For many years, I resisted the temptation to visit
. I do not know why. As a young man, I wasn’t particularly interested in travel so that was doubtless part of it, but by no means all. I was, perhaps, also reacting to the rather romantic view of the ‘ Israel Holy Land’ that many I knew who had been there seemed to have of it, talking always about going on pilgrimage rather than on holiday. Whatever, my first visit was in 1998, coincidentally the 50th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of . I went only after some heavy arm twisting by two dear friends in my Church at Banchory. Israel
well themselves and having family there, they were convinced that any self-respecting Christian minister should visit there. They were right and I was wrong. Spectacularly wrong! I had only been there a few days to realize what a difference being there made to everything. Subsequently, I was to return many times and I now get withdrawal symptoms if I haven’t been for a while. Israel
It is not that I think
is a holy city in the way it was before the coming of Jesus - although I do think it is still a significant city. Nor is it that Jerusalem and Jerusalem still look as they did in Jesus’ time. I am afraid that unless you have been there you won’t get it, but part of it is perspective: getting a feel for distance, geography, and landscape. Israel
Descriptions in the Bible of places using words such as cities, towns, villages, mountains, etc also took on a new meaning.
is so small. Capernaum in the time of Jesus you could walk around in an afternoon. I did so. Even things like population came in to focus. A place like Jerusalem would have had only a population of 2,000 or so; Capernaum probably less. Nazareth
Does it matter? Well yes, I think it does. We need reminding that the world of Jesus was a real and not a pretend one. I recently read one scholar who, commenting on a passage in
Gospel, said these sort of things happened in ‘John’s story world’. Now I know what he means and this is a scholar who I know believes that Jesus was very much a real person. Nevertheless, we can let the world of Jesus become something like a Narnia or Middle-earth, that is, an imaginary kingdom rather than a historical one. This, I think, is how some scholars really do see the world of the Bible: something created by the Biblical writers themselves and not a real place. St John’s
The trouble is only imaginary things can happen in imaginary worlds!