Israel Update #3 — with Picture Goodness!

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Hope you are all enjoying the few updates from Israel.  Today we drove up to the Syrian / Lebanese border, a place called Mt Ben Tal.  There is a great view of Mt Hermon, and a nice coffee shop (I had Turkish coffee and some cherries bought from a Druze man outside the store).  We visited Gamla, Banias, and tel Dan, then drove through Tiberias.  Tomorrow we go through the “Jesus sites” in Galilee.

It is very hot and humid right now in Israel, and there is a haze in the air. Sadly, this has reduced our views of the valleys in some cases, although we could still see snow on Mt Hermon.

I think I will get one more update in before heading back to Jerusalem.  Internet has yet to come to the Rosary guest house.

Israel Update #2 – We are in Galilee!

I thought about titling this “I blogged where Jesus blogged” but I am pretty sure that has been done before and it is likely blasphemous.

For all of those awaiting an update to this spot, I am in the lobby of the Ma’agan Holiday Village, over looking the Sea of Galilee.  We have had a great time in the desert the last two days, up Masada, floating in the Dead Sea (and yes, even I float!), then a long hike up En Gedi (where there was some  likely illegal swimming).  We will be in the Golan Heights tomorrow, then all the “Jesus sites” the next.

Everyone is doing great and having a great time, nothing but smiles and good things to say about what were are doing on this trip.  I could not be prouder of the kids.

I’ll try for another longer update tomorrow. I might get some pictures up as well.  I am using a public internet computer, but I hope to borrow a laptop tomorrow.

Israel Update #1

Let me take the opportunity to post an update our progress in Israel. We are all fine and healthy and staying in Arad at the moment. Yesterday we walked all the way around Jerusalem’s Old City, starting with walking the walls of the Old City.  We visited the Western Wall, and several other fantastic sites in the Old City.

Everything has gone well so far, although there have been a few curve balls.  Oddly enough, every time something has gone wrong, the answer is “…because of the Pope.”  I think that will work out in a few days since he is going home.

We saw some excellent things today, maybe next time I can post a few pics.

I’m heading to Israel!

As most people who know me already know, I will be in Israel with a Grace Bible College tour from May 11 through May 22. I have posted the itinerary below with a few links to websites of interest.  It is not too early to start planning ahead for the 2010 trip!  Please contact me if you are interested in more information about travel in Israel or about our future trips.  [Edit:  I made some adjustments to this schedule to account for a few last minute changes.)

Check back to this blog for more GBC/Israel information, pics, etc.
Day 1:  (Monday-May 11) USA to Israel.  Our flight information is as follows:

DL5475U 11MAY GRR ATL  520P 721P OPERATED BY ATLANTIC SOUTHEAST
DL 152U 11MAY ATL TLV 1030P  520P 12MAY

Day 2: (Tuesday-May 12) Arriving in Jerusalem

  • Ben Gurion airport and  drives us to the Rosary Guest House (Arrive at 5:20 PM Israel Time).
  • The Rosary Guest House has a good reputation and is centrally located in Jerusalem, and comes highly recommended.
  • Walk across Independence Park to Ben Yehuda Street; Visit the ATM for Shekels, have a snack, soak up some local culture. Get a good night’s sleep!

Day 3: (Wednesday-May 13) In Jerusalem

Day 4: (Thursday-May 14) To Arad

Day 5: (Friday-May 15)

Day 6: (Saturday-May 16) Galilee-Ma’agan

Day 7: (Sunday-May 17) Galilee-Ma’agan

Day 8: (Monday-May 18) Galilee-Ma’agan

Day 9: (Tuesday-May 19 To the Coast and back to Jerusalem

Day 10: (Wednesday-May 20) In Jerusalem

Day 11: (Thursday-May 21) Jerusalem-Airport

Day 12: (Friday-May 22) Home, 12:30 PM at Grand Rapids

Return Flight Information:

DL  87U 22 MAY TLV JFK 1240A  645A
DL6453U 22 MAY JFK CVG  815A 1033A OPERATED BY COMAIR INC

DL6222U 22 MAY CVG GRR 1125A 1230P OPERATED BY FREEDOM AIRLINES

Acts 21 – Accusations against Paul

The audio for this evening’s sermon is available here, as is a PDF handout.  Remember that you can leave comments and questions at the bottom of the page, or by clicking on the comments link just above this paragraph.  That link only appears after the first comment.

After Paul participated in the vow with the Jewish Christians, Asian Jews stirred up trouble for Paul.  These Jews begin by spreading the common mis-understanding of Paul’s teaching, that he is anti-Jew.  Paul is not anti-Jew in the sense that he wants Jews to stop being Jewish, he wants them to stop relying on the Law for salvation.  To the orthodox Jews, this is worthy of death.  The charge the bring against Paul is that he brought a Gentile into the Temple.  This would be a serious offense, worthy of death (for the Gentile, as well!)  The Jews did not allow women or Gentiles into the central courts of the Temple, believing them to be unclean.

Is this anger credible, or is Luke exaggerating the situation for rhetorical reasons? The evidence seems indicate that there were zealots in Jerusalem in the mid first century who were willing to use violence to guard the sanctity of the Temple.

m.Sanhedrin 9:6 He who stole a sacred vessel [of the cult (Num. 4:7)], and he who curses using the name of an idol, and he who has sexual relations with an Aramaean woman— zealots beat him upon the spot. A priest who performed the rite in a state of uncleanness— his brothers, the priests, do not bring him to court. But the young priests take him outside the courtyard and break his head with clubs. A non-priest who served in the Temple— R. Aqiba says, “[He is put to death] by strangling [Num. 18:7].” And sages say, “[He is put to death] at the hands of Heaven.” (Translation from Neusner)

Philo, Spec.Laws 2.253 And such a man will never entirely escape, for there are innumerable beings looking on, zealots for and keepers of the national laws, of rigid justice, prompt to stone such a criminal, and visiting without pity all such as work wickedness, unless, indeed, we are prepared to say that a man who acts in such a way as to dishonour his father or his mother is worthy of death, but that he who behaves with impiety towards a name more glorious than even the respect due to one’s parents, is to be borne with as but a moderate offender.

Luke points out that the charge is not true, that the Gentile that had been seen with Paul did not enter the temple.  The charge comes from “Jews from the province of Asia,” quite possibly from Ephesus.  They would have been the most likely pilgrims to recognize Trophimus as a Gentile convert and associate of Paul.  These men are never called disciples, so the implication is that they are Jewish pilgrims.

If this is true, there is a hint here that the Jews from Ephesus were anti-Paul and quite willing to stir up trouble for him in Jerusalem.  We have speculated earlier that Paul’s time in Ephesus was more troubled than Luke lets on; this is another bit of evidence in that regard.   Perhaps Paul was in prison on Ephesus after all!

That Diaspora Jews are interested in rioting in the Temple over potential desecration indicates that Diaspora Jews cannot be considered “liberal” on Law.  These are people who are very zealous for the traditions of the Law and the sanctity of the temple and are willing execute Paul for breaking the sanctity of the Temple.  Like Paul before his conversion, the Hellenistic Jews are willing to use force if necessary to defend the Law and the Temple.

Acts 21 – Arrested in Jerusalem

In his recent book on the early church, James Dunn observes that Luke devotes about one-quarter of his book to the arrest and trials of Paul (Beginning from Jerusalem, 958). This tells us a great deal about Luke’s agenda in the book of Acts – his interest is in Paul as the apostle responsible for the westward expansion of the church. He spends more time describing Paul’s “passion” than he does any other character in the book, including Jesus! We have a chapter on Stephen the first martyr, a brief notice of John the Baptist’s death, and only a line on James the apostle. The fate of the other members of the apostolic community are simply not mentioned by Luke.

In his trials in Acts 21-28, Paul fulfills his commission to be the light to the Gentiles, bringing the message of Christ the Gentiles, kings and sons of Israel (9:15-16, repeated in 22:15-21, 26:18-19). He will stand before the people of Jerusalem, Roman governors (Felix and Festus), and the King of the Jews, Agrippa II.

But what is it that happens in Jerusalem? The Jews report that there are extremists among their church that think that Paul has “apostisized”, that he is teaching that Gentiles should turn away from the Law (vs. 21). Is this true?

It is true that Paul taught that Gentiles were not under the law, in fact, in Galatians he is quite strong in his condemnation of these same zealots who were teaching the Gentiles to keep the law. With respect to Jews, it is true that we do not have a text which clearly indicates that he told Jews to continue keeping the law and traditions of Israel. It may or may not be the case that Paul considered ceremonial law and traditions matters of indifference.

Based on Paul’s behavior in Acts, it may well be he would have told the Jews to continue keeping the Law. He required Timothy be circumcised, for example, and he had made a vow while in Corinth. Later he will claim that he has continued to keep the law, although one wonders to what extent he kept the boundary markers of the Law these conservatives Jews would have expected from him.

Ben Witherington seems to allow for more possibility that Paul taught that traditions were not required (Acts, 648). Certainly Galatians could be read as a repudiation of the Law, although it seems that Paul only has in mind Gentile converts. In the end, that may still be the heart of the problem – what Paul has created is something new and different. People are converting to a belief in Jesus as savior apart from Law rather than converting to Judaism or converting to a particular messianic conviction within Judaism.