Some have asked why I moved my family across the world to study the Bible when I could do that in quality institutions in places like Dallas, Texas. It is a legitimate question and one that I could answer 100 different ways. My first response is "have you been to Dallas?" Another response is that I needed a break so I thought moving to the Middle East would be a perfect place to rest my body and mind. Another answer is that after working in churches for 13 years, Israel sounded safe and relaxing. Perhaps another answer is that I always encourage college students to take a semester to live in a different culture and I never had the opportunity to do that for myself so I dragged my family into this adventure. Still another answer is that I knew that I would have to leave my last church so I took this opportunity to check off some things on my "to do" list for life.
The most accurate answer is that what better place to study the Bible than in the land where the history actually took place. For example, as a family we looked at the passage in John 5 when Jesus heals the cripple man near the pools of Bethesda after walking to the pools and viewing them in person. Also, each week I have a Biblical Archaeology class (which is like taking gym class in college to raise the GPA) and we discuss the rise of the city of Jerusalem in Jewish theology and consequently in Christian circles and I can walk down the hill and look at the actual remains for the things we are talking about. You can compare studying the Bible here to someone moving to Italy to study Art, or to someone moving to Antartica to study ice, or even to someone moving to the Moon to study gymnastics (think about that one). You get the point.
Many of you want to know the things I have learned so far and I am not prepared to write a paper for all of you answering that question, but I can give a few startling new facts I have learned so far. 1) The number 30 bus doesn't always come, 2) It gets cold in Israel at night, 3) Cheddar cheese costs $10 per pound, 4) More people speak English here than in parts of Southern California, 5) it turns out that Jesus was a Jew.
Now you can rest easy knowing that I am getting my money's worth here.
More serious thoughts will follow in the weeks ahead.