PeltonPelton, Randal E. Preaching with Accuracy. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Ministry, 2015. 170 pp. Pb; $16.   Link to Kregel, read a 25 page excerpt from the book.

This short book of preaching is in many ways a combination of Haddon Robinson’s classic Biblical Preaching and Bryan Chappell’s Christ-Centered Preaching. Pelton recognizes his debt to both books in his introduction. He believes the preacher needs to develop the ability to identify the dominant idea of a preaching portion, but also to allow the language and concepts of the portion to shape the sermon.

The first chapter of the book is a defense of expository preaching. For many preachers, exposition of a text in a sermon is not popular with audiences. Expository sermons will not “grow a church.” It is unfortunately true many congregations lack the biblical background to appreciate an expositional sermon and fewer pastors are attempting to “preach through a book.” I have found that even when a pastor preaches a series on a biblical book, the sermons will still be topical and only vaguely related to the selected text. This book by Pelton will help pastors to pay attention to the main idea of a text a selected text and conform their presentations to the Word of God rather than using scripture as a pretext for the hot topic of the week.

Pelton’s model for preaching begins with selecting an appropriate text to preach. He calls this “cutting the text,” although he is simply demonstrated for the reader how to identify a proper unit of scripture for preaching. Topical preaching tends to err by using a single verse (sometimes out of context) or by jumping to as many verses as possible. Expositional preaching can be ruined by trying to reach too large of a section, forcing the pastor to rush the details or bore the listeners with story-retelling. By paying attention to the genre-based clues in the text itself a pastor ought to be able to limit their expository sermon to an ideal number of verses.

By “cutting the text” properly, the expositor will then be able to identify the “textual big idea” in the portion. Pelton’s fourth chapter demonstrates how to select the broad subject, to narrow the subject to the preaching portion and finally to develop the “big idea” which will govern the content of the sermon. He gives several examples and has a number of “workbook” like exercises to allow the reader to develop their own “big idea” and compare it to his own work.

Randal PeltonOnce a “big idea” for the sermon has been crafted, Pelton describes a method for grounding the “big idea” in the context of Scripture. Obviously the “hero” of every text is God and the main character of every text is Jesus, but creating a Christ-centered sermon will vary from genre to genre. Pelton therefore gives several examples, including a few from the Old Testament, to demonstrate how to ground the “big idea” in the immediate context of the portion of Scripture selected. This contextual approach allows a preacher to select only a short section for the expositional sermon. For example, a preacher can cover the whole of Gen 39, for example, while focusing on only a few verses which demonstrate the “big idea.”

In his final major chapter, Pelton describes what he calls “canonical preaching.” By this he more or less means preaching Christ in every text. This many take the form of what Christians ought to be or do, or how Christ is revealed in a particular text. He is careful to avoid the allegorical “fuller meaning” of medieval preaching which found Jesus in every word of the Old Testament. Pelton firmly believes every text ought to point to Jesus and apply to the Christian and a sermon should be a kind of “theological exegesis” pointing the way to the Cross. This is not unlike Bryan Chapell’s “grace-centered preaching” or Sidney Greidanus’s method for preaching Christ from the Old Testament. While Pelton makes some distinctions between his approach and these other two popular homiletical texts, all three are working similar methods with the goal of preaching every text in the larger context of the whole canon.

If I have any critique of Pelton’s approach, it is this canonical method. On page 118 he has a chart comparing his method to a target, with the textual big idea on the outside, the contextual in the second ring and the canonical interpretation in the center of the bull’s-eye. Until I saw this chart, I would have place the textual big idea in the center and the canonical interpretation on the outside. For me, the idea in the text I have selected is the driving force in my sermon and (perhaps to my shame) I often do not consciously attempt to draw the text to the larger canonical context. Pelton’s book is an encouragement to re-think what is important in a sermon and to center my presentation on the Cross.

NB: Randal Pelton blogs on Preaching at Pelton on Preaching. Thanks to Kregel Books for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

[The group has now returned home after a long day of travel from Tamar in the Negev to Tel Aviv to fly through Newark to Chicago and finally a bus ride to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I took a day to recover, and now I am teaching a summer session Jesus and the Gospels course, but I thought one final travel report was necessary.]

The highlight for most of the students on the drive from the desert was a stop near Beersheva for one more visit to Aroma Coffee, but we did stop at the Valley of Elah for a short walk in the general area of the well-known battle between David and Goliath (1 Sam 17). We talked about the story for a few minutes and most people took a stone or two from the dry river bed. I have often wondered where all those stones come from, since every American tourist seems to take a handful home with them.


We spent our last four hours in the Old City. Some of the students revisited the Holy Sepulcher, others walked back to the Western Wall, and a few went all the way to the Pool of Bethesda. I visited the Tower of David exhibition just inside the Jaffa Gate with Josh and Lisa Tweist. I have never gone through this site before and it was well worth the shekels. They have done a nice job making use of the limited space to present Jerusalem from the Hasmonean era through Herodian, Crusader and Ottoman periods. We were in a bit of a rush since the Museum closed at 3PM, but were able to seem most of the outside displays.

There are two maps of Jerusalem within the site, one small model of Jerusalem at the time of Herod is designed like the National Park models. It is rather small, but should give some basic orientation to the Old City. Near the exit is a larger model created in the later 1800s by Stephen Illés. This is a fascinating map since it is a model of the city as it was seen by Illés in 1864-1873, showing the height of Robinson’s Arch for example. For anyone who has been around the Old City for a while, this model is worth visit.

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Tower of David


After the Tower of David I visited the Christ’s Church bookstore and then camped in their coffee shop for an hour and a half for some quiet reading and espresso before getting to the airport for the late flight back to the states. Overall, this was one of the best student trips I have had the pleasure of leading. The students were always interested and excited about what we did each day and asked great questions.

Now that I am back, I plan on editing the previous dozen posts (writing on an iPad is always an adventure!) I will also add a few more pictures for days I was unable to transfer my photos, so check back in a few days for some updates.

This was our final full day touring the Dead Sea region. We started early at En Gedi, a nature park with a 1.8 mile hike back into a canyon to “David’s Waterfall.” This is the location called the Crags of the Wild Goats in 1 Samuel 24:2 and the general environment on the wadi give the story the ring of truth. It is very easy to imagine David and a few men hiding back in the bushes in a small cave when King Saul comes and takes some time to relax in the shade and “cover his feet.”

Since we arrived earlier than the big tour busses from Jerusalem we were the only people at the  waterfall for most of the time we spent there. I thought there was far less water than in the last two or three visits, the pool was certainly much smaller. We saw a very conservative Jewish family hiking in full black coats a first for me at En-Gedi. Aside from being hot in the sun, I thought it was interesting the children were playing in the water in there long black coats!

One warning for anyone driving to En-Gedi: there is a serious road construction project in front of the En-Gedi with a detour and traffic jam caused by one-lane traffic. The public beach across from En-Gedi is closed as is the gas station and resturant. I had planned to picnic at the beach, but had to adjust and eat at Qumran.

Getting to En-Gedi early means a hot afternoon at Qumran. After the vertigo-inducing video we walked out the the archaeological site, working our way quickly to the shaded viewing area of the cave. This was a particularly good time of discussion of who the Essenes were and why the the Dead Sea Scrolls are important. It also gave me a chance to correct the goofy suggestion in the video that John the Baptist was once part of the Qumran community.

Funny story: when I was giving some explanation in the little museum after the video, a young Jewish couple from New York hanging around listening. I chatted with them a bit and they were visiting Qumran for the first time. The stayed with us for most of our talk and seemed really interested. Strangely this was the second time someone has joined us on the tour.

After some shopping at Qumran, we drove to a beach for a float on the Dead Sea. There was a large group of American Jewish high schoolers, but they left soon after we arrived. Most of the students chose to float in the warm water, several collect some salt to stink up their luggage on the trip home. We enjoyed some excellent kosher pizza before heading back to Tamar for the night. Most of us are very tired after ten solid days of hiking, yet as I write everyone is hanging out playing games and snacking.

I hear some of the students are planning on hiking up a hill behind Tamar to watch the sunrise. It really is a spectacular view and I wish them well. We head to Jerusalem tomorrow for final shopping in the Old City and then to the airport for home.

Today was an all-Negev day, beginning with a drive to Mamshit (or the Greek Mampsis for those who are sensitive). Mamshit is a Nabatean trading post built in the first century AD as a caravansary. There are two old churches at the top of the hill; the Nilus church has several interesting mosaics (including the dedication by Nilus) and the western church has a small baptismal font that is worth seeing. It is very small indeed, but is not for infant baptisms nor is it a font for holy water since there as steps down into the cross shaped pool.

The second highlight of Mamshit is the large Nabatean merchant home. We entered through the upper door to a large courtyard and explored the “stables.” The gate to the frescos were open, so we snuck a few photographs of Eros and Psyche (no flash, of course). One of the largest coin hordes was found inside this home, and I had trouble restraining the students from digging for next year’s tuition.

From Mamshit we drove about an hour to Arad, one of the highlights of the tour for me. One reason is that it is so very well preserved and presented, a visitor can see the layout of the Canaanite city as well as a citadel dating to the Israelite period. A second reason is that few people visit Arad so we almost always have the entire archaeological park to ourselves.

We walked up the hill in the Canaanite city, examining the walls and sitting for a few minutes in the restored Canaanite home. I compared this style house to the four-room house at Tamar, pointing out the differences between Canaanite and Israelite designs. We walked through the west gate to the “palace” (a bit of an ambitious name for the administrative center) and the sacred district.

Up the hill is the highlight of Arad, the walled citadel. The massive Solomonic gates are nicely restored, but the parks department has done a wonderful job restoring the Israelite temple. I have visited this small temple on six other occasions, and finally all the restorations are complete. The temple has a main altar, holy place, and holy of Holies. This holy of Holies is reproduced in the Israel museum to display the original standing stone and incense altars. What is new in this restoration is an staircase leading to a chamber down below the temple. I know this has been an ongoing project for many years, but it looks to be complete now, with the exception of explanatory signs. If any readers have information on the chamber, please leave a comment. Is this a Canaanite high place? Was anything of significance found?

After a lunch break (Aroma coffee is excellent), we drove to Masada. This is one of the most impressive sites we visit, Herod’s fortress by the Dead Sea. Like most visitors we worked our way up to the northern buildings including the bathhouse and the palace on the north end of the mountain. The students thoroughly enjoyed the two+ hours we spent on the top of the mountain (more than half went down he Snake Trail while the less intrepid (like me) took the tram.

I will update this post with a few pictures later, the Internet is free but slow here.

Tomorrow we visit En-Gedi, Qumran and the Dead Sea.


Just a quick report today. We crossed back into Israel this morning by 10AM at the Aqaba/Eilat border crossing. The transfer went absolutely smoothly and our guide Ash was very professional in helping us on the Jordanian side.

We drove to the Coral Beach National Park at let the student snorkel for a few hours. The beach was quite cool and the water was frigid, but the students had a great time swimming. I expect the go-pro videos will be posted eventually. All I managed to do is fry the heck out of my legs. I let the kids have some shopping time in Eilat and then we headed north to Tamar.

It was still quite hot when we arrived, but as usual the temperature drops after sundown. There was a light breeze, so we gathered in the sukkah next to the cafeteria and had a time of sharing. Many of the students shared their thoughts about traveling in Israel and how some of the sites. Several thought the Mount of Beatitudes was a highlight since it gave them a chance to reflect on the teaching of Jesus. But they also found it reassuring to sing hymns with Christians from other cultures.

Most of the students are tired, but a serious Euchure game has started. There may be blood. In other news, while I was writing this blog a scorpion skittered across the cafeteria floor, and I stomped the life out of it. I think that is in the Book of Revelation (when the Bible teacher rises in the desert and slays the Black Scorpion of Doom…)



This was one of the nicest days I have had for walking in Petra. The temperature was no more than mid-80s in the afternoon, and with the breeze almost chilly in the morning. We left the hotel and drove only about 15 minutes to the entrance to the park. This is the first time I have been to Petra since they have finished the new visitor’s center, and it is a huge upgrade. Shops circle a lovely plaza with plenty of room for groups to meet and guides to give some orientation. It was good to see some of the traditional shops are still there (such as the Indiana Jones Gift Shop and my personal favorite, Jeff’s Books), but I did not see the Titanic shop.


One change that might be a problem for some visitors is that the shops inside the Park are no longer allowed to sell “box lunches” to visitors. The only restaurants are the very expensive and crowded, well past the center point of the hike. We were warned by our guide not to try and sneak in a lot of food, although there were no bag inspections. We stopped for water (and Turkish coffee, naturally), and the venders had snacks like chips and cookies, but no sandwiches are allowed any more.

Our guide Ash did a fine job explaining the details of the Siq, the long canyon leading down to the Treasury. There are several places guides typically stop and give an overview of the Nabateans and there culture. Ash kept these brief and to the point, something appreciated by the students. He also pointed out some recent damage to the cliffs caused by the extreme cold last winter in Jordan. One of the major factors in preserving Petra for 2000 years is the lack of rain and freezing temperatures. Some of the facades of the tombs could easily be damaged by freezing rain.

The students took lots of pictures at the Treasury, although  a few too many of the cats which run around the area. I thought the area was less crowded than previous visits, but they have allowed the donkeys back in the area, so there was far more evidence of donkeys (ok, poop) than before. You have to watch your step on the uneven stones and because of the piles!

  After a break, most students climbed up to the Royal Tombs. This hike gives a spectacular view of the whole valley. I went with a few others to the Temple of Zeus. This is a huge complex and has been very well preserved by Brown University. It is remarkable to me so few people visit it, most just walk up the first flight of stairs and take a quick picture and move on. There are many this to see and I spent more than an hour poking around the nooks and crannies with Zac Thompson.

Usually no one hikes up to the Monastery since there is just not that much time left in the day, and the Royal Tombs are also something important to see. But when I said you probably could not climb to the Royal Tombs and the Monastery, Cameron Cramer and Jeremy Herr too that as a personal challenge. They ran from one to the other, although the steps slowed them down. They win the Iron Man away for this trip, since they made it to the bus with plenty of time to spare. Amanda gets the Miss Popularity award, it turns our people think she is a Jordanian super-model.

It seems to me everyone is exhausted after a long day at Petra. Some headed to the pool, but I think a few took before dinner. Tomorrow we will cross back into Israel and visit the Red Sea for some snorkeling.

We left our hotel very early to cross the the border into Jordan. This went very smoothly until we got to the other side and our Jordanian guide was not there. He was caught in traffic near the border, a small village had a “market day” and caused a disruption. After a tense twenty minutes, our guide Ash arrived and was extremely apologetic. There were no problems at the border and once he arrived we were able to move quickly to Jerash. Well, as quickly as one can move through small Jordanian villages. Traffic is terrible and there only seem to be general guiding principles for traffic flow.

 Since it was getting close to noon we had a quick “sandwich” at a shop in the Jerash parking lot. I had a kabob, roasted beef with some vegetables and a few fries, but chicken was also available. With a drink it was $9 (or 6 dinar), a reasonable price. Strangely the shop was playing Joan Baez’s Greatest Hits, probably because the first song was Amazing Grace and we were a Christian group. It was somewhat surreal to hear her music in a Middle Eastern shop. As much as I enjoy Joan, it didn’t quite fit.

Jerash is a large city and was once part of the Decapolis. It does not have much biblical interest (unless Paul visited during his three years in Arabia), but it is a well-preserved Roman era city, much larger than Bet Shean (another Decapolis city in Israel which we visited two days ago). There are many highlights and I hate the fact we can only spend a short time at the site. Hadrian’s Gate opens to a street and hippodrome, although it is not fully restored. The oval plaza leading to the Cardo is breathtaking, a great picture opportunity.

 From the oval plaza we walked up to the a fully restored theater. From a central spot you may speak in a normal voice and be heard throughout the theater. It is fun to watch students speak a few words then step onto the spot, they are always amazed at the amplification. Naturally the bagpipers have to play, although I am not sure why. I would prefer to have a quiet visit, but people seem to like them. I would also like to visit the temple of Zeus nearby, but we did not have the luxury of time.

Passing by the mosaics in the three churches, we walked over to the Temple of Artemis. This massive temple has some of the best pillars we see on the tour and demonstrate how they sway in the wind. There was a coffee vendor (with a fake British accent) so we shared some Turkish coffee (with Cardomon, of course!) We then walked down the sacred steps (seven sets of seven steps) to the Cardo. There is much more to see here, we were only able to visit a few of the highlights.

From Jerash we traveled south past Amman to Madaba and Mount Nebo. We were running behind, so we skipped the Madaba map and only viewed the Dead Sea from Mount Nebo. This is the traditional location where Moses viewed the land before he died. Between the evaporation from the Dead Sea and modern pollution there was quite a bit of haze, but the Sea was visible even if Jericho was obscured.

The long drive to Petra was uneventful, it is a sadly dull drive through the desert and the last part is in the dark. We made it to dinner by 9PM and most people were exhausted. The Petra Marriot is very comfortable, and we have an early start at Petra in the morning.



At the Jordan River

 This was another day of great weather for our tour, just a bit over 80 and breezy. We started the day Yardenet, location in Gaillee on the Jordan River for Christians to get baptized. Well, not all Christians, I suppose. We spent only thirty minutes talking about the likelihood this was the place Jesus was baptized as well as the reasons Jesus wanted to be baptized by John in the first place. It really is a lovely place early in the morning before the tourists start showing up.


At Mount Arbel

 From there we drove through Tiberias to Mount Arbel. This is a National Park which includes a hike to one of the most spectacular viewing points in the Galilee. Located on the west side of the lake, we can see all of the significant Jesus sites in Galilee. Since the Parks service took over Mount Arbel, they have improved the trail and provided toilets and a cold water tap. If you have the time to get there first thing in the morning, I highly recommend the walk.

Coming down from Arbel we drove to several of the traditional locations for Jesus’ ministry. For the most part these traditions go back to the Byzentine period, but they are still only traditions. I personally think it is better to say a particular site is “in the general area of where Jesus did something” without claiming absolute certainty (or worse, sacred ground). For example, the Mount of Beatitudes is as likely as any of the surrounding hills for the Sermon on the Mount, but it is probably not the mount. Jesus taught in many such places, and the Sermon was not really delivered in one location. But the Mount of Beatitudes is a nice place to read and reflect on Jesus’ teaching.

We ate lunch at “Jesus Boat” at Nof Ginnosaur on the plain of Gennesert. There is a display describing how the boat was discovered and preserved, and you can pay for a multimedia tour and see the actual boat. I have done this a few times and I have enjoyed the presentation, but I am not sure it is worth the money for college students. I called the cafe ahead of time and they had falafel, schwarma, schnitzel, and pizza waiting for us, $10 or $11 including a drink (including juices, $3 alone). They spiff the plate up with a few chips and offer a piece of chocolate for desert. The shop is good for a few Christian souvenirs (“ie., “Jesus Junk”), but I thought the prices were higher than usual.

 After lunch we drove up to Capernaum. The site is significant as the traditional location of Saint Peter’s house and more importantly, a fifth century synagogue which has been nicely restored. We happened to get there before many of the big tour groups had finished lunch, so the park was virtually deserted. I was able to go right to Peter’s house and everyone entered the church to look down through the glass floor into the house itself. After this we looked at the various archaeological peices on display before entering the synagogue.

The highlight of visiting Capernaum today was our time on the beach. We had an amazing spot by the lake, and I read from John 21, the catch of fish and restoration of Peter. (People from my church might recognize that as my sermon a few Sundays ago, but that is not likely!) the time we spent reading Scriptue and talking by the sea was probably the best time I have had at this (usually crowded) Christian site.

One other note:  this is the first time I have visited Capernaum since they have finished renovations on the entrance. They have moved all the lintels to the left of the synagogue and opened up a huge space decorated with a mosaic. Peter himself has been moved to overlook the lake. There is now a wide open area for people to sit in front of the church. I hope they now continue this project and use brick for the area guides sit and talk to the groups. The area had many benches and shade, but it is paved with gravel so it is impossible to move 25 people quietly past another tour group.

We ended our drive around the lake at Kursi, the traditional place where Jesus cast out a demon into some pigs (Luke 8:26-39). There is a late Byzentine church there, but the chances the cliffs just behind the church are the actual cliffs the pigs run off seems remote. It is the right general area, however, since the villages in the area would have been Gentile, and the lake is nearby. Kursi is a strange place to visit since I have never seen another group there and even the person in the ticket booth seemed surprised to see 25 people marching into the church. Yet the grounds are very well kept, the trees and plants in the church are quite nice.

We returned to the hotel at Ma’agan for pool and dinner. Tomorrow we crossed into Jordan and visit Jeresh, ending a long day of travel in Petra.


We started very early today and drove from Jerusalem to Caesarea, Herod the Great’s tribute to the Roman Empire on the Mediterranean Sea. This is one of the best presented sites in Israel and I have always enjoyed the walk along the beach. We started at the theater and spent quite a bit of time looking at the various columns and other architecture behind the theater itself. Several students took some pictures on the columns of Herod’s palace (without my approval of course).

The palace has a cistern which is labeled as the pit in which Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea, but this seems to be unlikely since he was a Roman citizen under house arrest. Another room  has a sign indicating it is the location of Paul’s appeal to Caesar, but I am not sure how that can be known. It seems to me it is best to just say Paul was at the location and leave the details vague.

After the students put their feet in the Mediterranean, we walked across the hippodrome to the aristocratic homes overlooking the sea. I noticed a few Greek mosaics I had not seen before, although I might find I had photographs of them already. We finished out Caesarea in traditional fashion for my tours, at the gelato shop near the exit.

We traveled across the Jezreel valley, stopping at the MacDonald’s near Megiddo for lunch. This was quite the experience. First, they have a “Big American” burger that I have never seen in American, the thing is as big as a small pet and probably was about 9000 calories. But I got a small fry and diet coke, so I am going to be okay. Second, Anna Lange was ahead of me in line and tried to pay for her meal (19.40 shekels) with an American $20 bill. A manager was called to make change, and he gave her two coins totaling .60 shekels. She asked me if that was right, and I called for the manager who sheepishly gave her the additional 65 shekels she was owed. It was a pretty clear attempt to steal from an innocent tourist.

After our lunch, we drove to Bet Shean, another favorite of mine. Like Caesarea, this site is excavated to the Roman period, although the city has a long and important history. After starting in the theater (where Ben Stout reenacted scenes from Lord of the Rings, or maybe Gladiator, I could not really tell), the group divided, with some hiking to the top of the Tel while the rest followed me through the bathhouse, agora/market, and sacred precinct. There are several pools and a nicely restored public toilet. It was a bit cooler today, but still quite warm without shade, so we only stayed about two hours before heading to our hotel (and pool).

We arrived at Ma’agan Holiday resort in Galilee in time for the students to enjoy an hour or so in the pool before dinner. I have been using this hotel for ten years now, and I have to say it is my favorite in Israel. While the rooms are a little smaller than most hotels, but it is right on the Sea of Galille and the grounds are immaculately landscaped. The hotel has expanded and modernized the resturant. Most of the tables have a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee and the dining area is much more appealing. Several students commented they enjoyed this food better than the Leonardo, and I thought the fried eggplant was phenomenal.

When I got to my room, I noticed my iPhone had slipped out of my pocket on the bus. Despite telling the students to double check their seats, I left my phone (and camera) behind on the bus. Fortunately the driver noticed it and called me on my Israeli phone to let me know. The downside is I do not have any pictures to post tonight. I will fix this when I get my phone back. Hopefully I can get this posted, the free internet at the hotel has not been reliable (although the Bruno Mars CD that has been playing all evening is working fine, sadly enough). Some of the guys are watching a soccer match in the lounge, looks like they are having a great time with some Israeli fans.

Tomorrow is devoted to the “Jesus sites” around Galilee, check back for updates tomorrow.



Kojak the Camel

We had another great day in and around the Old City of Jerusalem. We began the day at the traditional drop off point on the Mount of Olives in front of the Seven Arches Hotel. When we arrived we were almost the first bus, so there were only a few people looking out over the Kidron Valley. Several of our people wanted to ride Kojak the Camel, so by the time we were done, there were many tourists crowding the viewpoint.


Absalom’s Tomb in the Kidron

After the traditional group picture, we walked down the Mount of Olives to Dominus Flevit. This is the traditional site where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. We took a few minutes to read from the book of Luke, beginning of the triumphal entry at the top of the Mount of Olives and his brief pause to lament Israel’s rejection of his messianic claims. We had a good time of questions and answers about this passage as we looked out at the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. One of the highlights of this particular location is a small cave just inside the entrance containing quite a few ossuaries, or bone boxes. This is an indication the Mount of Olives has been used for burials for centuries.

From Dominus Flevit we walked down to the garden of Gethsemane. This is the traditional site of Jesus’ prayer after the Last Supper, his betrayal and arrest. We walked around the small olive grove to the Church of all Nations. Many of our group went into the church to see the so-called “agony stone,” and we gathered on the front steps of the church to read again from the book of Luke.

After visiting Gethsemane, we crossed the busy street and walk down into the Kidron Valley to see the Tomb of Absalom. While this rather spectacular tomb has nothing at all to do with Absalom, the national parks authority has created a nice walk along these famous Hasmonean era tombs. This walk now includes stairs going up the east side of the valley leading to the City of David. It is a bit of a long walk, but it was honestly a lot easier than trying to finagle the bus to pick us up and carry us to the City of David.


The Canaanite Tunnels

I have visited the City of David many other times, but this is the first time I have watched the “3-D movie” about the location. To be honest expected the worst, since most National Park films are not particularly well done. In fact this was occasionally quite cheesy. But for the most part the information was good and I thought the 3-D animations of the City and how Hezekiah’s tunnel was constructed were fairly well done. Nothing struck me as particularly out of sync with the Bible, although was a great deal of Israeli nationalism in the film. It was only 20 minutes and gave the students an introduction to the overall importance of the City of David. If you visit this location and have the time I would recommend watching the film.

The obvious highlight of the visit to the city of David is of course Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Once again I have visited the tunnel many times before, but this is the first time I have been through the tunnel  since the completion of the construction project and multimedia presentation. Once you get to the bottom of the tunnel you can now see the Gihon spring, and there is a brief multimedia presentation showing how the tunnel cuts through the hillside. I was quite impressed with the amount of work on this particular part of the tour, after many years of work.

One other new feature is a small desk selling small flashlights for five shekels for those who did not bring a flashlight for the wet tunnels. If you’ve never been through the wet tunnels you need to know ahead of time that there is no lighting in them whatsoever. Once we finished with this section we experienced the “parting of the ways” as a handful of our party entered Hezekiah’s tunnel while the rest of us took the less-adventuresome (safe and sane) route through the Canaanite dry tunnels.

We met the brave souls who passed through the wet tunnel at the pool of Siloam at the bottom of the city of David. There was less new work there than I had hoped. You can still walk back up the sewer line and see the Herodian era steps, but they really have not improved the section in many years. Based on what I saw the last time I visited, I expected significant progress to have been made, perhaps exposing more stones and improving the presentation of the pool in general. Other than a much better system for paying for the shuttle up to the Dung Gate, there was really nothing different at the pool of Siloam.

Side Note: I’m always surprised at the two or three people selling “authentic Roman coins” found right there in the excavations. I’m really not sure why that sort of thing as tolerated since it is fairly obvious that they are fake coins. Honestly, if someone walks up to you on the street and tries to sell you an “authentic Roman coin for the special student price of $10,” that ought to be a fairly good indication the coins are fake.

Instead of what I had planned, I walked the group from the Dung Gate to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (rooster). This is the traditional site of the home of Caiaphas, the high priest who arrested Jesus. There was a crusader church at the location but the church is relatively recent. At the very least the archaeology underneath the church was a priestly home in the sight of the temple itself. If it is not Caiaphas is home it is certainly a good example of a wealthy, aristocratic home. Many people believe Jesus was kept in a cistern near the bottom of the house. Since Jesus was kept her overnight, Peter remained in the courtyard where he denied Christ three times “before the rooster crows.” Many students found the unexpected visit a good experience.

After Gallicantu, I marched the group through the Zion Gate and over to the Jewish Quarter. Since Sabbath was near, shops were closing and there were few tourist groups. We took a few moments to view the remains of the Roman Cardo (once again demonstrating how deep second century Jerusalem really is). We also stopped for a brief view of Hezekiah’s wall. We were a bit early for the bus, so everyone browsed the shops near Jaffa Gate (while I enjoyed an iced coffee).

We ended up walking just about seven miles again, which was more than I had planned. But I will make up for it tomorrow, since we will leave early for Caesarea and eventually Ma’agan Holiday Resort in Galilee.


On the Mount of Olives







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Phillip J. Long

Phillip J. Long

I am a college professor who enjoys reading, listening to music and drinking fine coffee. Often at the same time.

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