Jesus, Moses and Mosaics

“And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho.  And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan…”

We went from the Dead Sea, 415 meters below sea level, to the top of Mt. Nebo, which is 656 m higher.   This was the place were Moses saw the promised land, as you can see form Deuteronomy 34 above.   Moses must have had better eyes than I do because I could not see beyond the escarpment over the Dead Sea.  Mt. Nebo was a pleasant place, however, with some trees and significantly cooler temperatures. 

From Mt Nebo, we went down to a town called Madaba.  It still has lots of Christian churches and used to have even more, so the town is full of mosaics from the late Roman and Byzantine times.  Even after the Muslim conquests, the native Christian communities continued to thrive. 

Jordanians seem interested in the Christian and other pre-Islamic heritage of their country and very tolerant of religious diversity.   At least they recognize the tourist value of emphasizing Christian heritage in the birthplace of Christianity.

It is interesting to speculate how different world history would have been if Islamic armies had not conquered this area.  There certainly would have been no Crusades and very likely the center of Western civilization would have remained in the Mediterranean, and even the eastern part, rather than shifting toward the Atlantic and Northern Europe.

It has been more than a quarter century since I studied Greek and forgot almost everything, but I can still put a few things together from a combination of looking at the pictures and tortuously making out a few words.  I was telling Chrissy re some of the pictures when a local guy overheard and in English told me how surprised he was that an American could read that Greek.  I didn’t tell him that I only made out something like three words and guessed the rest from the illustrations.

We went back down the hill into the Jordan Valley.  The river Jordan is a lot smaller than I thought.  In fact, it is really not much bigger than Genito Creek, which runs through our forest land.  It doesn’t look very clean either.  I think that Baptism in the Jordan would risk infection or dysentery.

A lot of the water has been drawn off for irrigation upstream and presumably it as bigger and cleaner back in the old days.  We went to the Jesus baptism site – the place they have identified where John the Baptist baptised Jesus.  The river has changed course, so the place is no longer actually on the flowing part of the stream, but the flood sometimes comes through and a spring keeps the basin full of water.   In ancient times, there were churches at this spot.  Now they are just ruins, although you can still see some of the mosaics.  Below is a more modern mosaic re the site.  Notice the webpage.

I enjoyed going to these sites, maybe because they were so unpretentious.  Not many people make the trip, since it is out of the way.  Notice the transportation.  It was hot out and it was sweaty, but that sort of added to the charm. 

Below is our bus to the baptism site.