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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Stones Crying Out: Archaeology and Wonder in the Holy Lands

As Jesus descends the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, the Pharisees urge him to rebuke the jubilant crowd. “I tell you,” He replies in Luke 19:40, “if they remain silent, the stones will cry out.”

His words aptly describe the rocks beneath his feet. Thousands of years later, the stones of Jerusalem – and indeed Israel at large – cry out with his presence. Archaeological investigation has uncovered geological testaments to the world of Abraham, David, Jesus, and the apostles.

One of the most important of these testaments is the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of ancient manuscripts dated from the third century BC to the first century AD. Found by Bedouin shepherds in a cave in the Judean desert, the scrolls include huge sections of the Old Testament and various religious texts from the Second Temple period that show just how robust the spiritual life of the Jewish world was at the time of Christ.

Many scholars attribute the scrolls to the Qumran-Essenes, a mystical sect within Judaism that chose to live not in the powerful city of Jerusalem, but far away in the wilderness.

“If you actually have a call where it says, ‘A voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord,’ they’d consider that pretty serious,” explains Dr. Stephen Pfann, an archaeologist and scholar who has been studying the scrolls for three decades.

Watch a trailer for the new video series from Passages Israel, "Israel Explored".

“What I sometimes do with [my] students when we’re down here [in the desert] and we watch the sun rise…we say some morning prayers. [I] say, ‘Listen, just take the next ten minutes. It’s just you and God, just like all the others that came down here,” he continues. “The same God is here, the same angels are here, they don’t die…You’re able to meditate and just say, ‘God, I’m here.’”

Jerusalem boasts architectural wonders equally extraordinary. The City of David is an excavation site within the Old City walls, where archaeologists have been working to uncover the centuries of life and worship that have occurred on this sacred ground. Some of their most remarkable achievements include uncovering the fortifications from the Bronze age, built to guard the city’s spring, and the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus sent the man who was born blind to be healed.

The north of the country boasts equally spectacular archaeological treasures. In 2009, scholars discovered a first-century synagogue at Magdala that also is home to the oldest-known depiction of the temple of Jerusalem in the world. Father Eamon Kelly, who serves as Vice Director of the spot, speaks enthusiastically about Magdala’s significance.

“Some academics with very special glasses and beards on television were saying we don’t have synagogues until after [the] temple destruction, which is 70 [AD]-ish,” he explains. “So, this synagogue is very important to us. Everybody who has a Jesus connection…will get goosebumps here, and every Jewish person will get goosebumps here.”

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From a purely architectural point of view, Caesarea Maritima on the shores of the Mediterranean is one of the country’s most glorious archaeological treasures. Built in the time of Herod as a gift for Caesar Augustus, the city includes a spectacular classical arena and temples.

The port city is also where the first Gentile to receive baptism, Cornelius, lived with his household and where Paul departed for his missionary journeys. This legacy makes it enormously significant for the vast majority of Christ-followers who are not of Jewish ancestry.

Israel is full of places like these – spaces resonant with God’s power in history. Seeing them for yourself is a fresh revelation of just how intimately He loves us and how carefully He watches over the lives of all the saints. You can get a taste of the power of this place through the new travel series from Passages, “Israel Explored.” Watch the full series at passagesisrael.org/cbn.

Watch a trailer for the new video series from Passages Israel, "Israel Explored":

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