Black basalt cobblestones (under white limestone) mark the foundation of an older synagogue, where Jesus likely taught.
1. Begin to keep a personal journal. Use a plain notebook to copy your favorite Scripture verses, note interesting websites or facts, write down your thoughts, and compose your own prayers.
2. To keep up with the latest Biblical archaeology news, visit the Biblical Archaeology Society's website at http://www.bib-arch.org and sign up for their free online newsletter, "Bible History Daily." You can also access past articles in their archives.
1. Archaeologists are teaming up with scientists who work with neutron imaging, which shows ancient objects in 3-D without damaging them. Researchers hope to study raw materials, such as clay and ores, to determine their geographic origins and discover how alloys were made. If you're interested, read "Ancient Artifacts Yield Their Secrets Under Neutron Imaging" at http://www.ornl.gov/ornlhome/print/feature_print.cfm?FeatureNumber=f20111012-00.
2. The Biblical Archaeology Society offers many free e-books online, including "Cyber-Archaeology in the Holy Land -- The Future of the Past." Download it for the latest research on GPS, laser scanning, satellite imagery, unmanned aerial drones, 3-D artifact scans, and more. For example, data from LiDAR (light Detection and Ranging) mapping helps archaeologists find features hidden by overgrown vegetation. You can also visit the BAS Archaeological Technology page at http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/scholars-study/archaeological-technology.
3. Jesus ate Mediterranean style: lots of vegetables, cheese, olive oil, yogurt, and pita bread. He snacked on dried fruit, nuts, and seeds, which are the ingredients in trail mix. Put together a meal similar to what Jesus and his family ate. Don't forget grape juice or sparkling cider.
4. Would you like to prepare a Jewish dish at home? MyJewishLearning.com lists recipes for appetizers, breads, soups, side dishes, vegetarian entrees, regular entrees, desserts, and a multitude of special holiday foods at http://www.myjewishlearning.com/jewish-recipes/index.shtml.
5. Angels were a real part of Jesus' world, as they are in ours. Scripture portrays them as messengers (Luke 2:9-14), comforters (Matthew 4:11), protectors (Acts 12:6-11), and warriors (Revelation 12:7). How many other references can you find?
6. How did ancient Middle Eastern music sound? At http://youtube.com/watch?v=LvgtAHV4mzw, you can hear "The Music of Ur," a reproduced duet between a reconstructed lyre and silver double pipes. The original musical instruments -- found in a grave in Ur, a city in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) -- are 4,500 years old. Henri Daniel-Rops wrote that no Jewish home in Jesus' day was without some kind of flute. What awesome music he must have played!
1. In the spirit of stewardship -- caring for the Earth -- spend some time picking up and bagging trash from a park or beach. Bring some friends and pack a picnic lunch.
2. Search online for more information on the fascinating life of King Herod the Great. You might enjoy reading this article, found at http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Herod_the_Great. Another choice is the Biblical Archaeology Society's "Herod the Great: Friend of the Romans and Parthians?" posted March 29, 2013 at http://www.biblicalarchaeology.com.
3. History tells us King Herod was a ruthless warrior, but it takes a modern helicopter to show us an example. Watch a breathtaking video of Mount Arbel's sheer cliffs, where Wayne Stiles explains how Herod dealt with his enemies, hiding in its caves, at http://www.waynestiles.com/mount-arbel-a-panorama-of-jesus-ministry (blog post for May 1, 2013 on Wayne Stiles' website, "Connecting the Bible and its Lands to Life").
4. Go to Bible History Online at http://www.bible-history.com. Click "Bible Maps" and then the "Clickable Map of Ancient Israel." Draw a map of Jesus' homeland in your journal.
5. Dr. Carl Rasmussen's HolyLandPhotos' Blog (https://holylandphotos.wordpress.com) features fascinating articles and beautiful photos, including the first-century synagogue at Magdala, a dust storm enveloping Jerusalem, and a stone feeding trough/manger. Shmuel Browns' website (http://israel-tourguide.info/2012/12/11/introducing-fallow-deer) has stunning pictures like snowfall in Jerusalem, the magnificent Herodium, and the city of Tiberias; there is also an amazing story about re-introducing fallow deer (thought to be extinct) to the countryside. Browse these sites and discuss which place and/or sight you'd most like to see and why.
6. See Cloverton's musical telling of Jesus' birth, "A Hallelujah Christmas," at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pQVRyPGTEc.
1. Read Isaiah 5:1-2 and Matthew 21:33. Compare these two biblical descriptions with the archaeological findings of Nazareth's vineyard, as described in this chapter of the book.
2. In your journal, draw a floor plan that shows how teen Jesus' home might have looked.
3. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has posted selected photos of artifacts from its National Treasures Department's collection at http://antiquities.org.il/t/default_en.aspx. Click on "Periods" and choose "Roman" to see household objects from Jesus' time. Each group of objects features a list at the right; for instance, if you choose "Sandal" in the "Organic Objects" group, you will see several photos, which can be enlarged, with background information. The first example shows a double leather sole for a left sandal, found "near a young woman skeleton." As the old saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words," so enjoy this website!
4. Because water is so scarce, but vital, to life in the Holy Land, heavy rains still cause great rejoicing. "For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water" (Isaiah 35: 6-7). See an amazing video of a flash flood and waterfall in the Negev Desert at: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/trending-now/incredible-video-shows-river-returning-to-the-desert-in-israel-after-years-of-drought-150925806.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory.
5. Temple Grandin, autistic doctor of animal science, explains that animals -- like autistic people -- have acute sensitivity and think in pictures. She says we humans don't see what animals see, an opinion that matches Jesus' words in the traditional story of the boy and his dog (pp. 35-36). Asked what she thinks about an afterlife (New York Times interview, 04/14/2013), Dr. Grandin answered that she just thinks about the hundreds of galaxies pictured on the Hubble Deep Field space poster hanging on her wall. To see the amazing photos that inspired her answer, visit the Hubble Space Telescope website at http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/pr1996001a or NASA's Sky Image Lab at www.skyimagelab.com.
1. Prayer springs from total surrender to God. One minister compared this absolute trust to sitting in a wheelbarrow while God wheels us along a tightrope stretched over a chasm! Formal prayer uses someone else's words. Spontaneous prayer (our own words) can rise from a desperate need or an awesome insight. For example, a heart can beat millions of times during a lifetime without us thinking about it or doing anything to make it happen. Make up a simple prayer of thanks for the gift of life.
2. Another kind of prayer is called "lectio divina." A slow, thoughtful reading of Scripture is followed by silently listening to God's word. Read more about how to practice this ancient art at http://www.valyermo.com/ld-art.html.
3. Amazement at the beauty of creation -- or at how a tricky problem works out -- can also be a form of prayer. Describe a time when you felt so close to God that no words came. Or, if you have a lot of words -- as in hip hop -- check out the Hip Hop Emass video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crqmNoJ7ono to see a teen version of hip hop worship.
4. Abraham is called the spiritual father of three faiths (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) that believe in one God and share similar values, but worship differently. Can we find common ground with other world religions? For example, Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, a devout Hindu, taught that "Success and failure are not in your hands, but in God's hands alone." The Dalai Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist leader, told his followers: "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito." Interview someone you admire in your own faith community or a different one. Learn how they pray, why their faith is real to them, and what matters most in their lives.
5. "Mitzvot" (Hebrew word for "commandments") can refer to Torah's 613 commands or to good deeds. In secret, do something kind -- a "mitzvah" (singular) -- for someone you don't like.
6. Jesus was steeped in the Middle Eastern tradition of showing hospitality to strangers (Mark 9:41). How can we make a newcomer in our neighborhood, school, or place of worship feel welcome?
7. To learn more about bread making by hand and its significance in the Middle East, watch an excellent video called "Bread Culture in Jordan" (Jordan is the Holy Land's next door neighbor) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJvlrpEmORU&feature=youtu.be.
8. At ChristianLyricsOnline.com, find the words to Michael W. Smith's song "Breathe" and say them as a prayer. Or watch his worship video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-0EgzOWkvc and listen for what God is saying to your heart. What lyrics to other Christian songs inspire you to pray?
1. Do an online search to see what a first-century village synagogue might have looked.
2. To get an idea of one way Jesus studied, repeat a favorite psalm or Scripture passage until you know it by heart.
3. A modern Jewish "beit midrash" or study hall is not a quiet place. Students of Torah often study aloud in pairs, a method called "havruta" ("fellowship"). Jews believe that lively discussion and debate about Scripture helps them see a text from another perspective -- and understand it better. Try this way of studying with a friend the next time you prepare for a test.
4. In her Jerusalem Perspective article "Jesus' Devout Jewish Parents and Their Child Prodigy," Chana Safrai told of two other Jewish "child wonders," who (like 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple) "demonstrated their brilliance in the presence of adult scholars." Do an online search for more information about either the first-century Rabbi Ishmael Ben Elisha or the later scholar Victor (Avigdor) Aptowitzer (1871-1942).
5. Translating ancient documents is tricky, even for experts. For example, "Hr s my srvnt whm phld my chsn n whm my sl dlghts" is actually "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights" (Isaiah 42:1).The jumbled English letters are written the ancient Hebrew way -- without vowels or punctuation. This sentence would also have been written from the bottom of a scroll to the top, and from right to left. Just for fun, copy a favorite Bible verse this way.
6. Jesus used images from everyday life in his parables to teach us how to live. Which one is your favorite? How does knowing more about Jesus' culture deepen your understanding of that story? Rewrite/retell a parable by substituting examples from our modern world.
7. Jesus said the two greatest commandments are "love the Lord your God" and "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:34-40). More recently, the Beatles sang, "All You Need Is Love." John Lennon could "Imagine" a world where all "live as one." Make up a rap version on the theme of loving others.
1. Regional speech patterns sound strange to outsiders. Jesus' Galilean accent brought ridicule from those who considered themselves superior. In our world, immigrants' accents and mispronounced words might sound laughable, yet many foreign-born people can read, write, and speak several languages. Learn to say "thank you" in five different languages.
2. The Christian and Jewish scholars of Jerusalem Perspective jointly study Jesus' life and teachings in light of his complex culture, historical time, and geographical location. Search the list of their informative articles at www.jerusalemperspective.com. 3. Magdala, an ancient town on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, is believed to be the home of Mary Magdalene. Recent excavations there revealed a beautiful synagogue from Jesus' lifetime (coins found in a side room were dated from 29 AD) and is the first synagogue discovered in the region Jesus walked. An informative video that features some of the finds, including mosaics and the sculpted "Magdala Stone," can be viewed at Aleteia's website: http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/magdala-the-home-town-of-mary-magdalene-is-being-resurrected-5864608011124736.
4. Listen to Brandon Heath's song, "Give Me Your Eyes." What do the words mean to you? What is your favorite Christian song or hymn? Why?
1. Some American weddings honor the bridal couple's culture and feature ethnic food, music, dancing, and customs. For example, during a Jewish marriage ceremony, the groom smashes a glass with his foot. Find out why -- and other fascinating facts -- at the Jewish-American History Foundation's website: http://www.jewishhistory.com/minhag.htm#glass.
2. Read about and role play the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12).
3. People from ancient times have enjoyed playing games similar to tic-tac-toe, backgammon, and checkers. Read more about this lighter side of Jesus' world in "Ancient Board Games: A Playful Look at Ancient Israel" -- Bible History Daily for 2/11/2013, found at http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org.
4. Listen to "Ancient Echoes: Music from the Time of Jesus and Jerusalem's Second Temple" at http://www.emusic.com/album/Savae-Ancient-Echoes-Music-from-the-time-of-Jesus-and-MP3-Download/10868052.html. Included is a wedding song with women ululating in joy, the mighty sound of a shofar, and the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.
5. Jesus often used nature to illustrate his teachings. Perhaps we can look to a pair of bald eagles, known to mate for life, as examples of parental devotion to their young. In March of 2016, two eaglets hatched in a nest high atop a Tulip Poplar in the U.S. National Arboretum -- much to the wonder of webcam watchers (http://www.eagles.org/dceaglecam). During one cold and rainy afternoon, the mama eagle tenderly folded her babies beneath her six-foot wingspan, taking the brunt of the storm. Her action called to mind Jesus' lament over Jerusalem: "How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37). Psalm 63, verse 7 also speaks of wings: "You have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy." Can you think of other bird or mammal behavior that illustrates parental or familial love?
1. Each Jewish holiday has its own customs and foods. One Rosh Hoshana greeting is "Shana Tova," a wish for a sweet New Year; apples, pomegranates, and honey are foods of choice. Flat matzot crackers at Passover remind the Jewish people their ancestors fled Egypt so fast that bread had no time to rise. At Shavuot or Pentecost, when the people gave God their first fruits and recalled when He gave them Torah on Mt. Sinai, today's meals feature cheese, cheese blintzes, and/or a tall creamy cheesecake, often favored with lemon or vanilla, and topped with fruit. Because Hanukkah celebrates a miracle involving oil, its foods are fried in oil -- latkes (potato pancakes) and jelly doughnuts. Search online for more information about any one of these, or another Jewish holiday, and have a mini-celebration with its special foods. Include one of its specified prayers or Scripture readings.
2. The autumn celebration of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hoshana or Trumpets, begins with ten days called the "Days of Awe." During this time, Jews examine their hearts and reflect on God's mercy in Scripture -- for example, Jeremiah 31:1-37 and Joel 2:12-17. The people's goal is to prepare for Yom Kippur, their great Day of Atonement, with sincere repentance. This parallels our own efforts to overcome selfishness and turn back to God. For more insight into this beautiful Jewish custom, search online for Yom Kippur.
3. Make up a skit in which someone plays a TV anchor who interviews people in Jerusalem: a Passover pilgrim, a Scribe or elder, a shopkeeper, a Roman soldier, a Pharisee or rabbi/teacher, a Sadducee priest, an Essene, a Zealot, King Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate, and a follower of Jesus.
4. Professor Todd Bolen has posted photos and a description of the "Ascent of Adummim" (pictured on p. 26 in the book), part of the rugged road pilgrims walked as they traveled from Jericho (800 feet below sea level) to Jerusalem (3,000 feet above sea level) at http://www.bibleplaces.com/wadiqilt.htm. For a true-to-life grasp of this experience, go to https://www.youtube.com/v/zVmagXx-n34, where Professor William Schlegel has posted his beautiful, 11-minute aerial video of the entire route Jesus walked.
5. The magnificent Temple where Jesus worshipped no longer stands, but you can see how it once looked online. Go to The Jerusalem Archaeological Park at http://www.archpark.org.il. From the timeline page, choose "Roman Period" and "Virtual Reconstruction Model." For more photos and information on "The Jerusalem Temple and the New Testament," go to http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/NTIntro/JerusalTempl4.htm. You can also visit Bible Architecture ("Jerusalem") at http://www.bible-architecture.info.
6. In the spirit of a joyful pilgrim, watch the YouTube videos of Nicole C. Mullen's "I Know My Redeemer Lives" and Cindy Morgan's "How Could I Ask for More."
1. Jesus countered death's pain with his promise of eternal life (John 11:25). Listen to the music and faith-filled lyrics of Chris Tomlin's "I Will Rise" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa8w7mGug0c as a prayerful tribute to someone you lost and still greatly miss.
2. In "Homesick," Mercy Me sings of longing for heaven. Do you ever feel that way, yearning for something more than this world offers? No one knows when our last day will be. Write an obituary for yourself, listing your family, friends, pets, school, worship community, hobbies, career hopes, organizations to which you belong, volunteer work, and one thing you'd like people to remember about you.
3. Search online for photos of the Shroud of Turin, as well as these other ancient images of Jesus: Veronica's Veil, the Mandylion of Edessa, and Christ Pantocrator (a 6th-century icon from St. Catherine's monastery at Mt. Sinai).
4. Pope Francis said that if the story of Jesus' Resurrection had been invented, it surely would not have been linked it to the testimony of women, since ancient Jewish Law did not consider women to be reliable witnesses. Read Luke 24:1-5 and John 20:11-18 to see how God chose humble women as the first witnesses that Jesus rose from the dead.
5. Think about Jesus' redeeming death while listening to Casting Crowns' "East to West," Downhere's "(I Love You Could Not Be Said) A Better Way," the Newsboys' "Amazing Love," or Robbie Seay Band's "Sing to Jesus." What Easter hymn speaks most powerfully to you? Watch Don and Wendy Francisco perform "He's Alive!" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIndrry40Ks&feature=related.
6. Perhaps you've heard of Messianic Judaism; that is, Christian Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah. Do an online search to find out more. A good place to start might be http://www.messianicjewishonline.com. Inspirational writer Mary Lou Carney, who recently returned from a visit to the Holy Land with other Christian pilgrims, writes of her experiences on her blog, "Finding God Every Day," at http://maryloucarney.com. Her description of worshipping with Messianic Jews (blog for July 16, 2013), with video and photos, offers a fascinating look at this courageous group.
1. Jesus' infancy, childhood, youth, and even young adulthood are often referred to as the "silent years" or the "hidden years," because the Gospels say so little about them. However, Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) chose to imitate Jesus' ordinary life in Nazareth: a life of loving, intense prayer and quiet manual labor, shoulder-to-shoulder with his neighbors. Do online research to learn how this wealthy, wild, and agnostic young man came to work (and die) as a priest in the Sahara among the Berbers, a fierce Muslim tribe. Charles' love for Jesus inspires others today to practice a life of deep prayer and hard work among the world's poor, witnessing to the Gospels and making every ordinary day holy. For example, search online for information about the "Little Brothers of Jesus" and "Little Sisters of Jesus."
2. Countless ordinary people surrender to the Holy Spirit and let Love take them over. They live and work quietly among us. They are men, women, and children of every color, race, nationality, and religious faith. Most will never be known; some face times in their lives that call for heroic action and, with God's grace, they respond publicly. Maurice, an officer in the Roman army, refused (along with his entire legion) to offer sacrifice to Roman gods. Before he and his men were put to death, he said, "We are your soldiers, but we are also servants of the true God. We owe you military service and obedience, but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master." Find out about Dr. Martin Luther King, Raoul Wallenberg, Father Damien of Molokai, Kateri Tekakwitha, Josephine Bakhita, Miguel Pro, Daniel Inouye, Malala Yousafzai, or anyone else whose life you admire because they stood up for what they believe.