Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

What the Jews did

January 30, 2018

What the Jews did was establish about half of the narrative foundation of the Western World.

Their Old Testament, combined with the New, were received as Holy Scriptures  by the Church, which, after Constantine, dominated European cultural development for over a thousand years.

Long about 1500 or so, the Protestant Reformation began the process of unshackling the chains of dogmatic error that the Catholic hierarchy had, over 1400 years, lapsed into. Then Reformation disruption of Papist hegemony broke ground for another new emphasis—the Renaissance. This humanist  arts movement unearthed the  quasi-dormant other half of the Western cultural narrative, the ancient Greeks, most notably Homer, Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle. On the coattails of the Greek philosophers, the Roman writers, most notably Cicero, Cato and Virgil later appended their contribution to the philosophical and governmental legacy of ancient Greece. It later became a bedrock of Western culture and government.

That ancient Greek heritage had initiated an idea called democracy, which was later amended to Republic by the Romans in their Empire.

Judeo-Christian Religion, Greek Democracy and Roman Republic became the religious, philosophical and governmental foundations upon which the Western World was established in Europe and beyond.

In the early stages of Western history, during the period of the Roman Empire, along came a Roman general named Titus. In 70 a.c.e., he ran most of the Jews out of Israel, their homeland, and he sent his soldiers to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish Temple, even though it had had been constructed by one of the Romans’ own puppet kings, Herod.

Titus apparently thought it was a notable accomplishment that he had expelled most of the Jews out of their own ancient capital;  the Hebrews had previously managed to reclaim Jerusalem after the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar had expelled them about 670 years earlier.

Titus’ Roman victory over the Jews was thought to be quite impressive by his successors. A few years after he died, his brother Domitian commissioned the Arch of Titus to be constructed in the main area of Rome. Among the conquests of Titus depicted in stone on the Arch, the plundering of Jerusalem is plain to see.

ArcTitusMenr

In this picture that I snapped, the Jewish Menorah can be plainly seen. To the victor goes the spoils, eh? The Roman big shots must have thought themselves something special after they ran those upstart Jews out of Jerusalem back in the day. The Jews were infamous among several historical empire-builders for being ungovernable.

One reason that Titus and Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus and their ilk had so much trouble governing the Jews was because the people of Israel always insisted on being free.

This whole idea of freedom, around which Western culture revolves, originated largely with the Jews.

Long about 1400 or so years b.c.e., Moses rounded up the Jews and lead them out of the slavery that Egyptian pharoahs had inflicted on them.

This turned out to be a major event in world history.

Why? Because Moses and some of his people wrote a book about it. We know it as the book of Exodus. Along with the other books of the Torah/Pentateuch/Old Testament, it later became an international best-seller for many and many a year, many and many a century and several millenia of time.

What later became the Bible was passed down through the ages to many and many a person and group of persons to read and spark inspiration.

That spark of freedom that enabled the Jews to throw off the bondage of Pharoahic slavery—it has been an inspiration to many freedom-seeking people throughout history.

Case in point, within our lifetime. (All ye Boomers out there, hear ye, hear ye. . .)

Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr., on the night before he was assassinated, declared this message to his people in Memphis, and ultimately via audiotape to America, and to the world:

“I’ve been to the Mountaintop. . . I’ve seen the Promised Land . . .”

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

We can see that Dr. King was inspired by Moses. A long time ago, I wrote a song about it. Mountaintop

And we know from the Hebrew scriptures that Moses was inspired by God.

Now this may seem a little old-fashioned to you, a little bit religious. But this religious thing is much more than belief in God. It’s not just out-of-style old hat. Faith also includes the idea of freedom. It also includes the idea of freedom of religion , freedom to believe what you need to believe, and freedom to act on what you believe to be true. It goes way back, way back . . .

Here’s another example from American history. A hundred and fifty years ago when black folks in this country were still enslaved . . . in a situation not unlike what the Jews had found themselves in ancient Egypt, one of those black former slaves, Harriet Tubman, started a secret society for the purpose of providing an escape for self-freed slaves who wanted to come up to the free states.

The name that was given to Harriet’s clandestine network was the Underground Railroad. Have you heard of it?

I’m here to tell you that the Underground Railroad has been transporting people from bondage to liberty for a very long time.

Last century,  freedom-seeking people did another version of it to smuggle the children of Israel  out of the Nazi Third Reich. Have you heard of it?

But know this: it’s still going on.

Underground Railroad Rides Again.

 And we can thank the Jews for that, because way, way back in the day . . . they started it; they started the freedom track that runs through human civilization.  The first one ran from Egypt to the Promised Land, and its been going, whenever needed, under the radar ever since.

It will never be shut down.

Glass half-Full 

Between Jerusalem and Damascus

January 29, 2016

JerGoPeace

Along the regions of the Jordan River valley, about three thousand and twenty year ago, there was a war going on between two descendants of King David. Asa king of Judah, and Baasha king of Israel, were contending for two different regions within the land that had formerly been, in one brief, shining moment of history, Solomon’s united domain. This situation might have been, then between two Hebrew monarchs, a little bit like what they have today in Israeli domains between, say, Likud and Labor. Or maybe not, anyway. .

The dispute was more about bloodshed then, more about politics today.

So in the course of Israeli history about three thousand and twenty years ago, Baasha king of Israel (based in Shechem) went up against Judah (based in Jerusalem). Towards that end, Baasha built a fort in Ramah, just a little ways northwest of Jerusalem, in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to collaborate with Asa king of Judah.

Then Asa took all the silver and the gold which were left in the treasuries of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and the treasuries of the king’s house, and put them into the hands of his servants, so that they could deliver those precious goods  to Benhadad, king of Aram, who lived in Damascus.

Thus King Asa of Judah was was proposing a treaty between himself and Benhadad, that is–between Judah and Aram, or as we might think of it today–between the Jews and the Syrians.

Asa was saying to the Syrian king, hey look, I have sent you a present of silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will get the hell out of my face and leave us alone over here in Jerusalem.

Well guess what, Benhadad listened to King Asa,  and so he sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of northern Israel.

When Baasha heard about it, he withdrew from his southern position at Ramah, and ceased fortifying it.

Then King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah, and they carried away the stones and timbers that Baasha had used to fortify Ramah. And King Asa used the building materials to build Geba and Mizpah.

Thus we see that not much has changed in the last three thousand years, pertaining to how peoples settle their disputes, except nowadays it’s more about concrete and steel than about stones and timbers. And nowadays how likely would it be that the Judean entity, lead by Benjamin (Netanyahu) would ally itself with a Damascus-based warlord such as Assad?

As for the other events of Israeli/Palestinian territories, are they not written in the annals of Semitic history?

Smoke

The Brightness

October 2, 2015

I snapped this pic yesterday at sunset on Hapuna beach:

SSetBrite

What fascinates me here is the brightness of the sun’s reflection. Both the sun and its reflection on the ocean water are captured in the photo, making the sun’s effect on the image doubly bright.

There’s one source of light, the sun, the appearance of which is made twice as intense by its reflection on the surf.

It’s funny what this made me think of–a scene in the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.

When I was in college at LSU, many and many a year ago, I went to a road-cast presentation of that incredibly expressive musical play. It blew me away.

Which is to say. . .I enjoyed it very much. The music therein is an incredible piece of work, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. I think those guys wrought a new genre at that time–a thing called rock opera, which was as fresh and new in 1971 as, say, the original opera genre was for Italians back in the day when Verdi was composing great emotive arias with incredible cadenzas and powerful ensemble singing scenes.

Among the many amazing scenes in that play is one that endures in my memory even to this day. It’s a dim recollection, in the sense that I can’t recall exactly which scene it was; but I do remember there, in the scene, there was some kind of exquisitely choreographed crescendo of frantic motion and dissonant voices, disintegrating musically into librettic confusion and wild cacophony,  when suddenly–a presence, a dramatic presence, accompanied by overpowering musical intervention, personified by the entrance of some powerful entity, maybe a king or a gifted leader. . .the entrance of the man, Jesus, eclipsed all the singers’ disintegrating harmony as the superstar of the show arrived upon the scene.

A bright light overpowering darkness.

Here’s a version of the scene that I found online:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG1JWJFGfOU

When I ponder what happened in that scene at the Temple in Jerusalem, I think of it this way, as the prophet Isaiah had foretold, in the 60th chapter of his prophetic writing:

“Nations will come to your light, and kings

to the brightness of your rising. . .”

The brightness of his presence eclipsed their depravity.

And that overpowering illumination is what I thought of when I viewed the sunset pic, which I inserted at the top of this here blogpost.

As for the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, I consider it a musical work of absolute genius, but I do have one problem with the play. . .

no Resurrection scene.

About seven years after I was blown away by  that awesome musical stage production, I arrived at a point in my life when I came to believe that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, and he will come again, as Messiah for all the world, and on that day. . .

Nations will come to his light, and great men and women will be drawn to the brightness of his coming.

You believe that?

Whether you do or not, watch a video of Jesus Christ Superstar. Then decide for yourself whether there should be a Resurrection scene. I hope you can rise to the occasion.

 

Glass half-Full

The Sacred Place

September 26, 2015

This world is a wonderful place, but it’s also a terrible place. We are not in agreement here about a lot of things. The human family is all torn up as a result of our disagreements. So what else is new.

Well here’s something new for me, but it’s actually a reshaped experience of an old conundrum.

It started yesterday when my wife and daughter I, who are presently on the big island of Hawaii, took a drive in the rental car up onto the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano.

It was a large experience: there we went crawling, in a mid-sized automobile as any tourist would do, up the slope of this massive hunk of hardened magma, which had piled up 32,000 feet from the Pacific Ocean floor, to a peak 13,796 feet above sea level.

We didn’t go all the way to the top, because having no 4WD limited our ascent. Of course, as tourists, we wouldn’t be taking the time to hike the rest of the way to up, so we satisfied ourselves with what was available at the Visitors’ Center, as most “visitors” or tourists probably do.

We arrived at this little outpost/equipment store/educational display that is the the Visitor’s Center, and bailed out of the car to have a look around. It’s at about 9300 ft. above sea level. With some disappointment at not having reached the summit, I decided, as most tourists who stop here do, to check out the what was inside the small building.

I learned a lot up here, three quarters of the way up Mauna Kea. There were two information sources:

~the instructional video about the Mauna Kea volcano itself, its history, and the scientific station up on top with very high-tech telescopes.

~the vigilant We Are Mauna Kea representatives, across the road, who were protesting further developments on the summit.

The video inside was very impressive, and informative. You can probably find it online somewhere. For my purposes here, I’ll say merely that the big picture for the scientists seems to be exploring, visually through super-telescopes and scientifically through electromagnetic data collection, the outer regions of our solar system and beyond. I can appreciate this, find it interesting, but its pretty much beyond my down-to-earth curiosities.

The protesters across the road had set up a small Hale, a special shelter made of stones and leafy coverings. At its entrance was a stylized artistic rendering of Queen Liliuokalani with her fist raised high in the air. This was interesting to me. Having developed an interest in Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, I had read her biography during a previous trip to Oahu. Queen Liliuokalani’s life was so interesting to me that I had included parts of her story in my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. But I always thought of her very regally, as a queen, not typically standing with her fist in the air. But that’s the position in which she was depicted at this protest site.

ProtestKea

A cheerful, young woman there explained to me that they especially want to prevent construction of a newly proposed 18-story high observatory. She handed me a printed page which was quite professional-looking and concise, with an explanation of their We Are Mauna Kea objectives. My reading of it later unearthed another objection of theirs– the disruption/excavation of 8 acres and 64,000 cubic yards of public lands. The basis of their protest is stated with several points listed. The first one is:

Mauna Kea is a Wao Akua, a holy realm, a sacred piko.

About an hour later, as we departed that place of instruction and confliction, my heart and mind were disagreeing with each other about the controversy between these two camps of human beings– the Sacred Place Savers who were protesting, and the Knowledge Gatherers who were erecting tall telescopes in order to learn more about the expanding universe.

This is a little bit like the ancient dilemma of mankind: choosing between the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge.

Who is to say what place is sacred?

Who is to say what place is useful?

The protesters’ plaintive objections reminded me of a song I wrote and recorded many years ago. It’s a tuneful lament that touches on this great divide between two different people groups of mankind:

Sitting Bull’s Eyes

I wrote the song In 1978, which was about the same my time my life fell apart in a big way, and I turned to the Creator of the Universe for some help. I then returned to the faith of my fathers and mothers, which is Christ.

As my walk with the Lord through this life has progressed for lo, these many years since that time, I have from time to time studied the sacred places and beliefs of different people. In human history, we can find thousands of incidents of one trive desecrating the sacred places and beliefs of another tribe, or one religion destroying the sacred places of another religion. Rather than trying to cite them all, I’ll just mention one particular example, which is the one I know the most about.

In the history of my own faith heritage, for instance, I find:

~Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar desecrated the Jewish temple in Jerusalem

~Seleucid conquerer Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated that same temple

~Titus the Roman general/emperor destroyed that temple

~Muslims later occupied the sacred mountain in Jerusalem where the temple had stood

~Christians  took that site from the Muslims

~Muslims took it back

~In 1967, the Jewish people regained possession of their sacred temple mount in Jerusalem. But being sensitive to potential destructive forces of politics and religion, they wisely decided to maintain the Muslim ascendancy that had fallen upon that holy place, leaving their own people, the Jews, to pray at the sacred wall beneath.

~Here’s my spiritual attachment to that sacred site in Jerusalem. It started with a man named Paul in the first century AD. He was Jewish, but had a new vision, based on the work of Jesus the Christ. Paul was the primary expositor of the Christian faith (which I later accepted as my own). He traveled all around present-day Lebanon, Turkey, Macedonia, Greece and Rome preaching that the truly sacred place of the most High God is found not in the temples erected by  men, but in the souls of men and women who believe in Jesus the Christ.

Sacred is not found in a place or thing, but in the hearts of men and women who believe, and act in accordance with their faith.

So from my Christian perspective, or perhaps any other person whose values were influenced by being raised in the post-Christian Western culture, who cares about whether a place is sacred or not?

Well, there is a very important attribute of human relationships that I have come to admire when I see it in people: Respect.

Respect for others, and for their traditions. Respect others as you would want to be respected.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaiians of ancient heritage strive without success to prevent the high-tech wizards of our modern age from desecrating their sacred place. Who is going to win out here?

I think you know who will prevail in this Mauna Kea situation. It seems it has always been this way. The strong throw their weight around like bulls in a china shop and destroy all that is holy and sacred of what remains among the indigenous and weakened peoples.

Has it always been this way?

Yes. This is the history of the world as we know it.

Will it always be this way?

Who knows? Not me. But a wise Teacher wrote long ago:

“I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.”

We shall see about that.

And the greatest Teacher of all said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

But who is a peacemaker anyway? Is it a person who lives peacefully. . . or a person who shuts down troublemakers by imposing peace on their violent schemes?

Whatever your answer to that question is, please consider this: Take it upon yourself as a sacred duty to do the best you can to respect others, and to obtain respect for those who are unable to retain it.

Glass half-Full

458 B.C., when Iranians and Jews worked together

June 20, 2015

The God of Providence sees to it that his people have opportunity for historical renewal when it becomes necessary.

Such is the lesson that this Christian believer distills from my reading of a scholarly treatise in biblical history and theology, written by Kyong-Jin Lee: The Authority and Authorization of Torah in the Persian Period,  (Peeters 2011)

Now I am no scholar. However, I am a student of history; I have appreciated this book, and managed to learn from it, even though it was written mainly for academic scholars.

Professor Lee explores the working relationship between 5th-century BCE Achaemenid rulers and the the local priests whose leadership legitimatized Persian channels of authority throughout their vassal countries.

Following well-worn paths of scholarly research, Kyong-Jin Lee examines several case studies in which the ancient Persian kings and their appointees consistently worked within pre-existing channels of local authority, religious and political, to collectively maintain a Pax Persicus. Her exegesis reveals a modus operandi of very practical Persian administrations. Regional satrapies, appointed by the Achaemenid King, generally sought to understand how each vassal state had habitually operated religiously and politically. Then the dutiful satraps  acted in an informed manner to legislate effectively. Utilizing native leadership, the Achaemenids would work to construct productive channels for effective localized administrations. Thus a network of King-appointed priests or governors worked to maintain peace and order throughout the Persian empire.

Through Kyong-Jin Lee’s careful analysis of steles and documentary fragments from Egypt and Asia Minor antiquity, a consistently Persian legislative approach to governing emerges for the reader. It is inclusive, cooperative and ultimately pragmatic. Her chosen precedent case studies help the reader gain understanding about  the main object of Lee’s study: the working relationship between king Artaxerxes and his emissary to the Jews of Jerusalem, Ezra the scribe. About ~458 BCE.

This Christian reader has little experience navigating the meticulous academic exegeses of such scholars as Peter Frei, Joseph Blenkinsopp, Lisbeth Fried, Juha Pakkala and other noteworthy scholars upon whose research Kyong-Jin Lee builds her case. Nevertheless, I must say:

Reading this book has been quite a learning experience for me.

Circa the 5th-century BCE, the rise of the Achaemenid Persians under the conquerors Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, brought about new political conditions favorable for the Jewish people, who had been deported to Babylon about seventy years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar. By an edict of the Persian king Artaxerxes, the Babylonian Jewish scribe Ezra was commissioned to travel to Judea on a fact-finding mission which eventually became a Persian-backed restoration of Jewish religious practice in Jerusalem. Imagine that. This development contributed not only to political stability in the Judean “beyond the River” satrapy, but incidentally also contributed (Providentially, from my faith perspective) to Torah, and later the written Bible.

So I find my 21st-century Biblical reader-self feeling cognitive gratitude to these Persian monarchs of long ago–Cyrus, Darius, Artaxerxes, whose benevolent rulership facilitated a rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and hence the continuing worship of Y__H. Therefore, this believer infers this historical lesson:

After a time of great trial–an era of captivity and chastisement under an oppressive (the Babylonian) empire– the God of history can arrange for the restoration of his people. He can raise up foreign potentates to facilitate their homeland aliyah, and thereby allow the ministrations of the loving, Providential God to continue among them through the ages, right up to the time of his supreme Sacrifice for the good of us all, such a time as then and now, when a Passover lamb would no longer be necessary.

Smoke

Prayer for all Nations

April 11, 2015

I hope you will believe in God, if you don’t already. When the Son of God walked upon the earth, he visited the temple of his people, in Jerusalem. Jesus said many things at the temple. One thing he said was:

My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.

Toward that end, I included this scene/portrait in my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. From chapter 4:

Beneath a cold, clear, azure sky the city of Jerusalem lay stretched upon the mountains and valleys like a fuzzy glove upon God’s hand. People from all over the world had gathered here to unearth evidence of God at work among the people of the earth. Some sought a temple that no longer exists. Some sought a mosque where a prophet entered heaven. Some trod upon the cobblestones of ancient, holy real estate, pleading for reconciliation, seeking atonement for the human condition.

A man wandered beyond the dome, past the blocked-up eastern gate; curving around northward, he noticed a large open area beside the mosque. Was this where the former temple had stood? What a beautiful mosque.

Could not the owners of this hill sell the adjoining, vacant acre or two to those pilgrims who, standing daily at the wall below, were wailing for their wonderful temple? Why not make a deal? Such a deal. Cousin to Cousin. Temple and Mosque, Mosque and Temple…Mosque Shsmosque, Temple Shmemple. Such a deal. Everybody happy. You pray your way; I pray mine.

A man traveled outside the wall, beyond the ramparts of human religion-building, pushing the envelope of mortally human strife… through the Kidron Valley below, to the vanity-laden valley of struggle, along the groves of Gethsemane; he trod among the graves of the prophets; he ambled along the graftings of the profits. He wept. Mankind, like a flock of fluttering chickens in a barnyard, clucking, headless…why can’t we get it together?

A man walked up the other side of the valley, through Arab neighborhoods, to a Jewish cemetery. Oh wailing trail of human history, why allowest thou such holocaust? Turning around, he looked back across the valley, to the mountain where he just had been, with tears:

Sons of Adam, argue all you want about real estate on your holy hill. “I’ll be over here on the other side,” thought he.

But the walk was over now. It was time to go to work. John Demos, reporter for XYZ, was scheduled to do a live broadcast three hours from now. The American Secretary of State and her entourage were in the ancient city to prevail upon, once again, the ancient brothers and sisters to settle their ancient differences. And John would be covering the event for XYZ.

***

Half a world away, John’s face could be seen on the TV in the Jesse James Gang Grill.

He was reporting to the world about the latest official Middle East peace initiatives. Hilda Hightower interrupted her flower-watering chore for a few minutes to watch his report…

DomeRok

Wailing Wall

JerChSepulc

JerGoPeace

Glass half-Full

70 A.D. and the Arch in Rome

February 15, 2015

About 2800 years ago, King Solomon of Israel built a Temple in Jerusalem. Its purpose was to provide a place where the Jewish people would worship YHWH, better known today as God.

The Jewish kingdom came to an end when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem, about 597 B.C.E., and occupied the city. The Temple was looted and sacked. Most of the influential Jews were hauled off to Babylon to be imprisoned or to serve Nebuchadnezzar.

About sixty years after the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, a small number of the Jewish people were allowed to return. Two prophets of that period, Haggai and Zechariah, addressed their exhortations to leaders named Zerubbabel and Joshua, regarding a rebuilding of the Temple.

So within the fledgeling Jewish community of post-exile Jerusalem, work was begun to restore, in whatever way possible, a new Temple. According to Eerdmans New Bible Dictionary, 1970 edition :

“The exiles who returned (c.537 B.C.) took with them the vessels looted by Nebuchadnezzar, and the authorization of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the Temple. Apparently the site was cleared of rubble and an altar built and the laying of the foundation commenced (Ezr. i, iii. 2, 3, 8-10). When eventually finished it was 60 cubits long and 60 cubits high, but even the foundations showed that it would be inferior to Solomon’s temple.”

But the people of Israel were in perpetual trouble, as they are today, with the larger, stronger political and military forces that surrounded– and sought to dominate– them, during the next five hundred years.

Most especially, the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who (Eerdmans New Bible Dictionary). . .

“. . . set up the ‘abomination of desolation’ (a pagan altar or statue) on 15 December 167 B.C (1 Macc. i.54). The triumphant Maccabees cleansed the Temple from this pollution and replaced the furniture late in 164 B.C (1 Macc. iv. 36-59). They also turned the enclosure into a fortress so strong that it resisted the siege of Pompey for three months (63 BC).”

But the Roman empire was too much for the independent Judeans, who refused to accept any god except their one, true YHWH. The Roman legions subdued them, and massacred over 12,000 on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Those who remained among the Jewish people of Israel were still yet to see a Temple built in Jerusalem.

In 37 B.C., the Roman Senate bequeathed the title “King of the Jews” upon a Jew of Idumaean descent, Herod, who became known as Herod the Great.

His “greatness” was apparent to his Roman superiors, including Emperor Octavian (Augustus), more-so than to his Judean subjects. Among his several attempts to reconcile with his people (although he was an Idumaean, or Edomite, Jew), was his construction of a new Temple!

Herod “the Great” began its construction in 19 B.C., and it was considered complete by 9 B.C. It was a grand structure, very impressive, and consistent with the Roman way of grandiose magnificence, if not true to the original Jewish plan and worshipful purpose as King David and Solomon had envisioned.

Nevertheless, on a certain day about forty years later, Jesus of Nazareth walked in the place and prophecied that it would be taken apart stone by stone.

And that is what happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman military leader (later Emperor) Titus conquered Judea, ransacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Again. When Titus and his legions got done with the Temple and its environs, there wasn’t a stone left, except this retaining wall:

WallJeruslm

Titus, like Antiochus or Hitler, was quite proud of his conquest of the Jews. His father, the Emperor Vaspasian, agreed that the subjugation of those only-one-God-and-you’re-not-Him Jews was quite a feat. A few years later, in year 79, Titus followed his father into the highest office of the Roman Empire. But his time as Emperor was short. He died in 81 A.D.

The next year, 82 A.D., his conquest was commemorated in stone as the Arch of Titus, which still stands in the oldest part of Rome.

In his tour-guide book about Rome, Rick Steves published this explanation about the Arch of Titus:

“The Arch of Titus commemorated the Roman victory over the province of Judaea (Israel) in A.D. 70. The Romans had a reputation as benevolent conquerors who tolerated the local customs and rulers. All they required was allegiance to the empire, shown by worshipping the emperor as a god. No problem for most conquered people, who already had half a dozen gods on their prayer lists anyway. But Israelites believed in only one god, and it wasn’t the emperor. Israel revolted. After a short but bitter war, the Romans defeated the rebels, took Jerusalem, destroyed their temple (leaving only the foundation wall–today’s revered ‘Wailing Wall’), and brought home 50,000 Jewish slaves. . .who were forced to build this arch. . .”

ArchTitus2

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Rome, observing the Arch of Titus, when I noticed this detailed bas-relief on the underneath part of the arch:

ArcTitusMenr

And even though the Romans carried off (as is depicted in my photo) the Menorah from the Jerusalem Temple, the light of God’s presence has not been extinguished. It still shines.

According to the one who predicted the Temple’s destruction, the flame still burns.

It shines for Jews as a Channukah celebration, and a Next Year in Jerusalem Passover prayer, and hope for a long-awaited Meschiach.

It shines for me as the light of Christ within me, and within all those who believe in Him.

 

Smoke

What Muhammad did

October 25, 2014

I have been reading about Muhammad in Karen Armstrong’s biography, and I have concluded that he was a genius.

That prophet’s spiritual presence was so compelling to his first followers that they accepted without question hundreds of utterings  spoken through his mouth. They later assembled these verses as the suras of the Qu’ran.

This was no small feat. The lyrical content of Islam’s holy scriptures is composed entirely of one man’s revelatory pronouncements. (If I am wrong about this, you Muslims please correct me. I understand that the hadiths, written later by others, followed, but are not  considered holy revelatory scripture.)

Compare this Mohammadan revelation to, say, the Bible, which was assembled as sixty-six books that were spoken or authored by a multiplicity of authors over thousands of years. What a legacy the Jewish people have given us. Muhammed benefited directly from the Judaic legacy, and considered himself a part of it–a most definitive and corrective part of it.

What Mohammed had to say about al-Lah to his fellow Arabs during the early seventh century c.e. was quite urgent and compelling. The essence of it is that al-Lah is one God, not some pagan collection of many gods and goddesses. This may sound like religious quibbling to modern secularists, but the monotheistic insistence was downright revolutionary to 7th-century Arabs, especially those of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. Muhammad’s impact upon the Arabic tribal life and religion was  similar to Paul’s upending message about Jesus Messiah to his fellow-Jews, which had happened about five hundred years earlier.

Muhammad’s message of monotheism, consistent in some ways with the ancient Abrahamic covenant, has spread across the world for fourteen centuries now. It is quite amazing, even as Muhammed himself must have been a quite amazing man.

Not as amazing, however, as being resurrected.

In her biography of Muhammed, Karen Armstrong reports that in the year 621 c.e. Mohammed instructed the Muslims to pray facing Jerusalem. Because the prophet had been taken up in a night vision by an angel, Gabriel, and transported mystically to Jerusalem for certain revelations, the holy city of the Jews was shown to be “central to the Muslim faith too.”

For more than two years, the Muslims adopted Jerusalem as their qibla, or direction of prayer. But in January of 624 c.e., about eighteen months after Muhammed’s hijra (the prophet’s history-shaking, exilic journey to Medina after being rejected by the powerful Quaraysh tribe of Mecca), something happened to re-orient forever the Muslim quibla. On page 162 of her book Karen Armstrong wrote: 

“. . . Mohammed was leading prayers in a mosque . . . Suddenly, inspired by a special revelation, Muhammad made the whole congregation turn round and pray facing Mecca instead of Jerusalem. God had given the Muslims a new focus and a new direction (qibla) for their prayer.”

At that turning point in time, the Muslims redirected their salat devotions back toward Mecca, the place of their origin. I wish that they had, at that point, just left Jerusalem to the Jews. Our present-day situation in that city might have been less contentious.

Now the Jewish caretakers of the holy city would have to deal only with, instead of Ishmaelic Muslims, God and everybody else who claims to know Him.

According to the account of God’s work among homo sapiens that I subscribe to, God’s verdict on the matter is:

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”

Mark 11:17

Here’s a song about it

and another song about it

Smoke

Isaiah and Abu Musa

September 12, 2013

About 2700 years ago, a boldly outspoken man named Isaiah lived in Jerusalem. He was regarded by his Jewish contemporaries as a prophet who could speak to the people on behalf of Y**H. One of the many truths that he spoke in the name of our Creator God was this:

“. . . My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Later. . .

About 46 years ago, Moshe Dayan, known to the local Arabs as ‘Abu Musa’, commanded Israeli troops as they once again occupied Jerusalem for the Jews. But Dayan noticed that his soldiers had performed an inappropriately presumptuous act. According to Simon Sebag Montefiore, as recorded in chapter 53 of his book Jerusalem: a Biography. . .

” As they proceeded across the Temple Mount, Dayan saw an Israeli flag atop the Dome of the Rock and (he said) ‘I ordered it removed immediately.’ “

Furthermore, some other Israeli occupiers on that victorious occasion wanted to

. . .”accelerate the messianic era by dynamiting the mosques on the Temple Mount, but (Israeli) General Narkiss replied ‘Stop it.’ “

Those two mosques still stand today. But there is no temple on the Temple Mount, also calledHaram al-Sharif. There is, however, a very special wall beneath it. On that wall, Moshe Dayan inserted a note:

 ” ‘May peace descend on the whole house of Israel,’ “

Abu Musa then declared (as reported by author Montefiore):

 “To our Arab neighbors, Israel extends the hand of peace, and to all people of all faiths we guarantee full freedom of worship. We’ve not come to conquer the holy places of others, but to live with others in harmony.”

 

As God, who knows what He’s doing, declared long ago through his prophet:

“My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

 

My faith is that God, his house and his Temple, resides in the hearts and lives of his people.

Glass half-Full

Aliyah Yerushalayim

July 11, 2010

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May they prosper who love you.
May peace be within your walls, and
prosperity within your palaces.
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’

Aliyah Yerushalayim