Holy Land Pilgrimage and Biblical Archeology

 

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"ON THAT DAY JESUS WENT OUT OF THE HOUSE AND SAT BY THE SEA. 
SUCH LARGE CROWDS GATHERED AROUND HIM THAT HE GOT INTO A
BOAT AND SAT DOWN, WHILE THE WHOLE CROWD STOOD ON THE
SHORE.   THEN HE SPOKE..."                                          MATTHEW 13 
              
                        

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's reflect where Jesus addressed the crowds in Galilee

Have you ever wondered how the multitudes managed to hear Jesus' succinct yet vivid parables -- of the sower, the mustard seed or the hidden treasure -- as recorded in Matthew 13 and Mark 4?

Fertile Galilee as seen from the Mount of Beatitudes

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Fertile Galilee as seen from the Mount of Beatitudes

I began pondering this question as I listened to a gripping account of Abraham Lincoln's public debates around the US, right before the 1860 Presidential convention. The author of "Team of Rivals" (which I highly recommend!) gave a number of examples of Lincoln speaking to packed halls of up to 1500 people.  How could he have done this without a microphone and a sound system, I wondered?
Then I remembered an article I read in the 1980s as a rookie guide which explored acoustics and crowd capacity of natural holy land outdoor theaters.  I found that I still had a hand-written summary of the article which had originally been published in 1976 in Biblical Archeologist.  (It was of course before the computer age, when we all sat in libraries to learn and take notes!)
 

Field with mustard seed as seen from the Mount of Beatitudes

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Field with mustard seed as seen from the Mount of Beatitudes

Along the shore south of Capernaum, in a cove with the appearance of a natural amphitheater, an amateur archeologist and a sound engineer determined to test the following acoustic possibility: that when great multitudes crowded to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus withdrew from them in a boat, that they would be able to hear him distinctly.

Shore of the Sea of Galilee as seen from Capernaum

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Shore of the Sea of Galilee as seen from Capernaum

The hypothesis was tested by measuring the sound of bursting balloons all the way up the steep slope, at varying distances until the sound engineer reached the present-day road, about one hundred yards away.  The archeologist whose task was to burst the balloons stood on a large rock protruding from the cove's waters about ten yards from the center of the arc composing the shoreline at that time.

The bright-colored balloons attracted the attention of motorists driving along the Capernaum-Tiberias road and some even did "double-takes" at the unexpected sight by the sea.  The spontaneous reactions of passers-by turned out to be acoustic tests by themselves.
In one example, in a UN car driving north, the driver turned to his companion and asked, "What's that guy doing down there?"  The companion replied, "I don't know! He's just standing there and holding some balloons!"  This exchange was heard clearly by the tester on the rock holding the balloons, some 100 yards away, even though he couldn't distinguish the occupants of the car.
At the end of the experiment, the sound engineer concluded that the bowl-like setting of the cove where Jesus sat in a boat a short distance away while addressing a steeply sloped audience would have created an optimal situation for enhanced speech communication.
When a person's voice is projected in a line that grazes the audience's heads, the high frequencies which distort sound would be absorbed by hair, clothing and this case, vegetation.  And lower frequencies which also distort sound would be absorbed by the crowds sitting in a steeply-raked formation.  Thus, they concluded, Jesus could have been both seen and heard clearly, by some 5 to 7 thousand people! This number is certainly compatible with the Gospels' description of "great crowds."

Map of major sites around the Sea of Galilee

Copyright 2012 by Gila Yudkin

Map of major sites around the Sea of Galilee

I suggest you come to Galilee and see for yourself. We will drive by the bowl-shaped cove and check out the natural amphitheater.  We can retell the parable of the sower's seed, as we take note of Jesus' natural classroom: the thistles, the black stony soil and the rich fertile soil.

Galilee scene from the Mount of Beatitudes

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Looking eastwards from the Mount of Beatitudes

Jesus' Galilean ministry from Mount Arbel

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Looking over the sites of Jesus' Galilean ministry from Mount Arbel

And we will pray that we'll be like those who received the seed on good ground, who hear the word and understand it, and furthermore bear fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matthew 13:23)

Copyright 2013, 2014 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

Gila Yudkin is a Connecticut-born Yankee guiding in Galilee for over three decades. Although she has never spoken to 1500 people without a microphone, one of Gila's last tour hosts told her agency, "Her voice is clear and she has good volume which is an asset in a group as elderly as this one."  (Most of the tour members were in their early to middle seventies.)
Abraham Lincoln expressed the wish to his wife Mary that he would like to visit the Holy Land when he retired after his second term as president.  Gila sure would have liked to have been his guide!  Two years after Lincoln's assassination, Mark Twain joined a holy land pilgrimage and recounted the foibles of his fellow travelers in Innocents Abroad.  Read Gila's adaptation of Mark Twain at his humorous best, Mark Twain's Tips for Holy Land Pilgrims.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to a "city on a hill which cannot be hid." One of the most accepted theories is that Jesus was referring to the Decapolis city of Hippos, directly across the Sea of Galilee. Read about Hippos.
 
 

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More on the life of Jesus
 

Let's focus on Jesus' Ministry from Mount Arbel

Let's gather by Bethsaida's city gate

Let's sing your favorite carol in Shepherds Fields

Mt Arbel / Galilean ministry

Walk 1st C AD Bethsaida

Shepherds Fields

 

Let's attend Capernaum's synagogue

Let's ramble through Hippos, a Decapolis city

Let's consider whether Jesus ever visited Sepphoris

The HQ:  Capernaum  

Hippos / Decapolis city

Sepphoris / hypocrites   

 


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin