Qumran: Home of the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls

This is a brief article that I wrote for a church newsletter a few years ago.  Still, the information is good and the pictures are beautiful.

You have probably all heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The first scrolls were discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea by an Arab shepherd boy in the late 1940’s and have been the source of much scholarly discussion ever since.  Numerous scrolls have been discovered since that original find.  While scrolls have been found in more than one location, they are primarily associated with a site known as Qumran.  This site has been extensively excavated by archaeologists and sheds a great deal of light on the Essenes, the sect that is believed to have occupied Qumran.  In this post I have included some photos from my trip to Qumran during my tour of Israel in 2009.

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In this first photo you can see several of the walls from the Qumran community.  You can also see hills in the upper right hand corner and in the distance of the upper left hand corner is the Dead Sea.

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In this second photo you get a better look at the steep hills that bordered the Qumran site.  You can also see more of the settlement’s walls.

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In the distance of this third picture you can see the Dead Sea.  You can also see that Qumran was built on a plateau.  While you can see some modern developments in the center left of the picture, you can also tell that this is a very dry and desolate area.  The Essenes lived here because they wanted to be apart from others.  They were separatists.  The extremely dry conditions, while because inhospitable to people, are what allowed the scrolls to last as long as they did without decay.

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In this final picture you can see one of the caves at Qumran where scrolls were found.  As you tell, the cave is not easily accessible.  The difficulty of reaching the caves is another reason why the manuscripts have lasted as long as they have – looters could not easily reach them.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2017!  I hope this year goes well for everyone out there and that you are able to follow through on your resolutions (if you made any).

For some, the new year marks a point in time at which reading through the Bible in a year will start.  This is truly a remarkable goal, but many will not make it to the finish.  Why? The answers will vary, but one reason will be the lack of a reading plan.

So, if you are looking to read through the Bible in 2017, allow me to encourage you to adopt a reading plan.  My personal favorite: The M’Cheyne Reading Plan.  By following this plan, you will read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice over the course of a year.  If you would like to utilize this plan, use one of the following links.

For a website that follows the calender and provides the readings, using the ESV, in a convenient manner, click here.

For a printable version of the reading plan, click here.

There are several other plans out there as well, but this is one that I have found profitable for my study.  If you want to go it alone, keep in mind that there are 1,189 chapters in the Bible (unless you are reading a Bible with the Apocrypha/Deutero-Canonical Books, then there are more).  If you read 4 chapters a day, then you will read the Bible within a one-year time-frame with plenty of buffer space for those lazy days and occasional activity packed weekends.

Regardless of how you go about it, I wish you much success if you take on the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year.

Happy New Year!

 

Some Christmas Links

I thought I would toss out a couple of links today for your perusal.  The first is a link to an article that was published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society about a year ago or so.  It deals with the date of December 25 in relation to Jesus’ birth.  It is an interesting read that goes into great depth about the issue.  So, for that article, please click here.

The second link is to my favorite podcast, Unbelievabe?  The most recent show is a debate about the Star of Bethlehem.  The show airs on Saturday in England, but if you subscribe to the podcast, they will typically show up on your feed a day early.  To check out what they are doing at Unbelievable? and to listen to the Christmas show on Christmas Eve, then click here.

Enjoy, and have a very merry Christmas!

Shameless plug…

I know it has been a while since I posted something, but life has been somewhat hectic in recent months and the blog has had to take a backseat.  I will try to post more frequently, but my schedule is still pretty well packed for the next few months.  Nevertheless, I felt the need to say something about the books I have written, and just say with a grin that if you are still looking for that last minute gift… you could always purchase one of my books from Amazon.com

There’s:   rulestolivebykindle

Rules to  Live By: Sermons on the Ten Commandments

The contents of this first book are pretty self explanatory.

 

 

Starting Over: From Ruins to Rebirth   starting-over-kindle-cover

This second book I wrote for my teenage son while I was out of the country for an extended period of time.  The book deals with a range of topics from a Christian perspective.  The story follows two siblings traveling alone across what used to be the United States.  The world as we know it today had been ravished by war and only small pockets of people remained.  As this brother and sister pair travel along they run into various situations and have numerous conversations that lead to discussions of the Christian faith.  There is some violence in the book, but there is no foul language, and there is plenty of content to encourage further discussion about the intersection of Christianity and the world around us.

 

Traveler: One Girl’s Amazing Journey of Spiritual Discovery  Traveler Front

This final book was also written while I was out of the country.  It was written for my daughter and is aimed at the 10-12 year old age range.  The main character of the book travels to various places around the globe thanks to a very special playhouse in her room.   Along the way, she is exposed to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.  In her conversations with people from other countries, her Sunday School teacher, and her parents, she learns something about culture, other world religions, and how Christianity stands apart.  The book is a great tool for conversation around the dinner table.  If you would like to read a review of the book, click here.

 

Until my next post, have a Merry Christmas!

Grape Juice at the Communion Table

From time to time I will have someone comment on the use of grape juice instead of wine as part of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  Often times, the comments are said in a mocking way to try and paint those of us who use grape juice as some sort of prude.  Still, there are others who are genuinely curious.  So, for those, here goes.

To begin, there is nothing wrong with using wine for the sacrament.  In fact, where I commonly worship nowadays, wine and grape juice are both available.  Now back to the point.

Wine is a stumbling block for recovering alcoholics.  A brother or sister in Christ who has left a life of alcoholism faces a horrid dilemma when coming to receive the sacrament if the only thing available is wine.  In a nutshell, they can choose to risk falling back into the grips of alcoholism after drinking wine, or suffer from a self-imposed excommunication.

Now, the vast majority of us are not alcoholics and will never be faced with such a dilemma.  However, it is a terrible thing to bar someone from sharing at the Lord’s Table because they refuse to return to a life of sin that Paul describes using  some rather harsh language – something about drunkards not inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9).

So, before making snide comments about those who choose to use grape juice for the Lord’s Supper, remember that there is a quite charitable reason for the choice.

When all else fails, call’em names!

Before going too far, I should note that my blogging production will decrease in the future.  If you are one of the ten-or-so people that read this blog, then you will have noticed already that the once a week pattern has recently been abandoned.  For, you see, when I started this blog I was on vacation from work, and that is a period of time ripe for the Good Idea Fairy to strike.    Since then, things like work, family, and my interests in other stuff have made this blog a rather low priority in my life.  Still, I thought I would jot down a few words about a sad trend in person-to-person communication.

It seems that many of us have lost the ability to dialog.  Whether in politics, religion, entertainment, or just about anything else, there is no willingness to show respect for those we disagree with.  A conversation, especially on the internet, between two people who disagree on something can easily go like this:

Person A: “I like pork and beans.”

Person B: “Well, that’s because you’re an idiot.  Pork and beans are only for slobs and lazy people without an education.  Is that what you are?  A lazy, uneducated slob?”

Fortunately, in recent months, I have found a weekly radio program out of the UK called Unbelievable? to be a breath of fresh air.  It is a radio program that aims to bring together a Christian and non-Christian each week (there are exceptions) to discuss points of difference.  There is a moderator, which is certainly necessary, but the guests as a whole are respectful of one another.  Sadly, the exceptions to the civil discussions on this show almost exclusively come from people from the States, which is disappointing to say the least.  But, I digress.

The point of this rambling post is just to say that we, as a people, should strive to be better at addressing arguments instead of attacking people.  The ad hominem fallacy is so widespread today that it is seen as acceptable in many quarters.  This is a shame, and it will ultimately lead to a dumbing down of our society by silencing voices.

Beauty and Identity

I have been intrigued with how we as a people have become more and more expressive through the use of accessories.  We color our hair, we tattoo our skin, we pierce our bodies in various and sundry places, and so forth.  While there is nothing necessarily wrong with these things, I am surprised by how often people identify more with the accessory than what is underneath it.

What intrigues me is that people will often add things to themselves and then say, “This is who I am.”  Now, it may be true that some sort of accessory may express what is happening inside.  However, I like to think that the person is the person.  If you pierce your eyelid, then it is you with a pierced eyelid.  If you color your hair purple, it is you with purple hair – an alteration of your actual hair color.

I suppose that I should also say that I have no objection to a person accessorizing (sp?) as they see fit.  I do, however, find it troubling that we can start to associate beauty more with the accessory than with the actual person.  So, a woman may feel that she needs to pierce herself or modify her body in some other way not because of any desire that comes naturally from within her, but from outside pressures that tell her she must do x and y in order to be beautiful.  As a father, this breaks my heart.

From where I sit, on my couch on a Saturday afternoon, I like to think that beauty comes from the Creator.  As humans, we all bear the image of God and have intrinsic beauty.  It is good and healthy for us to maintain our health, but there should be no need for us to feel compelled to transform ourselves into the mold that that someone else has made for us.

Have a great weekend!