Today was another overwhelming day for me. This morning I stood on the stones where Paul made his appeal in Acts 25 before eventually being sent to Rome where he was later executed. Tonight I lay down to sleep on top of the Mount of Olives near the spot my Savior spent his final hours in prayer before his passion began. Each day of our journey here has presented me with different views, challenged me in different ways, and brought about a variety of emotions. Words are not able to express these things but I hope my detailed journal will help me share how wonderful this trip has been, and keep these memories fresh in my own mind long after I return. So here is a play by play of today.

We started the day by leaving Nazareth and driving to “Caesarea (“city of Caesar”). This is a coastal city of Palestine that served as capital of the Roman province (Acts 8:40). Built by Herod the Great, it is located 37 km. (23 mi.) from the foot of Mount Carmel; also called Caesarea Maritima.”[1] This city was built between 22-10 B.C.E. and is believed to be about 8,000 acres though not all of it has been uncovered. This city “became the administrative center of the country throughout the period of Roman occupation. Three Roman governors of Palestine lived here: Felix (Acts 24), Festus (Acts 25:1, 4, 6, 13), and Pontius Pilate, who visited Jerusalem on special occasions (as in John 19). Archaeologists found Pilate’s name carved in stone in the theater at Caesarea.”[2] This city also sits right on the Mediterranean Sea so it was a major seaport as well. There were not any good ports in Palestine so Herod who was a great engineer and builder “created one here by building two huge breakwaters that could shelter ships from Mediterranean storms.”[3] “Herod also built a high-level aqueduct to bring fresh water from Mt Carmel to Caesarea; the water originated from springs to the northeast and traveled in an underground aqueduct to Mt Carmel.”[4] This is a big deal because it is about 23 miles from Mount Carmel to Caesarea. There was also an elaborate sewer system here some of it can still be seen today. There are some huge bathhouses that have amazing mosaic floors in them. So far on our trip we have seen many of these but today I saw the first ones that were filled with color. There were also steam rooms in this city near the bathhouse where hot water was pumped beneath the floors and steam would rise up through small holes in the floor. The Governor had his own bathhouse and it is a site to behold!  You can’t miss the other two major structures that have been uncovered here. The first is the hippodrome which is an elongated, narrow structure used for chariot racing. This may have seated as many as 30,000 people at one time. It would have been the Dallas Cowboy’s stadium of its time. It runs parallel to the Mediterranean sea and would have provided breathtaking views to go along with the entertainment. There is also a huge amphitheater that is being used again for modern day performances. Once again the back drop is the Mediterranean sea. I could imagine going out to eat with my lovely wife Abby, then watching the sun set over the Mediterranean sea just before the boxing match, gladiator fights or sappy love play started before our eyes. It is an amazing site for sure.

There are some important Biblical things that happened here as well. For example “a Roman officer named Cornelius was converted to Christianity in Caesarea (Acts 10:1, 24). Later the apostle Peter visited Philip, a prominent Christian leader who lived here (Acts 21:8).”[5] “Paul spent more than two years in prison in Caesarea (Acts 24:27–25:1) and embarked from there on his journey to Rome (Acts 27).”[6] Excavation of the archives building produced several inscriptions on its mosaic floors, among which were two quotations of the Greek text of Romans 13:3.[7] Today I stood in the room where we hear Paul speaks in Acts 25 and the scripture records in verse eleven “I appeal to Caesar!” 25:12 Then, after conferring with his council, Festus replied, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go!” [8] I paused here for sometime and tried to picture the scene unfolding here on the shores of the Mediterranean and I was more than moved, I was overwhelmed by it all!

This is the building where Paul would have made his appeal.

This is the building where Paul would have made his appeal.

Mosaic inscription

Mosaic inscription

Mosaic inscription

Mosaic inscription

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater this is one of the entrances.

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater this is one of the entrances.

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater from the ground

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater from the ground

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater stairs

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater stairs

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater from the top

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater from the top

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater from the top

Caesarea Maritima amphitheater from the top

Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Public toilet they still work!

Public toilet they still work!

hippodrome

hippodrome

Arch in one of the main walkways

Arch in one of the main walkways

Governor's private tub in his bathouse

Governor’s private tub in his bathouse

Colored Mosaic Floors

Colored Mosaic Floors

Next we traveled on to Jerusalem to visit the Israel Museum this afternoon. We spent about three hours here but 3 days would likely not be enough. The campus is about 20 acres and I only made it into 3 of the buildings and only fully examined one building. I took a tour of the model city of Jerusalem that a man had built to honor his son who died in the war in 1968. I don’t know what I was expecting but it was not what I saw. The “model” is a replica of the city on a 50:1 scale. The bricks are made out of cut limestone, along with the roofs of the building and other materials that match what would have been used during this time period. We spent about an hour walking around this massive “model” and it was fascinating to hear the tour guide talk about each part of the city. Once again we saw the genius of Herod the great builder all over this city. Next we toured the building that houses the Dead Sea scrolls and some artifacts from the excavations that were found as well. It was amazing to hear in detail all about this wonderful story. To be able to see some of these ancient text was amazing as well. I could not believe how precise and clear the writing was. It was really small as well, I would guess no bigger than 10 point type, If not smaller. The museum closed at 5pm and we headed to the 7 arches hotel where we will be staying the rest of the week.

Model of Jerusalem from 67 A.D.

Model of Jerusalem from 67 A.D.

Israel Museum

Model of Jerusalem from 67 A.D. View from the east.

Model of Jerusalem from 67 A.D. View from the east.

Model of Jerusalem. close up of the wall and David's tomb even though we know he is not buried there.

Model of Jerusalem. close up of the wall and David’s tomb even though we know he is not buried there.

Model of Jerusalem

Model of Jerusalem

One of the original dead sea scrolls was found in this jar

One of the original dead sea scrolls was found in this jar

Israel Museum

Mosaic floor from the Roman Era

Mosaic floor from the Roman Era

Our hotel is located on the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed on the night he was betrayed. The Mt of Olives gained its name from its extensive olive groves which were renowned in antiquity (Zec 14:4; Mk 11:1).[9] There is a great description of other Old Testament events in the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible which reads in part:

In the OT the Mt of Olives is first mentioned when David flees from Absalom’s conspiracy. He departs from Jerusalem, climbs the Mt of Olives in the east, and continues on toward the rift valley (2 Sm 15:30). Solomon chose this mountain for the construction of “high places” for the foreign deities of Sidon, Moab (1 Kgs 11:7) and Ammon—each of which were later destroyed by Josiah (2 Kgs 23:13). Ezekiel (11:23) records the vision of the glory of God departing from the temple and resting on the Mt of Olives. The most famous description appears in Zechariah’s apocalyptic vision (14:1–5): “On that day [the Lord] shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley…. Later Jewish interest in the mountain is recorded in the Mishna. The burning of the red heifer was an elaborate ceremony on the Mt of Olives (Nm 19:1–10).”[10]

This was an important place in the New Testament as well. It is hard for me to believe that I am sleeping near the place that Jesus passed through, prayed at, and eventually ascended back to heaven on. Once again I am overwhelmed. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible does a great job here once again of detailing some of the New Testament events when it says:

During his final week Jesus taught on the Mt of Olives (Mk 13) and spent his evenings there (Lk 21:37; although this may refer to Bethany). Following the last supper, Jesus came to this mountain for prayer (Mk 14:26). In a garden near an olive oil press (“Gethsemane”), he was arrested (Mk 14:32). The final event of Christ on earth, his ascension, was viewed from the mount by his followers (Acts 1:12).[11]

View from the hotel on Mount of Olives

View from the hotel on Mount of Olives

I am so glad I came on this trip. I have missed my family so much. Yesterday I longed to be with my friends and fellow disciples at Cowboy Fellowship as they worshiped. But despite all of these things I know with out a shadow of a doubt this is where God wants me for these two weeks. I have learned so much, and experienced so many things in such a short time. My perspective has been greatly enhanced, my view of the Bible and world is speaks of is so much clearer. My hope for the church and passion for the lost is stronger than ever before. Finally my love and appreciation for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have soared to new heights! Tomorrow will no doubt be another overwhelming and wonderful day! I am ready!

 


[1] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), xlii.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 390.

[3] Ibid., 390.

[4] Ibid., 390–391.

[5] Ibid., 390.

[6] Ibid., 390.

[7] Ibid., 391.

[8] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ac 25:11–12.

[9] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1587.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1587–1588.