Bible Archaeology

Beneath Jerusalem, an Underground City takes Shape

Underneath the crowded alleys and holy sites of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are snaking at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.

At street level, the walled Old City is an energetic and fractious enclave with a physical landscape that is predominantly Islamic and a population that is mainly Arab.

Underground Jerusalem is different: Here the noise recedes, the fierce Middle Eastern sun disappears, and light comes from fluorescent bulbs. There is a smell of earth and mildew, and the geography recalls a Jewish city that existed 2,000 years ago.

Archaeological digs under the disputed Old City are a matter of immense sensitivity. For Israel, the tunnels are proof of the depth of Jewish roots here, and this has made the tunnels one of Jerusalem’s main tourist draws: The number of visitors, mostly Jews and Christians, has risen dramatically in recent years to more than a million visitors in 2010.

But many Palestinians, who reject Israel’s sovereignty in the city, see them as a threat to their own claims to Jerusalem. And some critics say they put an exaggerated focus on Jewish history.

A new underground link is opening within two months, and when it does, there will be more than a mile (two kilometers) of pathways beneath the city. Officials say at least one other major project is in the works. Soon, anyone so inclined will be able to spend much of their time in Jerusalem without seeing the sky…

There is more here. Nice photos too.


Russia to Restrict Abortion

The Creative Minority Report reports:

Russia has a baby problem. There aren’t enough babies – not close to enough. In 2009, there were 74 abortions for every 100 births in Russia, according to their own health ministry. You think that’s bad? Those statistics don’t even include pregnancies terminated at private clinics, or morning-after pills.

Russia’s fertility rate is only 1.4 children per woman – far below the 2.1 needed to maintain existing population numbers.

The Blaze reports:

Russia‘s Orthodox Church teamed with Conservative parliamentarians Monday to push legislation that would radically restrict abortions in a nation struggling to cope with one of the world’s lowest birthrates.

The legislation would ban free abortions at government-run clinics and prohibit the sale of the morning-after pill without a prescription, said Yelena Mizulina, who heads a parliamentary committee on families, women and children.

She added that abortion for a married woman would also require the permission of her spouse, while teenage girls would need their parents’ consent. If the legislation is passed, a week’s waiting period would also be introduced so women could consider their decision to terminate their pregnancy, Mizulina said.

The Soviet Union legalized abortion decades before most other countries so one could wonder if Russia is simply further down the line of suffering the consequences of legalized abortion.

Did everyone really think that killing the unborn had no consequences?

Sad that the reason countries like Russia are rethinking abortion is for financial reasons but I’m happy to see countries even considering the unborn at all. But it’s still not anywhere close to good news because the reconsidering of abortion for them has nothing to do with valuing individual life. It’s a cost thing. It’s still putting a pricetag on life. It’s just a slightly higher pricetag


Jesus: ‘A Prophet of Islam’?!

Apparently so, down under:

A Catholic bishop has slammed controversial Islamic billboards for being “provocative and offensive” and he’s calling for them to be removed from prominent locations across Sydney.

The billboards carrying the slogan `Jesus: a prophet of Islam’ were erected late last week in Darlinghurst, Rozelle and Rosehill.

They have been paid for by Islamic group MyPeace, which wants to encourage Christians and Muslims to find common ground by raising awareness that Islam believed in Jesus Christ.

But Bishop Julian Porteous, from the Archdiocese of Sydney, says Christians believe that Jesus “is more than a prophet”.

“He is the Son of God. He is acclaimed Lord and Saviour of humanity,” he said on Monday.

“In Australia with its Christian heritage a billboard carrying the statement `Jesus A prophet of Islam’ is provocative and offensive to Christians.”…

There’s more here.


Pakistan: Christian Girls Kidnapped, Forced to Marry, Convert to Islam

Islam. Appalling.

Two Christian girls–Rebecca Masih and Saima Masih–were forced to marry and convert to Islam after they were kidnapped by a wealthy businessman on May 24. The kidnapping took place in the northeastern Pakistani province of Punjab.

“Kidnapping Christian girls, conversion and forced marriages have become common practice in Punjab,” said Haroon Barkat Masih, director of the Masihi Foundation, a Pakistani organization that offers legal aid to persecuted Christians. “Kidnapping Christian girls, conversion and forced marriages have become common practice in Punjab. The police have been bought; instead of serving the Punjab government they are servants of extremist groups. Punjab is becoming heaven for these groups: Muslim leaders openly call for violence in their sermons, without shame.”

“We have repeatedly appealed to the Punjab government, without receiving an answer. The government supports these groups.”


Speaking of Memorial Day and Chaplains

This caught my eye. I reproduce it in full.

A reader alerted me to this item in the Huffington Post, recalling the so-called “Immortal Chaplains” who went down with the USAT Dorchester in 1943.

As Wikipedia notes:

The “Immortal Chaplains” were four United States Armychaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel during the sinking of the troop ship USAT Dorchester during World War II. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

The four men were relatively new chaplains, who all held the rank of lieutenant. They included MethodistReverendGeorge L. Fox, RabbiAlexander D. Goode, Roman CatholicPriestJohn P. Washington and Reformed Church in America Reverend Clark V. Poling. Their backgrounds, personalities, and faiths were different, although Goode, Poling and Washington had all served as leaders in the Boy Scouts of America.[1] They would meet at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University, where they would prepare for assignments in the European theater, sailing onboard USAT Dorchester to report to their new assignments.

But it turns out only three of the four now have a memorial at Arlington:

All four chaplains died together after giving their lifejackets to save others on board. Survivors of the attack witnessed the four praying together as the ship went down in the icy waters. Yet the names of only three of these fallen heroes are presently memorialized on Chaplain’s Hill at Arlington National Cemetery. In fact, none of the 13 Jewish chaplains who have died in service to our country are listed on the three chaplains’ monuments in our nation’s most sacred resting place.

The author goes on to describe the efforts to have Rabbi Goode’s name added to Chaplain’s Hill — along with other Jewish chaplains.  Read the rest. This is an oversight — and an injustice — that should be corrected.

May all those who have served so selflessly rest in peace.  And may we never forget what they gave for us.

As mentioned, the above was here.


Memorial Day: Remembering the Fallen and Remembering Christ

A letter from Navy Chaplain Barrett Craig, currently serving the Marines in Okinawa, Japan…

On behalf of all of us who have gone from you to serve our country in the military, I thank you. I thank you for praying for us, encouraging us, loving us, worrying about us, writing us, and rejoicing with us when we return. Your influence on our lives for the sake of the gospel has directly impacted how we engage our fellow military members with the love of Jesus, from the desert to Afghanistan, to the shores of Camp Pendleton, to the region of Bahrain, to the island of Okinawa, and to the ends of the earth. Praise God.

As those in uniform regularly surround me, holidays like Memorial Day become more meaningful. Today we consider and remember the men and women who have died in military service to secure the freedoms we so love and enjoy as United States citizens. Many of these deaths were of young men and women in their late teens and early twenties, never having tasted the fruit of their sacrifice. And what is even more sobering is considering the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, and friends who have been impacted by the loss of these unknown warriors. Their loved ones, gone.

Even this year, we have already lost 173 US military members in our War on Terror—6 just yesterday. So the ones we are memorializing today are not those in a distant past, but those who even now may be paying the ultimate sacrifice.

As we remember today, many, I’m sure, are asking themselves why these deaths have to happen? Why war? Why did my buddy die in that firefight rather than me? Their questions are understandable. I hear these questions by the very men and women I serve. Their pain elicits tears, anger, and shouts of outrage—again, understandably so. “It’s not suppose to be this way,” they cry.

Why then? Why war? Why these deaths? My answer to them is to weep with them. And to hug them and say I am so sorry. Then when the time is right, I gently explain to them how our world is broken. Our world is fractured at its foundation. And the brokenness is why there are wars. And wars exist because the world is full of rebels, not merely rebels against foreign governments and people they don’t like, but rebels primarily against a good and holy God. Like Satan, these rebels want to be number one. And so they hate and murder and vie for power—to be, well, if it were possible, in control of the universe. These rebels who wage war, then, fundamentally do it not to overpower the opponent, but to overpower God.

I ask, how can this brokenness be undone? How can the fractured foundation be repaired? The how is in a Person. The question is better posed as Who can undue and repair this bloody mess? But, before answering the Whom, I gently ask these troubled souls to be honest with themselves. Something is not right within them, either. They struggle themselves with depression, intoxication, outbursts of anger, anxiety, pride, fear, lust, and regret. The brokenness is not only in the thick of war, but in their own hearts as well. The world needs mending, but so do they.

So who can save us from this bloody mess? His name is Jesus and he is God’s Son. Jesus knows war. He left not the unstable boundaries of the U.S., but the impenetrable strongholds of heaven to face a million, a billion, enemies who hated him. All odds were against him, but he won—he conquered. He died. He rose again. His death ultimately undid the world’s brokenness and his death also provided a way to mend the brokenness of our own heart. We don’t ultimately see war and death done away with yet, but we will. Jesus resurrected after his death by crucifixion, and he ascended back to the impenetrable strongholds of heaven. We now await for his return to ultimately do away with this broken world and usher in a peaceful everlasting kingdom of unimaginable joy!

So why doesn’t he just come now? Because, I say, he wants you to be apart of his kingdom when he comes. The mending you need in your own heart is required to be a citizen of heaven. And the problem with your heart is that you too are a rebel, a foe, against God, like me, like the rest of the world. Maybe you aren’t as rebellious as others, but we are all still rebels from one degree to another against God. And like a just nation, God does not tolerate rebels—even in the very slightest. The smallest act of rebellion has made us enemies. The punishment? Death.

But the death Jesus died was a death to make us death-deserving rebels God’s friend. Jesus’ death fully paid the punishment, and God accepted his sacrifice. Jesus rose from the dead to prove his death works, that it can make us rebels friends with God. And we receive his friendship, his salvation, his heaven, not by negotiating peace and making promises of a changed life or being willing to go in the battle to die. We receive his friendship by laying down our weapons of hostility against Jesus and saying I, too, am a rebel against God and his kingdom and only Jesus can save me, forgive me, make me right before God, mend the world, and heal the utter hurt and brokenness of my soul.

As I memorialize and remember those who have made the greatest sacrifice, along with their families, to secure the freedoms I enjoy, I am comforted to know God is not far removed from all of this—in fact, he is more intimately near than we probably know. God does know something about war. God does know something about sacrifice. God does know something about pain. Yet God does know and God does have the remedy—Jesus Christ. We genuinely have a hope-filled answer for those who pain this day. Praise God that we do! So let us thank and weep and remember and pray and reach out to our military members today with love and the glorious news of the God who saves and who will make all things new.

Father, we come with heavy hearts for the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure the freedoms we enjoy here in America. In many ways, we live because of their deaths. We come with heavy hearts for the families of the fallen. What pain. What sadness. How we break for the great loss they feel. Be with them.

Father, as this day directly focuses us on the brokenness of this world, we thank you there is a remedy. We thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice who secures the heavenly freedoms, eternal life, for those who trust him alone for their salvation. We ultimately live because of his death. God, be active in our military community today. Save. Mend. Heal. And love.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

The above was on Justin Taylor’s Blog.


Zimbabwean Man Wins Mr Ugly Pageant


A Zimbabwean man upstaged 15 others to win the Mr Ugly title at a weekend pageant, a local newspaper reported on Monday.

Thirty-year-old Austin Mbewe from the second city of Bulawayo won R1 200 and a blanket at the contest held on Saturday in the border town of Beitbridge, the Herald newspaper said.

“I feel honoured by this victory,” the paper quoted him as saying after winning the title.

“I have been a subject of ridicule from society since childhood and the world has seen that there is a beautiful side to my ugliness.”

Organiser Lovemore Chonzi said: “Basically, the competition is meant for people to have fun and celebrate who they are, just like any other contest in the world.”

The competition, which is in its third year, has the blessing of the country’s arts council and the government tourism authority.

The winner was chosen by a panel of female judges.

Two runners-up won R600 and R500 respectively and a blanket each.

A similar competition is being planned for the capital Harare on Monday.

What a nasty competition!