Traveling in the Bible Lands
Most Christians, at some time or the other, dream of visiting in the lands where Bible events took place. Such a tour has rightly been called "the trip of a lifetime." We believe the trip should n o t be taken as a pilgrimage, that is, as people seeking a shrine at which to worship; it is an educational tour taken for the purpose of making one a better student and teacher of the Bible.
People of all ages visit the Bible lands. High school and college students can profit greatly. Those who are and those who wish to become mature Bible students will especially appreciate the trip. Rapid air transportation has made it possible to visit the principal areas of Bible activity in two or three weeks. This has an advantage for the working man or woman who only has a short vacation, or for older people for whom a longer trip would be too tiring. Most trips provide extensions into other areas for those who have more time.
The Value of Trip
A trip to Bible lands broadens horizons and opens many fields of interest. It lays a broad foundation for Bible study and teaching. The relationship of the land to the Boow and to world history is made vivid. To stand in the same spots, seeing and touching the very things mentioned in your Bible reading, has great value. Light is thrown upon many events of Scripture as you see the actual places where these events transpired.
The study of Bible history and geography helps one to understand that Bible events took place in a specific geographical environment. Man is a creature of space as well as time. To fully understand Israel and her activities in the Old Testament, we must visualize the dealings she had with her neighbors, Egypt, Edom, the Canaanites, Assyria, Babylon, et al. Such a study will help to recreate the time, habits and conditions of the people of old. To know the land of Bible events is to see the significance of certain events and why they happened as they did.
Modernists have attacked the Bible as being inaccurate in its historical statements and geographical descriptions. From here the next step has been to cast reflection on its accuracy in spiritual matters. A study of the Land and the Book convinces us of the historical and geographical accuracy of the Bible. What better way could this insight be gained than by an actual visit to these places!
What to See?
We would not want to mislead anyone. Much of what the tourist guides show as "authentic" is far from it. Most of them know the difference and when we let them know and tell them what we are mainly interested in, they do a real good job. You will see various branches of the Catholic Church or the Moslems clamoring to show you the "exact" spot where this or that took place, but even the witnessing of this has some value to the Christian. Jack Finegan, speaking of Palestine, suggests that the whole country itself often speaks more clearly than any specific object.
Its hills, lakes and rivers, its sky, sun and springtime flowers, must be much the same as they were in Jesus' day. Also, in many ways the life of the people, their villages, activities and customs, remain little changed. One still sees the women at the village well, the sower going forth to sow, and the shepherd leading his sheep, exactly as it is said in John 10:4, "He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him" (Light From the Ancient Past, p. 221.)
When one sees the land he realizes that even if he does not know where the "exact" spot of some event was, it could not have been far away.
THE DEAD SEA. Called the Salt Sea in the Bible, this is the lowest body of water on earth, 1292 feet below sea level. Nothing can live in its briny water. Courtesy, Israel Govt. Tourist Office.
Most tours visit Rome. Here one may see the Appian Way, the Colosseum and the Catacombs and reflect on the activities and persecution of the early Christians in the midst of a pagan society. A visit to the church buildings of Rome and to Vatican City helps one to visualize vast changes that have taken place since those days of simple New Testament Christianity.
In Egypt one may see the Sphinx and the Pyramids which had been standing for centuries when Abraham went down into that land. In Lebanon one visits the ancient city of Byblos (it is from this same word that we get the word "Bible"). In Syria one sees Damascus, a city that has been continuously inhabited since before the time of Abraham; the city where Paul began preaching Christ.
The division and warlike activity in Palestine remind one that things have been peaceful in the "promised" land for only short periods of time. But think of seeing Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron. The Sea of Galilee with its calm blue mountain waters, the snake-like Jordan River, and the salty Dead Sea will cause the events of old to flash across your mind in lightning-like succession. The trip across the Plain of Megiddo (this supplies the figure for the Armageddon of Rev. 16:16) will bring about a clearer understanding of many Bible passages.
At Athens and Corinth one can see the sites of the labors of Paul and thinking about what became of these churches he can wonder if the same fate awaits the congregation of which he is a part.
The list is nearly endless. We could go on and on talking about the places and things to be seen on such a trip. Perhaps we have whetted your appetite for a more accurate knowledge of Bible lands. The best thing we could suggest would be a trip to these lands in the company of other Christians.
It was the pleasure of William E. Wallace and me to lead a group of 19 Christians in a visit of some of the Bible lands last spring. Without hesitation I can suggest that every preacher and Bible class teacher ought to take such a trip. This trip will help, in a small way, to bridge the cultural gap, between the first and the twentieth century and will provide illustrations to last you the rest of your life as you teach the Word of God. The airline which we used, Alitalia, arranged financing with low interest and convenient terms for those who needed such.
Participants in the 1967 tour included 4 preachers and 2 elders. Tour members standing, from left to right, are: Dr. Harold Byers, Ferrell Jenkins, Elizabeth Jenkins, Maree Gates, Esther Byers, Ruby Skipworth, Sharon Sewell, Keith Burnett, Sue Lawrence, Vivian Hatcher, Opal Wolven, John Wolven, Bea Dukes, L. L. Dukes, LaRue Bennett, Gladys Hackney, Glen Hackney, Steve Hudgins. Kneeling is Mr. Theis Reynertson of Travelmaster Tours, who did not make the tour and William E. Wallace.
The 1968 Tour
Bro. Wallace and I plan to lead another group in 1968. The tour is to depart from New York, April 29 and return May 20. Much of what we saw this year in Jordan is now a part of Israel, so our travels will be in the modern nations of Italy, Israel, Turkey, and Greece. In the "promised land" we will see the cities of the Philistines, Beersheba, Plain of Sharon, Joppa, Caesarea, Tiberias , Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Samaria, Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho, Bethany, Jordan River, Dead Sea and much more. In Turkey we will see the cities of the seven churches of the book of Revelation, as well as Miletus. In Greece our tour will include Athens, Corinth, Neapolis, Philippi and Thessalonica. In Italy our sightseeing will be in Rome. You have read about all of these places in your Bible; you ought to see them with your own eyes. Our brochures are ready for mailing. We would be pleased to send you one. Just say "Send the '68 Bible Lands folder."
Meanwhile, if you wish to get an accurate, up-to-date impression of the Bible lands I suggest that you secure a copy of Baker's Bible Atlas and of The Biblical World. A thorough study of these books will help to prepare you for a more meaningful trip. I cannot resist, however, the urge to say that a study of all the atlases in the world will never take the place of one short visit to the Bible lands.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 4, pp. 15-17