Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Rev. Know-it-all’s Guide to the Holy Land, part 11

Continued from last week…

As I said before, now on to Jericho! But, one must ask, “…which Jericho?” There about 20 Jericho’s that stretch back 13,000 years. Throughout the Holy Land you will see hills. Some are just hills. But there are hills that are more than they appear. They’re called “tells” and they have a tale to tell. (Sorry. Couldn't resist the pun. I hate puns. They are downright punishing). “Tell” or “tel” is a Hebrew word that means hill. By the way, “Wad” is an Arabic word that means “gulch or ravine.” We pseudo-scholarly types delight in using words that no one really understands. It makes us look smart even when we are lapidarily dense. A Tell or Tel is really a colossal monument to poor sanitation, In the midst of prehistory when the first hunter gatherer cave persons settled down, they did so by springs or rivers or fields of barley. In fact the most recent theory is that farming and settled life emerged just when we discovered that last week’s barley soup fermented, developed bubbles and tasted good. Not to mention making one smile. They called it beer.

Wandering humanity settled in stable communities in order to grow and harvest barley so they could make more barley soup and stick around while it aged. Well, if you drink too much of last week’s barley soup, you tend to throw stuff out the window until the garbage just piles up and you have to either throw out the trash or build over it. In a male dominated society you can imagine what happened.  Soon you were living on a hill and that convenient stream was down the hill and the water had to be schlepped up the hill. This was no problem. The carrying of water was the job of women. The job of men was to chase a pig around town, or to watch the other guys chasing the pig. (The probable origin of football — now we chase the pigskin around a field and not the entire pig.)

The problem with Jericho is that there are lots of Jericho’s. Some even have walls that have fallen down. If you assume Ramses the Great was the pharaoh of the Exodus, then the Israelites would have entered the Holy Land around 1200BC. Tel Jericho (how’s that for scholarship?) was unoccupied at that time. The reason that we assume Ramses was the pharaoh of the Exodus is that 1) the Hebrew slaves built the city of Pi-Ramses and 2) Yul Brenner made such a great Ramses in the film “The Ten Commandments.” The Bible (1 Kings 6:1) places the Exodus 480 years before the building of Solomon's Temple. That would mean Exodus happened around 1450 BC.  

Manetho, the ancient Egyptian historian also favors a more ancient though more gradual exodus. Saying that Ramses built Pi-Ramses is like saying the English settled New York. Ramses and the English were fond of renaming things. The Dutch settled New York but called it New Amsterdam. Pi-Ramses existed long before Ramses. In the 1400's BC there was a Jericho up there on the tell, though not much of a town. Remember these are men telling the story and they probably also fished. No one ever catches a fish that got away that wasn't an aquatic monster. Enjoy Jericho. It really is the place where Israel entered the Holy Land and where Zacchaeus climbed the tree.

Next we arrive at the inn of the Good Samaritan. This is the place where the story of the Good Samaritan didn't happen. It was a parable. A story. It’s a great story. But it didn't happen. The locals will enthusiastically show you where it didn’t happen. On the road going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, there are the remains of a building that fits the parable very nicely.

In the 6th century, a monastery with pilgrim facilities was built on the site of what was may have been a travelers’ inn at or before the time of Christ.  The Crusaders built a fort on a nearby hill to secure the road for pilgrims. In 2009, Israel built a museum there. The remains of the monastery church were rebuilt with an altar but no Christian symbols. In my pseudo-scholarly opinion, the sites in Galilee are pretty good archaeology as is Bethlehem and the church of the Holy Sepulcher. These have good archaeology and good history behind them.

Next Jerusalem!!

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