Free Logos Mobile Education Course for July 2020

Michael Heiser Mobile EdNormally the Logos Free Book of the Month promotion is a book. In July, they are giving away a 2.5 hour Mobile Ed, Sons and Daughters of God: The Believer’s Identity, Calling, and Destiny by Michael S. Heiser. Most readers will associate Michael Heiser with his books on Angels, Demons and The Unseen Realm.

From the Logos Blurb:

Believers are children of God—a phrase that presumes family. The “children of God” are also called “holy ones” (“saints” in most translations). But these familiar New Testament terms have an Old Testament context that is largely overlooked—the spiritual world of God and his supernatural children. In the Old Testament, “sons of God” and “holy ones” refers to supernatural beings whose Father is God and who work with God to carry out his will. Learn where the metaphor of being in God’s family comes from in the Old Testament and how that informs our sense of identity and mission as believers.

Normally this course retails for over $90, but for the month of July you can get it for free. This is a great opportunity to try out a Logos Mobile Ed course.

There are several other Mobile Ed courses on offer in July at deep discounts (75% – 85% off):

  • Doug Trick, God’s Word as Translation (2 hour course, $9.99)
  • Mark Futado, Introductory Issues in Psalms (3 hour course, $19.99)
  • Craig Evans, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament (5 hour course, $34.99)
  • Jonathan Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount (5 hour course, $34.99)
  • Daniel Doriani, The Parables of Jesus (6 hour course, $34.99)
  • Ian Jones, Introducing Biblical Counseling: The History of Counseling (5 hour course, $34.99)
  • Chris Armstrong, The History of Christianity in the United States (10 hour course, $59.99)
  • Justin Irving, The Ministry Leader and the Inner Life (11 hour course, $59.99)
  • Rebekah Josberger, Introducing Torah (8 hour course, $59.99)
  • William Klein, Interpreting New Testament Genres (9 hour course, $59.99)

You need to have Logos Bible Software to use these resources.  As always, there are less expensive paths to upgrading that will keep you from mortgaging your home. At the very least, download the free Logos Basic or any Logos 8 base package. Try using the coupon code PARTNEROFFER8.

Any books or courses you purchase from Logos can be read on a mobile device via the free iOS app. These valuable resources are only free (and discounted) through July 31, 2020.

Biblical Studies Carnival 169 for February 2020

Bob MacDonald posted a Mardi Gras themed Biblical Studies Carnival for February 2020.  You might know Bob from his extremely detailed musical studies, but his has been active as a Biblio-Blogger for many years and has hosted the Carnival several times. He has collected a wide range of serious biblical and theological posts, all are worthy of a click. Maybe add a few new blogs to your regular reading list.

Next month Brent Niedergall hosts the March 2020 (Due April 1). I have gotten to know Brent a bit over the last couple of months and I am looking forward to his carnival.

I getting a bit desperate for volunteers for the rest of 2020. As of March 1, no one has volunteer for the rest of the year. Even if you hosted in 2019 feel free to volunteer again. I am always interested in getting new bloggers and podcasters involved. If you have questions about what writing a carnival involves, contact me via email, or twitter DM @plong42

Carnivals are fun to write and a good Carnival draws attention to your blog. The Amateur Exegete posted his year in Blog Summary recently, his August 2019 carnival was his second most popular post of the year.

My New Book: Galatians: Freedom through God’s Grace

My new book, Galatians: Freedom through God’s Grace, is now available through Amazon with the Kindle version coming soon.

I have been working on this book for a long time, and I am glad to have it in print.You can also order it through the Wipf & Stock website (it is a little less expensive there, they will charge shipping so it is about the same as Amazon Prime). If you are a blogger and want to review the book Wipf & Stock has a “Request Review Copy” on their page and they can send you a copy.

Craig Keener’s commentary on Galatians also came out recently and I am happy to say at 156 pages, my book is almost as long as his bibliography.

I intended this book as a basic introduction to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. I divided the book into fourteen chapters (plus one chapter for the introduction). I think it would fit nicely into a Sunday School or small group Bible Study for a quarter. In fact, the book has its origins as a Sunday Evening Bible Study at my church.

Here are my goals in this book in contrast to other styles of commentaries already on the market.

First, this is not an exegetical commentary. I do not comment on the Greek text nor do I try to solve every difficulty in the text. Perhaps I will return to the text of Galatians and produce a more formal and scholarly commentary in the future, but the goals of this commentary preclude me from dealing with more technical aspects of the letter. I rarely comment on Greek grammar except where it is critical to the meaning of a verse. While I do include some cultural and historical background in order to illuminate the text, I do not claim to be comprehensive in this area. There is far more to say about the background to Galatians than I cover in this book. There are several places in the book where I reflect some insights of the so-called “new perspective on Paul,” but this book is neither a critique nor a defense of this view of Paul’s letters.

Second, I do not intend for this book to be an expositional commentary, although that is the closest model. Expositional commentaries focus on an English translation and attempt to explain the details of the text. My goal is not necessarily the details but the overall point Paul makes in the letter. I will therefore move through Galatians in sections and comment on the most important aspects of each section to understand what Paul is trying to say both to the original readers and to Christians living in similar situations in the twenty-first century. I have attempted to ground this contemporary application in the text of the Bible.

Third, I intend this book for laymen, Bible teachers, and busy pastors who need an overview of the main issues in the book of Galatians. I envision this book being used in a small group Bible study or Sunday School class as a supplement to reading the letter to the Galatians. No book should ever be used to replace reading Scripture, but perhaps this book will help readers to better understand some nuances of Paul’s thought in his letter to the Galatians.

Here is how you can help me out. First, buy a copy of the book for yourself (I do not mind if you want to wait for the less expensive Kindle version). Second, recommend your church library purchase a copy; if you attend a Bible College or seminary, request the book for your library.

If you do buy the book please leave a review on Amazon. You can even review the book if you did not buy it from Amazon. Just a few kind words would really help others to purchase the book. It is incredibly important to have good reviews on Amazon these days, so please leave your comments and rating at Amazon and I will be eternally grateful.

In old news, Jesus the Bridegroom is only $10 for Kindle, and I see a few cheaper copies both new and used if you want a print copy. Again, please consider leaving a review for that book as well.

So what’s next? I have two or three similar books in process, I hope to have Ephesians finished this fall.


Eerdmans Sale on Kindle Books for July 2019

During the month of July, Eerdmans has some great deals on Kindle versions of recent publicationsAlthough I prefer real books to digital (and Logos books to Kindle), these books are worth the price. If you do not own a Kindle device, you can get an App on most devices to read Kindle books. I use the iPad Kindle App, it is very convenient for travel (or reading in the dark).

Although used hardback copies are available for less, George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (1974) is $4.99. This was one of the most influential books on evangelical scholarship. Ladd “popularized a view of the kingdom as having two dimensions: ‘already/not yet’” (The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax, A Theologian You Should Know).

Commenting on Ladd’s legacy John D’Elia said

Ladd’s legacy within evangelical scholarship is hard to overstate. I argue in the book that he carved out a place for evangelicals in what was then the threatening and bewildering world of critical biblical scholarship. By demystifying the methods of critical scholarship, Ladd made them available to evangelicals who wanted to use them in their study of the Scriptures. Historic premillennialism, then, is really an incidental part of Ladd’s story.

A few other interesting titles:

Michael F. Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus (2014), 3.99. I reviewed this book in three parts starting here. To quote myself:

Michael Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus is a study of the origins of the New Testament Gospel. The first three chapters concern the pre-literary forms of the Gospels, focusing on the shape of the Jesus tradition. He includes a chapter on the Synoptic Problem and another on the genre of the Gospels, two often discussed issues in Gospels introductions. Finally, he concludes the book with a chapter on the reason four Gospels were included in the canon of Scripture rather than only single story of Jesus. Each chapter concludes with a related excursus. While most excurses are brief expansions on some technical aspect of a chapter, some of Bird’s excurses are long enough to be chapters on their own. The book was named one of Christianity Today’s top books of the year in the Biblical Studies category.

Michael Green’s Thirty Years That Changed the World: The Book Acts for Today (2004) is a quick overview of the book of Acts.

Anthony J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society (2001, The Biblical Resource Series; $2.99). An excellent academic text on Second Temple Judaism.

Reinhard Pummer, The Samaritans: A Profile (2014, $2.99). I reviewed this book in 2016, concluding:

Pummer’s introduction to the Samaritans goes beyond the usual topics to include the whole history of Samaritan culture. By blending literary and archaeological sources, Pummer presents a clear and concise picture of the Samarians both in antiquity and in the modern world. Although the arrangement of topics is sometimes odd, this book will be a useful contribution to the ongoing study of the Samaritans.

William Dever’s Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (2008, $3.99) caused a bit of a stir when it was published. Ziony Zevit blurbbed the book:

“Once again William Dever has written a page-turner for thoughtful individuals interested in the Bible. This time, however, he explores what most biblicists ignore — the folk religion of ancient Israel, the religion as lived and practiced. . . Although written for the general public, this is one book that scholars cannot afford to miss. . . Writing in a personal style sprinkled with anecdotes, Dever has produced a rare work — a book that may be read and appreciated by all who take the Bible, archaeology, and history seriously. Packed with information, crackling with brilliant observations.”

For church history, Michael Graves, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us (2014, $3.99). I reviewed the book here.

Here is a different sort of title for me: Dale Allison’s Night Comes: Death, Imagination, and the Last Things (2019,$1.99). This short book was developed from Allison’s Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in October 2014. As he notes in his preface, these essays are edited and are more like a series of thoughts and reflections on life, death and the afterlife. As the book develops, there is a sense of Allison’s struggle as a scholar to deal some very basic issues human existence. You can read my full review of the book here.

There are quite a few others, so poke around the Eerdmans books on Amazon and see what you can find.

The sale runs through the end of July 2019.

Kindle Deals on Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament Backgrounds from Eerdmans

I was poking around on Amazon looking for something else, and noticed several excellent Kindle deals on a few older Eerdmans publications. I have all these books in my “real book” library and can state with confidence these are all worth owning and reading. I prefer physical books, but for a only two or three dollars, it might be worth your time to read these using your Kindle device or Kindle app on your iPad (or other tablet).

Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, QumranThere are two from Gabriele Boccaccini: Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism (Eerdmans 1998), $1.99 and Roots of Rabbinic Judaism (Eerdmans, 2001), $1.99. John J. Collins said “Gabriele Boccaccini’s earlier book, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, has been hailed as one of the most original and provocative works on Second Temple Judaism in recent years. He has now written a wide-ranging and ambitious typology of Jewish intellectual history in this period. He brings a fresh and original perspective to the material, and his bold reconstruction is sure to be controversial.”

Speaking of John Collins, his Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora (Eerdmans, 1983) is $2.99. This is the companion to The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (Eerdmans, 2010) and covers the non-apocalyptic intertestamental literature. These two books are excellent introductions to the literature of the Second Temple Period. I used both books frequently in the Second Temple Period Literature series over the past few summers.

There are also two by Bruce Winter. After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Eerdmans, 2001) is $2.99. This is one of my favorite books ever, essential reading for understanding the situation behind the Corinthian letters. I read this soon after it was originally published, my copy is extremely marked up and my notes on 1 Corinthians are deeply indebted to Winter’s book.

Winter’s Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Eerdmans, 2003) is only $1.99. “In ancient Roman law ‘you were what you wore.’ This legal principle became highly significant because, beginning in the first century A.D., a new kind of woman emerged across the Roman Empire — a woman whose provocative dress and sometimes promiscuous lifestyle contrasted starkly with the decorum of the traditional married woman. What a woman chose to wear came to identify her as either new or modest. Augustus legislated against the new woman. Philosophical schools encouraged their followers to avoid embracing her way of life. And, as this fascinating book demonstrates for the first time, the presence of the new woman was also felt in the early church, where Paul exhorted Christian wives and widows to emulate neither her dress code nor her conduct.”

I have no idea how long these deals will be available, so grab the Kindle version of these excellent resources before they are gone. I am not affiliated with either Eerdmans or Amazon, but I do like passing on good book deals when I see them.

Great Deals on Second Temple Judaism, the New Testament and early Christianity Books

Dead Sea ScrollsIf you are looking for some good resources on Second Temple Judaism, the New Testament and early Christianity (and do not mind kindle books) there are some great deals from two different publishers right now. First is James Vander Kam and Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity (HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, reprint 2013). This is a popular introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls and might be a bit out of date, but for $1.99 it will serve as a good introduction to this important collection of Second Temple Jewish Literature.

The Nag Hammadi library is the other collection of literature discovered in the mid twentieth century. The collection included the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and many other Gnostic texts. For a limited time, you can purchase Marvin Meyer’s updated edition The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts Complete in One Volume (HarperOne, 2010). Gnostic expert Elaine H. Pagels wrote the introduction to the volume. This book is also only $1.99 in Kindle format.

From Wipf & Stock, two volumes of Mark Nanos’s Collected Essays are on sale through August 24 2018. Reading Romans within Judaism: Collected Essays Vol. 2  and Reading Corinthians and Philippians within Judaism: Collected Essays of Mark D. Nanos, vol. 4 are both only $2.99 for the Kindle edition. Both books were published in 2018 and contain previously published articles and papers. To have these article collected a single volume is extremely helpful. I was very happy to see Wipf & Stock publish the collections. The paperback edition of these books are $40 each, so this is a very good deal on an excellent collection of essays.

That makes four books for abut $10. The only drawback to these books is the Kindle format. I still prefer a real physical book, but the savings for these books is significant. These are limited time only offers (and I have nothing to do with the prices on Amazon; I am just the messenger here). So grab them while you can…

Following Jesus in Galilee 

The tour today focused on sites in the Jesus sits in Galilee. We left about 8 AM and made a stop at Yardenet, the pilgrim baptism site on the Jordan River. This is a location that is set up for large groups to come in and participate in a baptism in the Jordan River, although this is not the site Jesus was likely baptized. He was probably baptized near the Dead Sea since those were John the Baptist was baptizing in the Gospels. Nevertheless this is an interesting location because it preserves A portion of the Jordan River for Christian pilgrims. We didn’t perform baptisms today, but I did read from the Gospel of Matthew and talked briefly about Jesus is the beginning of Jesus’s ministry.

From the baptismal site we drove through Tiberius to Mount Arbel. This is not so much a biblical site, but a hike up to the top of Mount Arbel to view the sea of Galilee. From the top of the cliffs we can see the west and north quarters of the sea, essentially where all of the Jesus sites are located. We always take a group photo at the carob tree at the top of the hill but it was struck by lightning recently and there is nothing but a little stub left.

IMG_2036Returning to the shore of the sea of Gallilee we stopped at Migdal. Although it was the home of Mary Magdalene, the place is rarely mentioned in the Bible. However, a first-century Synagogue was recently excavated along with an unusual carved stone found near the center of the synagogue. The signs of the site suggest the stone is carved to look like the second temple, although this is not particularly conclusive.

But I think it is interesting that this is a first century synagogue not far from Capernaum. Although there is no evidence Jesus taught in this particular synagogue, the gospels portray him is teaching in many of the synagogues in Galilee. So it gave us an opportunity to discuss what teaching at the synagogue might have been like. There are a number of other excavated buildings adjacent to the synagogue including what appeared to be two or three mikvoth. These were not mentioned on any of the signs, and the brochure was late on details. Site costs 10 shekels for students and 12 shekels for adults, so groups will have to weigh the cost for such a short visit. I was told if I made arrangements ahead of time we could have a guide for the site.

IMG_2097.JPGAfter eating lunch and doing some shopping at Nof Ginnasar we arrived at the Mount of Beatitudes about 2 o’clock. All of the Catholic sites are closed from noon until two, and there were only two of the buses waiting in line when we arrived. Neither of these groups seemed to enter the actual garden or visit the church. The group was able to visit the chapel, and then we gathered on the rocks near the front of the garden to read the Sermon on the Mount, then had a few minutes to pray and read the Bible privately. This was one of the best visits I have had to the Mount of Beatitudes since it was so quiet and reflective.

We went back to the shore of the Sea of Galilee to visit Capernaum. For most the highlight here is Peter’s house, although it is difficult to see much of the house due to the large church built over the top. There is also a beautiful synagogue, although it dates to the fifth or six century, long after the time of Jesus. For me, the highlight of a visit to Capernaum is walking out in the beach near the Sea and reading the Bible. In this case I read Mark 2 since the healing of the paralytic takes place at Peter’s house.



It was getting late in the day so we continued around the lake to Kursi, the traditional site of  the exorcism recorded in Mark 5. There is a small Byzantine church on the site which has only partially been restored. We talked through the story, look at the cliffs and wondering how the pigs made the leap into the sea. The simple solution is the pigs were far closer to the Sea than the impressive cliffs.

When we finally turned back into the Ma’agan parking lot we had traveled around the whole of the Sea of Galilee. My students were very tired out by this time and were looking forward to the pool or a nap before dinner.

Tomorrow we enter Jordan and visit Jerash on our way to Petra.

Caesarea, Bet She’an and The Sea of Galilee

Our goal was to leave Jerusalem at 8 o’clock sharp this morning, but that did not happen since a pair of students oversleep and unfortunately leave their phone off the hook so that could not be called. By the time I pounded on the door we were about 40 minutes late. The only one who is happy about this was our friendly neighborhood scarf salesman who was able to sell another 45 scarfs to the group waiting on the bus. Lest anyone think of exaggerating let me assure you I am not. If you know somebody on the trip (spoiler alert), you’re going to get a scarf for a souvenir.


Our trip to Caesarea went quickly. Since it was the Sabbath it was virtually no traffic on the road. Caesarea has always been one of my favorite places to visit on an Israel trip. The city is Herod’s tribute to the Roman Empire. By building such a beautiful city Herod demonstrates he is the ideal Roman client king and makes the claim that Judea is not something backwards end of the Roman empire, it can hold its own against any other Greco Roman city.

As for biblical significance, Caesarea is the city Peter visit when he preached to Cornelius in    Acts 10. In Acts 12 Herod Agrippa was struck dead when he entered the theater looking like a God (a story confirmed by Josephus). Philip the Evangelist lived in Caeseara with his four daughters when Paul passed through the city on his return from Ephesus. Paul also spent two years under house arrest awaiting trial will Felix was the governor. It is what it was it Caesarea that Paul made his famous appeal to Ceasar. There is a cistern in Herod’s palace at Caesarea which claims to be the prison of the apostle Paul, but I think this has about a zero percent chance of being accurate. Since Paul was a Roman citizen it is highly unlikely he he would have been held in a cistern for two years (or at all for that matter).

After we visited the theater, many of the more adventurous students went down to the beach area to pick up shells and put their feet in the Mediterranean Sea, all the while ignoring the signs telling them to stay off the beach. I of course implored them all to come back, but they did not hear me (or simply ignored me). All in all was a good time.

From the beach area we walked across the hippodrome and explored some of the larger buildings the bathhouse storage areas and shops of the Byzantine Caesarea. The rest of Caesarea is preserved crusader castle that has been converted into a number of shops and restaurants. We enjoyed gelato, coffee, and several pizzas before leaving the site.

IMG_2009From Caesarea we traveled through Mount Carmel, past Megiddo and across the plain of Jezreel to Beth She’an near the Sea of Galilee. It was now quite late in the day and they were virtually no other tourists in the park. Bet She’an is excavated to the first century and features a mostly restored theater, a cardo with several restored shops and a large bath house complex. A favorite feature of this site is the sacred area and the water system that leads to several swimming pools and an ancient public toilet. Students seem to like sitting on the public toilets and posing for the camera.

We arrive at out hotel at the Sea of Galilee about 4:30, allowing the students plenty of time in the pool. We are staying at Ma’agan, the most beautiful resorts in Israel. Tomorrow we will visit quite a few sites related to the life of Jesus.

From the Mount of Olives and across the Kidron

After a lighter walking day yesterday, we started at the Mount of Olives with the goal of walking across the Kidron Valley, up to the City of David, through Hzekiah’s tunnel, and then Back up to the Dung Gate, back across the Old City and out the Jaffa Gate to meet the bus.

The day begin with a local vendor getting on our bus and probably making his profit for the month. My students were were scarfing up his wears, pun unintended; we bought probably 45 scarves from the man. And by “we” I don’t mean “me”.

IMG_1951.JPGThe drop off point for the Mount of Olives walk was (as usual) crowded with tourists and vendors hawking their wares. Several people in our group decided to ride a camel, so we watched them trot around the parking lot a bit before we were able to take our group down to the railing and have a group photo (including a particularly persistent beggar) and a time of teaching. By this time we’ve been to the southern wall excavations and seen several models of the city of Jerusalem so the students were asking good questions about locations of various things we were seeing.

We walked down to Dominus Flevit, a church about halfway down the Mount where (traditionally) Jesus wept over Jerusalem before the Temple action (Luke 20:41-44). The site was more crowded than previous trips (several large Indian groups), but we managed to get a location to look over the valley and discuss the Triumphal Entry and Jewish Messianic expectations in the first century.

From there we visited the Church of all Nations, the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. This is another site which is usually crowded, and today was no exception. After a quick look at the olive trees many of the students went into the church to see the Agony Stone, the traditional place where Jesus wept on the night he was betrayed. We read Luke 22:39-46 (Jesus’s prayer) and 22:47-53 (the arrest). This gave us a chance to discuss the meaning of Jesus’s prayer asking God to “take this cup” from him.

Something I added to the tour last time was a walk through the Kidron Valley. This involves crossing the busy street and entering the walking path on the other side of the street. The parks service has cleaned this area up considerably in recent years and there are free toilets (not the cleanest in Jerusalem but good enough!) Walking down into the valley, we saw the so-called Tomb of Absalom and the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter, none of which had anything to do with those people. They are impressive Hellenistic tombs, but dating to no more than 150 B.C. One of the locals has built a Bedouin tent here, and had a camel in a pen. Strangely he was not selling anything nor was he interested in talking.

There is a promenade on the west side of the Kidron which makes for an easier walk (I did stop halfway to explain the view and catch my breath). The walk ends at the south east corner of the Temple Mount, near the Southern Temple archaeology park, offering a unique view of that end of the southern Wall. It is just a short walk from there to the City of David. It looks like there are quite a few things being renovated in this site, mostly some walkways around the Stepped Structure and administration building. We could only look down on these things from the overlook.

IMG_1976.JPGWhat most people want to see at the City of David is Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This is the water system built by Hezekiah according to 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:30. After a short walk down through tunnels to the Canaanite spring, there is a split in the Tunnel between the “wet” tunnel and the “dry” Canaanite tunnel. The wet tunnel has water flowing over the knees, and is completely dark. This is the first trip I have led where the majority took the wet tunnel. I, however, took the safer route through the dry tunnel (fear of chaffing drives many of my decisions).

The dry Canaanite tunnel exits near the Jebusite walls, and the park has re-configured the walk further down the hill to the pool of Siloam. We no longer exit the park and walk along the street (which is busy and potentially dangerous). There are now a series of wooden walkways within the park and partially through a private neighborhood. This is much more convenient and it appears the site is developing additional viewpoints along the way.

The pool of Siloam is mentioned in connection with Jesus healing a blind man (John 9:7). In the first century it may have functioned as a public mikveh for pilgrims arriving at Jerusalem from the south. Since the pool was discovered more than ten years ago, additional work has been done to expose steps which appear to lead all the way up to Wilson’s Arch. Although the presentation of these recent discoveries is clear, it is a damp smelly place.

We had a bit of a scare when one of the students did not get on the shuttle back to the Dung Gate, but eventually we found her. This did allow most of the students to enjoy some ice cream in the shade (I had neither ice cream or shade). After our scare I took the students to the Cardo, the remnants of the Byzantine Roman Road through Jerusalem, and to the remnants of Hezekiah’s Wall on our walk back to the Jaffa Gate.

I planned to return to the hotel early enough to allow the students some time in the swimming pool. They seem to have appreciated this a great deal after three days of serious walking in and around the Old City.

As I finish up this post, I can hear music from a children’s concert as people are beginning to celebrate Shabbat.

We leave Jerusalem tomorrow morning and head north to Caesarea and our hotel on the Sea of Galilee.

Beginning from Jerusalem 

This was our first full day in Jerusalem. After a short walk from our hotel we visited the Garden Tomb. As always this was an early highlight for everyone. Our Garden Tomb guide was Peter, and his presentation of the facts about the Garden was excellent and his faith was both genuine and evident. For those who do not know the Garden Tomb, this is a rare British evangelical site next to Gordon’s Cavalry, a rocky cliff side that looks vaguely like a skull. The location has a good case for being the actual site for the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection although most scholars think the Holy Seplucher is the more likely location. I heard one guide say a Catholic friend told him something like “it isn’t the place where Jesus was buried, but it should be.”

From there we walked up to the Jaffa Gate where we visited the Tower of David Museum, although to be honest it does not have all that much to do with David. Sometimes the traditional names are not very helpful. The reason I wanted to go through this somewhat newer site was the overview of the history of Jerusalem from the Canaanite period to Suliman the Magnificent. There are several small museum galleries dedicated to periods in Israel’s history and one or two very helpful dioramas which help to visualize the Second Temple.

For some reason everyone was hungry about noon, so we walked to the Jewish Quarter where there are several options for lunch. Since I know everyone is wondering I had an excellent falafel.

After lunch we walked down the steps to the Davidson Center to visit the Southern Wall excavations. I have always considered this site a highlight of any tour, if you are in the Old City, plan of at least two hours (or more) for the short orientation video and to walk the site. Unfortunately there was a large and noisy group of high school students being led backwards through the site by a few rather bored looking teachers. We avoided them for the most part.

The Davidson Archaeological Park encompasses the southern Wall of the Temple Mount, including several massive Herodian stretch stones on the corner as well as some original steps going up to the double and triple gates. This is where Christian groups sit on the steps and read parts of the gospel. But sadly not a single Christian group other than mine walked down to the recent excavations in the Ophel. I suppose herding 60 older people down the steps would be difficult, but I think it is important to show the sites for both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

We the went to the Western Wall. I have not been there since they re-oriented the entrance to the men’s section, which looks like a long term change. I noticed quite a few students put their prayers in the cracks of the Wall this time. Since it was late in the day, the plaza was not crowded, but I did see something special: a young Jewish man at the Wall praying with his young daughter. I did not know that was possible, but it was very nice to see.

On our way back to the Jaffa Gate we visited the Holy Sepulcher. It has only be a few weeks since the renovations were completed, and the shrine does look much better. But I thought  there were far more people than usual. Every section of the Church was packed and uncomfortable. Even the Syrian chapel was stuffed with two or three large groups. The Rotunda was closed, which was disappointing. If my goal was to confirm my students as official Protestants, I was successful.

We slowly walked back to the Jaffa Gate and then eventually our hotel. I wrote most of this before dinner (the food at our hotel is excellent) and the students are really enjoying their stay here.

Tomorrow we start at Yad VaShem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, then over to the National Museum for the rest of the day.