife, Katelyn. Thank you for all the blessings in this life which I all too often take for granted, yet I realize that I don't deserve any of them. Thank you for teaching me patience in dealing with people a…

Memphis and Saqqara

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The cities of Memphis and Saqqara were the last stops on our trip to Egypt. We didn't really spend much time at either site, so I'm combing the two into one entry. Memphis: There wasn't much to see in Memphis other than a small sphinx statue and a gigantic (fallen) statue of Ramses II. I think the only reason we actually went to Memphis was the fact that it was the capital city of Egypt when Abraham and Sarah made their trip down south. This is where Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah to the Pharaoh. Interesting story, not a very interesting place these days, though. Ironically, there are no huge pyramids in Memphis, Egypt, unlike Memphis, Tennessee, which has that obnoxious Pyramid right on the Mississippi River. Saqqara: The main feature in Saqqara was the Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Zoser, which was the first burial pyramid ever built. To quote my friend Jon, "It's not a full blooded pyramid. It's just a step-pyramid..."

Egyptian Archaelogical Museum

We were told before we went in that if you were to spend one minute at each display in the Archaeological museum, it would take you nine months to get through it all, and I believe it. This huge building is packed with statues, pottery, jewelry, etc. from all periods of ancient Egyptian history. For time's sake, I will only tell about three main highlights for me. First, we had an opportunity to enter the royal mummy room. It was incredible to stare into the face of Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut. Their bodies have been preserved so well that most of the mummies still have hair, teeth, fingernails, etc. One thing I noticed was that most of the Pharaohs on display died in their early to mid 40s, yet Ramses II lived to the grand age of 65 (granted, he suffered from numerous health problems). I couldn't help but wonder what these rulers would think if they knew that their mummified bodies were now on display thousands of years after they died for hundreds of thousands of foreine…

Old City Cairo

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The Old City part of Cairo, also known as Heliopolis or On, has been around from the time of Joseph and is built on the main road connecting Egypt with Palestine. This is the place where many Jews would have fled in the Babylonian conquest, and logically this is the part of Egypt where Joseph and Mary would have come to flee the wrath of King Herod. Two of the places we visited in the Old City were the Jewish Synagogue and the Abu Serga Church. The synagogue in the Old City is where the Geniza documents were discovered. They were the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Abu Serga Church is the oldest (or second oldest) Coptic church in Egypt, and according to the Coptic tradition is built directly over the place where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived for a couple years when they fled to Egypt. It is very possible, but I have never been one to put much stock in the place. It was still cool, though, because this is the first place we have vis…

The Alabaster Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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This is one of the more impressive "modern" structures I saw in Egypt, dating back to 1815. This mosque was built in honor of Muhammad Ali and is constructed entirely out of alabaster, hence the name... The design is based off the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, except way smaller. It's actually built inside an ancient citadel built by Salahadin in 1187 on the only road leading from Canaan to Egypt. The mosque is no longer used as a place of worship or prayer, its main function is a monument, actually, to Muhammad Ali (not the boxer), a man who liberated Egypt from the oppressive Ottoman Empire and was crowned King of Egypt in 1840. His tomb is inside the mosque and thousands of Musilms make a pilgrimage to this mosque in Cairo to pay homage to one of the greatest Islamic leaders ever. There is also a monument to Muhammad Ali in Kavala, Greece, in honor of the help he and his army provided to Greece against the Ottoman Empire.

Temple of Luxor

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This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. During the time of Moses, Luxor was the capital city of Egypt, and subsequently the Temple of Luxor was both the religious and educational center of Southern Egypt where Moses grew up and received his education. We know for a fact that if the story of Moses is accurately recorded in Exodus (as most believe it is) then this Moses spent the first 40 years of his life in and around this Temple, both worshipping and receiving a top-quality Egyptian education. We visited the temple during at night when it was illuminated, and the yellow lights playing off the statues and columns with the clear night sky overhead was beautiful. In front of the temple are two gigantic statues of, who else?, Ramses II, followed by more gigantic statues of Ramses II and others inside the main courtyard area. All Egyptian temples are laid out in the same basic format: large front gates (called pylons) followed by an open courtyard where commoners would come a…

Temple of Karnak

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When ancient Egyptian authors talk about "The Temple", they are most likely making a reference to the Temple at Karnak, which is the largest temple complex in the world. This temple complex, dedicated to "Amen" (the head creator god) was built over the span of 2,ooo years by multiple Pharaohs and covers 102 acres (not including the large garden areas). That's 26 times the size of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It has 6 gigantic gates, each one built by a different Pharoah. The last gate was built by Pharaoh Niku, the ruler who killed King Josiah in a battle against Israel. In front of the temple is a long "Ram Avenue" built by Ramses II which stretches all the way to the Luxor Temple complex, about a mile and a half away. Inside the temple are 134 gigantic columns, many of which are well over 60 feet tall (the number of columns in a temple represents the number of priests serving in it). Also inside the Temple are (or were) 6 giant obelisks (think W…

Valley of the Workers

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On the other side of the mountains from the Valley of the Kings lies the Valley of the Workers which is the best preserved working-class village in all of Egypt. Down in the valley are the ruins of about 73 houses and some other structures, even one of the earliest paved roads in the world. This village dates back to ca. 1450BC or earlier and gives us the earliest clues as to what life was like for the working class citizens of Egypt. Up on the hill beside the village is a series of tombs which the workers prepared for themselves. We were able to enter 2 of the better preserved tombs which both had frescoes painted on the walls which are much more well-preserved than any paintings in ancient Egypt. With as much fame as the Pharaohs receive because of their massive building projects, the workers who actually built those structures also built some impressive, smaller structures, like smaller pyramids on top of some tombs, paved roads, and vaulted ceilings dating back to at least 1450…

Valley of the Kings

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The Valley of the Kings is really the most visited site in all of Egypt, surpassing even the Great Pyramids in tourism. I find it interesting that the two most visited sites in the country have to deal with death and human efforts to preserve whatever they could. The days of the Pyramids had long since passed by the time the tombs in the Valley of the Kings were dug. The Pharaohs of the Pyramid era (Old Kingdom, before the time of Abraham) were believed to be the full manifestation of the gods on earth, so their tombs were much more elaborate, much more magnificent, and much more a target for grave robbers. By the time the Middle Kingdom rolled around, the Pharaohs only considered themselves as half-gods, or demi-gods, yet it is clear from reliefs and tomb paintings that the Pharaohs held a lower position to the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. The Valley of the Kings contains 64 known graves of Pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom period, and interestingly enough, the first ruler to be b…

End of Semester Rush

Well, we are back from the Holy Land. The last 9 days have been incredible, and I can't wait to share with you all the sights I saw and all the emotions I experienced, but it may take a while. I have been kind of lax in updating recently. I still have to finish the Egypt trip, our southern Greece trip, and then Israel. Not only that, but I also have two class presentations and then finals coming up. So the next few days will be extremely busy as the semester in Greece comes to a close. I will try my best to get caught up with this blog sometime in the next 10 days before we leave on free travel through Europe. Please keep us in your prayers as this is going to be a couple of highly stressful weeks.

Of Boats and Falcons

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Edfu Temple: I doubt you have ever heard of this temple before, yet it is one of the best-preserved of the ancient world's temple. The temple is dedicated to the falcon-headed god Horus, who is the god of protection and healing. According to Egyptian mythology, Horus battled with Set, the evil brother of Osiris, (the name for "Satan" was derived from "Set"). During this epic grudge match, Set gouged out one of Horus' eyes, and since then (for some reason), the "Eye of Horus" has been a symbol of protection and healing. Displaying the Eye was believed to safegaurd against evil spirits and the like. This temple is also home to one of the best-preserved statues of Horus in falcon form. One of the most intriguing things about this temple is that archaeologists discovered the remains of an ancient Egyptian ark. There are also reliefs on the wall depicting the priests of Horus carrying the Ark in the same manner as the Levitical Priests were commanded:…

Tic-toc, Tic-toc, Hook's afraid of a Big Bad Croc

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Mummified Crocodile Ancient Egyptian Calendar Kom-Ombo Temple: Our next stop was up the Nile a way. We arrived at the Kom-Ombo Temple complex as the sun was going down (about 5pm or so). Egyptian temples are beautiful at night when they are all lit up. Kom-Ombo Temple is a temple dedicated to the god Sobek (crocodile-headed god) who is one of the gods of the Nile. The Egyptias believed that by worshiping Sobek he would grant them protection from crocodiles in the River. Interestingly enough, over 300 mumified crocodiles were found next to this temple. A few of them were on display, and they didn't look too happy about it. A couple other interesting things about this temple - it was also used as a hospital in ancient Egypt. Archaeologists have discovered numerous medical utensils in the temple, as well as reliefs and inscriptions depicting medicinal processes. In several reliefs, there are depictions of the gods pouring out "life" onto the Pharaoh. Also, this temple i…

Ramses II (AKA Ramses the Narcissist)

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Abu Simbel: The next morning we woke up extremely early to catch a bus at 4:30am for a trip all the way down Lake Nasser to see the huge temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel. It is a very impressive Temple complex. This is the famous temple that has four gigantic statues of Ramses II sitting in front. To the right of the temple is the temple Ramses II built for his wife, Nefertari, his most beloved of the three wives. Inside the Temple of Ramses II, there are several side corridors in which are reliefs depicting Ramses himself worshiping nearly all of the 800+ gods of the Egyptian pantheon. To each one, he is bowing down and offering some sort of sacrifice, whether fruit, bread, animals, or something that resembled a chemistry set. He obviously wanted to make a statement about how religious he was. Abu Simbel was another huge temple that had to be moved to higher ground due to the creation of Lake Nasser. Note on Egyptian Temples: All Egyptian style temples follow the same basic pattern. The h…

Camel-riding and Croc-handling in Nubia

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Nubia: After seeing the Temple of Philae, we checked in to our cruise boat, ate lunch, and rested for a little while. The Nile River and the land surrounding it is beautiful. That afternoon, we took a boat out to a place right off the Nile called Nubia, which is technically part of Egypt, but Nubians are a different ethnicity and have a different heritage. We hit the shore, climbed out onto the sand, and mounted our camels. Mine was named "Rambo." We rode the camels for about 20 minutes across the Nubian desert along the Nile as the sun was setting. Absolutely incredible. After about 20 minutes we came to a small village where the people in charge of the camels live. One family opened their house to us and offered us soft drinks and tea. They had a table set up with all sorts of Nubian crafts, jewlery, etc. There was a woman who gave henna tatoos. The most ridiculous thing about it was the fact that Nubians have a custom of keeping baby crocodiles as pets. They only keep them …

Chick-flick Temple

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We just got back this evening from our trip to Southern Greece, called the Peloponnese. It was an amazing trip, and hopefully I will get caught up through the Egypt trip and the Peloponnese before we fly to Israel next Sunday. So here we go, back to Egypt... Temple of Philae: After a long trip South by way of scary night train, we arrived in the city of Aswan, which is located on the North side of the largest man-made lake in the world, Lake Nasser. The first temple we visited was the Temple of Philae (or "Love" in Eng.). It is named thus because the reliefs on the walls depict the love story between the goddess Isis and her lover Osiris. It's a pretty gruesome story: Set is the evil brother of Osiris, and he decides to kill Osiris and cut him up into tiny little pieces. This devastates Isis, who recovers all of Osiris' body parts except for a certain, uh, "private" part. She reaches the simple solution for this problem by forging a new "member"…