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Journey Through the Bible: Israel and Egypt
Travel Dates: May 3-17
Instructors: Paul Jones and Frank Russell
Number of Students Enrolled: 19
Location: Israel/Egypt

Course Objectives

  • To become familiar with the specific content and the diverse contexts that comprise both the canonical and noncanonical books of the Bible.
  • To gain an understanding of how the study of history and archaeology informs the interpretation of the books of the Bible.
  • To provide an opportunity for students to learn about the major religious ideas, stories, and symbols of both Testaments of the Bible that have played a formative role in the history of Western civilization in general and of Judaism and Christianity in particular.
  • To demonstrate an ability to engage critical issues that arise from the analysis of Biblical texts.
  • To begin to understand the complex confluence of religion, politics, and history in the Middle East.
  • To provide students with opportunities to address and develop the College's liberal arts goals as stated in the institutional purpose in the catalog.

Course Travel Sites

The above objectives will be accomplished by both classroom instruction and travel to Israel and Egypt to learn firsthand how history and archaeology interface with interpretation. The following sites will be visited on the trip:

Galilee

Caesarea Maritima: the impressive ruins of this city, named for Emperor Augustus by Herod the Great, are found on the Mediterranean coast north of present day Tel Aviv. At the time of Jesus it was one of the largest ports in the known world. The only inscription that specifically names Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion, was discovered here during excavations.

Megiddo: located at the intersection of the two important ancient trade routes and at the western end of the Plain of Jezreel, Megiddo was continuously occupied between 4000 and 400 BCE. The constant conflict over control of this strategic city has led people to associate it with the location of Armageddon.

Nazareth: the Gospels identify this city, 16 miles west of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee, as the hometown of Jesus (of Nazareth).

Sepphoris: this city was a major Roman urban center in Lower Galilee, 3 miles northwest of Nazareth. It was the administrative center of Galilee during the Hasmonean period and was destroyed after the death of Herod the Great and rebuilt by his son, Herod Antipas. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Sanhedrin relocated to Sepphoris.

Capernaum: scholars believe that this city was the operational base for Jesus’s public ministry in Galilee. In addition to a synagogue that dates to the 4th or 5th century CE, the site contains an octagonal building that some archaeologists think is an early Christian shrine placed directly over the Apostle Peter’s home.

Jerusalem

Temple Mount: at this site Herod undertook one of his most ambitious building projects. In 20 BCE, he began construction to increase the size and the grandeur of the Temple and the surrounding courts. The Second Temple of the Jews stood at or near the spot now occupied by the Dome of the Rock. Nothing at all is preserved of the Second Temple since it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Fortunately Herod’s engineers had to build as high as 130 feet from bedrock to create a terrace at the height of the Temple courts. Today the Western or Wailing Wall still stands.

Hezekiah’s Tunnel: this tunnel in Jerusalem was built by King Hezekiah of Judah around 701 BCE beneath Ophel Hill. It was the most ambitious water tunnel before the Roman period—1,750 feet (one-third of a mile) through the bedrock. The tunnel allows water from the Gihon Spring (outside the city walls) to flow through it to the Siloam Pool (inside the city walls).

Church of the Holy Sepulchre: this church was built over the place where, according to tradition, Jesus was executed, buried, and resurrected. Crusader architects rebuilt, over the ruins of the original church built by Constantine and destroyed in 1009 CE, a Frankish style chapel in 1149.

Bethlehem: the traditional site of Jesus’s birth, the Church of the Nativity was built on top of the grotto that was identified as the stable of Jesus’s birth. Built by Emperor Constantine in 326 CE, it is one of the first three churches constructed in the Holy Land.

Israel Museum (Shrine of the Book): this museum houses the finest archives from Jewish history, including the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Dead Sea

Qumran: located 25 miles east-southeast of Jerusalem, this site is best known for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947. The ruins of this Essene community and their library have revolutionized our understanding of Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins. In addition to the unique books written by this community, every book of the Hebrew Scriptures, except Esther, was found.

Dead Sea: this 50 miles long and 10 miles wide lake is 1,300 feet below sea level. In ancient times salt and bitumen were gathered here, and a few small settlements, like En-Gedi and Qumran, clustered around the few oases on its shores.

Masada: on this natural rock fortress, rising 400 feet above the shores of the Dead Sea, Herod the Great built two elegant palaces. During the First Jewish War (66-73 CE), Masada was occupied by Zealots who held it for three years after Jerusalem fell. After a nine-month siege and the construction of a huge ramp (still there), the Romans successfully stormed the walls in 73 CE.

Egypt

Jebul Musa (“Mountain of Moses”) or Mount Sinai: the traditional site (7,500 feet) where Moses received the Ten Commandments. At the base of the mountain is Saint Catherine’s Monastery, named for the early Christian martyr who was beheaded by Emperor Maximus.

The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx: The complex of Giza, composed of the Great Pyramid of Giza (the largest and only remaining member of the original Seven Wonders of the World) and the Sphinx, holds the key to understanding advanced past civilizations, as well as Israel’s sojourn in Egypt prior to the 13th-century BCE exodus.