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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Immovable Ladder

The Immovable Ladder


In the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, sits the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This ancient building has been built and destroyed a number of times over the centuries. It sits on the traditional location of Golgotha (where Jesus was crucified) and the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The building is maintained by seven different religious groups (Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church and to a lesser degree the Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches). They operate under a "status quo" understanding in which each of them maintain their own areas and do not venture into other group's areas. However, in common areas, tasks are performed by all groups, but only if all seven groups are in agreement with the course of action.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre with the Immovable Ladder just below the second floor window.Just above the main entrance, there is a second floor window with a wooden ladder underneath it. Although the exact date is unknown, that ladder has been in the same place since, at least, 1854. Why is it still there? The location where the ladder sits is in one of the "common areas" that I mentioned earlier. And, unfortunately, there is not consensus agreement on who actually owns the ladder. Because of this disagreement, the ladder remains in the same location until such a time all groups can agree on who should move it. (That is not likely anytime soon.)

Why do I bring this up?

First, the ladder is one of a thousand little things that I look forward to seeing every time I visit Jerusalem. It is always interesting to see. I don't really know why. It just is.

Second, it is a reminder to me to keep things in perspective. As I said, this building sits on the traditional location of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Arguably, the most significant event in human history. On this same location, a group of men (God's own creation), can not agree on who should move a simple, wooden ladder. It is sad.

Do we have ladders in our life that should be moved, but due to our own arrogance they remain immovable? Just something to think about.

(Would you like to see this ladder and many other sites in Jerusalem? Then, join me next June for my Bible Study Tour of Israel. Be sure to read the description and watch the video about the tour. I would love to have you join me!)

Traditional Site of Golgotha

Traditional Site of Golgotha


Often, when I am teaching a Bible class, I try to incorporate as much Biblical geography in it as I can. Sometimes, that is not a problem. With the exception of the urban sprawl of the city of Tiberias, I think that the Sea of Galilee probably looks very much like it did in the First Century. So, it is beneficial to show pictures of the sea while discussing Jesus walking on the water or Him living in Capernaum. The Valley of Elah is very similar. It is very easy to show pictures of the Valley of Elah and discuss, with a fair amount of accuracy, the famous battle between David and Goliath.

Other places are not quite as easy to discuss with pictures. Jerusalem is high on that list. That is what makes the picture at the top of this post so interesting. It was created by the people who produced the Jerusalem movie.

The picture is an aerial image looking southeast over the city of Jerusalem. You can easily make out the Temple Mount with the temple sitting on top of the platform. Beyond the Temple Mount, you can see the Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley running off into the Wilderness of Judea. In the foreground, you can see a rock outcropping outside the city walls. This outcropping is to represent the Biblical site of Golgotha.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 9.49.44 PMSo, how did they come up with this? Well, they probably used three things: 1) historical writings of the time, 2) archaeology and 3) a bit of artistic license to fill in the gaps. Is this picture completely accurate? No. But, I think that it is close enough to allow us to study and benefit from it.

But, not only is the image beneficial for understanding what the city looked like during the First Century, it is also beneficial for understanding the city today.

In the second image, we see a picture (somewhat dated) of the modern city of Jerusalem from approximately the same location as the first image. We are looking toward the southeast. You can see the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, with the Mount of Olives and the Kidrom Valley in the background. The big difference is the addition of the large number of buildings that make up the current Old City of Jerusalem.

file_zps1688343bAmong those buildings, you see a large grey dome adjacent to a smaller, bronze colored dome. (In more recent pictures, these domes are blue in color.) These domes cap the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The third picture is of the front of that church. When you visit the church, you will be told that it sits upon the traditional site of Golgotha. Standing there, it is very hard to visualize. But, that is what makes the first picture so interesting. You can take the first picture and combine it with what you currently know about the city and it helps you to understand what you are seeing.

(The picture at the top of this post was taken from the Facebook page of Jerusalem - The Movie. The second picture is the property of the user "striderv" and was found on his FlickRiver page.)

2012 Israel Trip - Day Nine

2012 Israel Trip - Day Nine


Today, we spent the whole day in the Old City. Anytime you spend time in the Old City, you have to keep reminding yourself of where you are and what the city looked like during Biblical times. That is not easy to do. Even if you just allow yourself to be immersed in all of the cultures you are surrounded by, it is a day that you will not forget. We started the day earlier than usual because we wanted to get on the Temple Mount as soon as we could. Muslims are in control of the Temple Mount and visitors are only allowed on the platform during certain times of the week. Once we made it on the Temple Mount, you are reminded of so many Bible stories. This is where Solomon first built a temple to God. Centuries later, Herod the Great expanded the Temple Mount and rebuilt the temple. This is where Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers. This is where Paul and John healed a blind man as he sat by the gate called Beautiful. This is where Peter preached the sermon in Acts 2. What a great way to start your day.

We exited the Temple Mount and walked the roads of the Old City along the Via Dolorosa. The Via Dolorosa is the path that Jesus walked as he was led from Pilate to Golgotha. It is a very interesting walk, but of course if rooted more in tradition rather than actual history.

The Via Dolorosa ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This ancient church was originally built in the 3rd Century and traditionally stands above the locations of Golgotha and the tomb. There are many interesting things about the building itself, but also it is very sad. You see many things that would not be appropriate among people that call themselves followers of Jesus. With that being said, I believe that the church actually sits on the original location. In that case, it is interesting.

After lunch, we walked through the Christian and Jewish Quarters and ended up at the infamous Western Wall. As is always the case, there were hundreds of Jewish people praying at the wall. This is the closest that they can get to the original location of the temple. We saw many men and women praying and also a couple of school classes conducting their sessions. Even though I may not agree with everything that they believe spiritually, there is a lot that I can learn from their dedication to what they do believe.

Our final stop of the day was at the southern end of the Temple Mount where we sat on the original First Century steps that led to the temple. It is very humbling to think that I was walking up the same steps that Jesus walked up on many occasions.

As you can tell, it was another great day. Tomorrow, we visit the Israel Museum, which is now allowing photographs!

Until then...