Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to go to Istanbul, Turkey, with a friend of mine for an entire week. Why would anyone want to go to Istanbul? Well, Istanbul is the modern name for Constantinople, which was originally called Byzantium. For anyone interested in Roman and Christian history, this is must-see location.
Many think of Rome as the prominent Christian city after the time of Constantine the Great’s conversion to Christianity, but the emperor actually moved the seat of government--and the influence of the church with it--to the Eastern city of Byzantium where it was renamed in Constantine’s honor. The location was geographically significant then, just as today, since Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul straddles the Bosporus Strait with Europe on the western side and Asia on the eastern shore.
My trip was personal and not work-related. When I was invited to write about the experience here on the Accordance Blog, I was not asked to tie anything directly to Accordance, but I cannot help mentioning one of our titles, the Accordance Bible Lands PhotoGuide: Turkey Collection. I’ve used our various PhotoGuides for years, usually to find an image to illustrate a Bible passage I was teaching or find out more information about a particular location in the Bible. However, I’d never thought of using one of them for a travel guide before--but it was perfect! The section on “Byzantium” was so well documented that I knew well before I arrived in Istanbul what to look for and which places I needed to visit. I read through that section multiple times before the trip and even while there.
Okay, enough of the commercial and on to some of the highlights of my trip. Also, pardon my insistence on usually calling the city Constantinople instead of the modern Istanbul.
No one can say they’ve seen Constantinople without visiting the Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”). Although the idea of a “megachurch” may seem like a modern phenomenon, no modern building can really compare to the Hagia Sophia, which stood as the largest church and one of the largest buildings in the world for nearly a millennia. It is so massive that the Statue of Liberty could stand upright in it with room to spare. According to one source, at one time there were nearly 600 church staff members (to use a modern designation): “80 priests, 150 deacons, 40 deaconesses, 60 subdeacons, 160 readers, 25 chanters, 75 doorkeepers.”
Above: the massive Hagia Sophia, completed in AD 537 during the rule of Emperor Justinian I. The four surrounding minarets were added after the church was converted to a mosque following the Ottoman Invasion in 1453. The Hagia Sophia became a national museum in 1935.
The building itself, completed in AD 537 and the third church on the site, is an architectural marvel having survived numerous major earthquakes over the last millennia and a half (see the Nova episode, “Hagia Sophia: Istanbul’s Mystery”). It is a dome on top of arches, on top of a buttressed cube. If you normally associate domed worship buildings with mosques, you can trace the connection to the Hagia Sophia. When the Ottomans invaded in 1453, they were so enamored with the Hagia Sophia that they made its basic architectural design the basis for their mosques.
Above: Deësis mosaic in upper gallery of the Hagia Sophia, featuring Mary, Jesus Christ, and John the Baptist.
After the Ottoman Invasion, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. Fortunately, rather than destroying the mosaics that decorated the interior of the church, the Ottomans had them plastered over, thus preserving them for modern visitors to see, now that the building is neither a church nor a mosque, but a museum.
Above: Virgin and Christ Child, surrounded by the Heavenly Hosts in the Parecclesion dome of the Chora Church.
We also visited the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora (often referred to as simply the “Chora Church”). This was another Byzantine church that became a mosque under the Ottomans, but it was converted into a museum in the 1940s, and the walls and ceilings are covered in Christian mosaics and frescos.
Above: I felt like I was “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) the entire time I was in the Chora Church. In particular, here I stand in front of a fresco featuring St. Nicholas of Myra, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Cyril of Alexandria in the parecclesion.
We also visited the Hagia Eirene (“Holy Peace”) Church, Istanbul Archaeological Museum (which has an impressive number artifacts related to biblical events), Hippodrome, and so much more. I spent one afternoon simply walking along the ancient Byzantine defensive wall of Constantinople, which still mostly stands where it has for 1500 years (or longer if you count earlier versions of the wall). Although the Ottomans removed most Christian symbols from the city, I was surprised to look up and see the “Jesus Christ, Conqueror” Christogram on one section of the wall. I’ve joked that I could spend a week just exploring all the various sections of Constantinople’s wall if I had the time.
Above: Christogram of “IC XC” (Jesus Christ) “NIKA" (Conqueror) found in the ancient defensive wall of Constantinople.
Although the timing had nothing to do with the planning of our trip, we were fortunate to be in Constantinople during the second weekend of the month when the Eastern Orthodox Church observes Pascha (Easter). One of the highlights of my trip was to attend Pascha services at the Patriarchal Church of St. George, presided over by the head of the entire Orthodox Church: the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The entire service was in Greek, with the exception of a Gospel reading in English. Even though I've studied New Testament Greek, I could not quite keep up with the Greek of the service. Nevertheless, I had prepared myself so that when I heard "Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!" ("Christ is risen!"), I could respond with "Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!" ("Truly, He is risen!").
Above: Pascha Service at the Church of St. George in the Ecumenical Patriarchate on April 8, 2018. Seated is Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.
We also did a few “touristy” things such as shopping in the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, visiting the Topkapi Palace, and even taking a half-day cruise up the Bosporus. While out on the water, the Hagia Sophia was clearly visible. I had to wonder what it was like a millennia ago to sail up from the Mediterranean and see the massive city walls and the Hagia Sophia as the prominent fixture of this literal “city on a hill.” In those days, unless someone had seen the pyramids of Egypt, there was simply no architectural rival to behold.
Above: Hagia Sophia as seen from the Bosporus.
If you visit Constantinople (and I recommend you do), give yourself a minimum of a week, but know that it will not be long enough to see everything. While there, I took over 3,000 photographs that I am still sorting through. I will eventually create a few Apple Photo Streams with some of the best of my photos. If you’d like to see these, feel free to send me your email address, and I’ll be happy to add you to the list.
If you haven't added a Graphics Collection to your personal Accordance Library or taken advantage of our Custom Upgrades to a larger Graphics Collection, here are 7 reasons to reconsider.
Custom Upgrades. Accordance comes with four levels of Graphics Collections: Learner, Discoverer, Pro, and Master. Once you have any level in your personal Accordance Library, you never have to pay full price to go to a higher level. Custom Upgrades take into account titles you already have, so you never pay for the same title twice!
Use in Teaching and Preaching Settings. Did you know that your purchase of any Graphics Collection entitles you to use images in teaching and preaching settings? Illustrate your lesson or sermon with any of the thousands of photos available in Accordance Graphics Collections.
PhotoGuide. Who knew when we first released the Accordance Bible Land PhotoGuide, it would eventually mushroom into six volumes covering Egypt, Europe, Israel, the Near East, Turkey as well as an Overview? The PhotoGuide Overview comes with the Graphics Learner and includes links to more details and photos in all the other guides. Get the Graphics Pro or Master to obtain all six of the PhotoGuides!
Customizable Atlas. The Accordance Atlas is an unparalleled exploration into the geography of the world of the Bible. Create the exact map you need for your next lesson or sermon through a series of pre-defined overlays, and even create your own! The Accordance Atlas comes with every level of our Graphics Collections. Double-click on a location and the PhotoGuide Overview will automatically launch to the appropriate article!
And Timeline! Every Graphics Collection also comes with the Accordance Timeline. Not only does the Timeline cover biblical books, people, and events, it puts the biblical world in the context of the ancient world by including coverage of not just Israel/Palestine, but also Egypt, Aram (Syria), Mesopotamia, Persia, Asia (Anatolia), Greece and Rome. Recent updates have improved the overall visual design of the Timeline as well as adding church history events. Can’t find a person or event on the Timeline? It’s customizable, so you can add your own. Double-click on any item in the Accordance Timeline to open the article on that subject in your preferred Accordance dictionary!
Carta Titles. Carta, The Israel Map and Publishing Company, has become synonymous with the geography of the biblical world, both ancient and modern. Available on no other Bible software platform, add eight of our many Carta titles to your Accordance Library with the addition of the Graphics Master Collection.
PhotoMuseum. What the PhotoGuide is to places, the Accordance Bible Times PhotoMuseum is to things. Discover images of artifacts in the Photomuseum not found in any other publication--print or digital! For many of these items, the only other way to see them is to view them for yourself in a museum!
Want to see the exact differences among all four Accordance Graphics Collections? Go to the Collection Comparison Chart in the Accordance Online Store, and select each of the Graphics Collections to see a side-by-side comparison!
Accordance’s Graphics Bundle includes three separate resources, all of which Dr. J reviews in this podcast. The Bible Atlas is a fully customizable map that covers the biblical world, with layers for backgrounds, roads, regions, and sites; its scale and center are adjustable and it includes a rotatable 3D section map. The Timeline covers the Biblical period and includes the nations, empires, wars, prophets, books, rulers, and important individuals. The Bible Lands PhotoGuide is an illustrated dictionary of places in the Bible, including a brief description of each, with scripture references, and over 2000 high-quality photos of these sites. Purchasers can view, print, or copy and paste material from all three resources for use in the classroom or pulpit.
See more episodes of Lighting the Lamp on our Podcast Page!
Bible Lands PhotoGuide 4 NEW
The literature of the Bible is closely tied to its geography. We read about places like Damascus, Jericho, Ephesus, and Jerusalem; but the majority of Bible readers throughout history have not been fortunate enough to travel to these places to see them for themselves. When we read about these places, we form vivid images in our minds, but those images can't compare with the actual locations. Ultimately, seeing for ourselves can really make a difference not only in our understanding of the biblical story, but even in regard to our faith as well.
The Accordance Bible Lands PhotoGuide has been the cornerstone of a number of our exclusive graphics tools for well over a decade. Now we are pleased to announce the fourth edition of the PhotoGuide. With 50 new articles and nearly twice the numbers of photos of the previous edition, the PhotoGuide 4 sets a new standard for experiencing biblical sites from the comfort of your armchair (or desk, or favorite corner coffee shop). It's nearly as close as you can get without traveling to the Holy Land yourself!
The Bible Lands PhotoGuide 4 has hundreds of detailed articles describing the most important Biblical locations in Israel and surrounding countries, illustrated with more than 3000 high-quality photographs. More than just a collection of pictures, the PhotoGuide is specifically designed to be a teaching tool which helps make the Bible come alive. It includes following features:
- Photographs of Biblically significant sites and regions in Israel, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Sinai, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome.
- More than 100 photographs of Jerusalem.
- A detailed article on the Hebrew Tabernacle, complete with photographs of a life-size replica of the Tabernacle located at Timnah, Israel.
- Photographs of an excavated village at Nazareth complete with walled terraces, watchtowers, a stone quarry, and a winepress dating back to the first century.
- Important artifacts, such as a bronze serpent dating to around the time of Moses, a horned altar from Beer-sheba, and more.
- Pictures of the bema at Corinth where Paul stood trial.
Teachers and pastors especially love the Accordance Bible Lands PhotoGuide because the user license allows you to use the images in teaching and preaching contexts.
James Davis explains why he enjoys writing and editing the PhotoGuide. He is now working on free upgrades to add more articles on Egypt, Turkey, and Jerusalem.
Users who already own an earlier version of the PhotoGuide can upgrade to PhotoGuide 4 with our upgrade pricing.
The Graphics Premier Bundle includes the Accordance Bible Lands PhotoGuide 4, and all the resources below. This bundle supplies many thousands of high-quality images with full searchable documentation. It is designed as the perfect add-on to our very popular Graphics Bundle of Atlas, Timeline, and PhotoGuide 3, which is included in the Essential Collection and up.
Like the PhotoGuide 4, several of these resources are available only in Accordance. The others may be obtained in print or on DVDs, but none are included in other Bible software packages. This entire package is an Accordance exclusive!
With the new Accordance Custom Upgrade method, you will be charged only for the modules you are adding or upgrading, not the ones you already own. Save even more when you purchase the bundle during the current sale.
Check out the video on searching your entire library for a specific images.
When we first developed the Accordance Bible Atlas, we knew we needed to include a resource that would give information about the more important site and region names on the map. The other module developer (there were only two of us at the time) was occupied with developing the data for the Atlas, so I was tasked with developing this tool which would come to be called Place Names.
Each of the sites on the Atlas are given an importance ranking on a scale from 1 (least important) to 5 (most important). This ranking is used to determine which sites should be hidden when you zoom out from the map. We decided to use the sites of importance 3 or above as the ones we would cover in the Place Names module. Once I had this list of sites, I then had to research each site and write up a description of its location, history, and overall significance.
The main challenge of developing the Place Names module was the deadline. The Atlas was nearing completion and Place Names had to be finished before it could be released. To meet that deadline, the site descriptions had to be kept pretty basic and concise.
Some time after the release of the Atlas, I was approached with the idea of expanding the work I had done on Place Names into a new resource that would include photos of each site. This new resource would eventually come to be called the Bible Lands PhotoGuide.
I was given a large archive of photographs of Biblical places I had never personally visited, and I had to decide which photos best illustrated each site.
My research often began with the Bible dictionaries I had available in Accordance. Anchor Bible Dictionary was especially good about giving information about the archaeological discoveries at each site, but it had relatively few photos and illustrations. Going from a description of a Bronze Age wall discovered at a site to actually identifying that wall in a photo was next to impossible. I soon was combing through coffee table books and magazines on Biblical archaeology, tourist guide books which might illustrate how a site looks today—anything I could find that would give me clues as to what I was looking at. It would have been easy to annotate each photo with something like "Ruins at Miletus," but I wanted users of the PhotoGuide to be able to see the outline of the ancient harbor and the surrounding bay which have long since silted up. It's that level of detail which sets the PhotoGuide apart from the typical illustrated Bible dictionary.
At times it was frustrating finding the information I needed, but I learned more about the Bible doing the research for the PhotoGuide than I ever learned in seminary. If you haven't explored the PhotoGuide in depth, begin reading through its articles on sites mentioned in your current passage of study. You'll be surprised how much it can deepen your understanding of the Bible.
Last night as I was helping Jo Jo, my five-year-old son, brush his teeth before bed, I asked him who Naaman was. No, I don't typically quiz my preschooler on obscure Bible stories, but some weeks ago he had shown me a craft he had made during a Sunday school lesson about the leper healed by Elisha (2 Kings 5), and I had been impressed with his level of comprehension. The other day I had stumbled across that craft again, and I was curious to see how much he remembered. Not surprisingly, the words "Naaman" and "leper" failed to jog his memory, but when I mentioned that Naaman had been told to wash seven times, he said, "In the Jordan river." Needless to say, I was very pleased that he still remembered some details of the story.
It was at this point that Jo Jo turned the tables on me. "Daddy," he said, "I don't know if you know this Bible story, but my teacher told me about some people who shot arrows so far the people couldn't even see them and they used logs to break down the walls." Now, I'm not completely sure what Bible story he was referring to—for all I know his teacher could simply have been relating a scene from a movie about the Trojan War—but I said, "Well, that sounds like when the evil Assyrians conquered the city of Lachish." I then told him, "I can even show you pictures of the battle!"
Then, in lieu of a bed-time story, I fired up Accordance on my laptop, opened the Bible Lands PhotoGuide, and did a search for "Lachish." I then showed him a photo of the modern day tel, the walls, and the siege ramp built by the Assyrians.
As exciting as these pictures were to me, archaeological site photos won't hold a five-year-old's interest for very long, so I quickly moved on to the Assyrian reliefs which depict this siege in vivid detail. I showed him the Assyrian archers, spearmen, and slingers. I showed him the battering ram being pushed up the siege ramp to the base of the walls. I pointed out how the defenders on the walls were throwing torches in an attempt to light the battering ram on fire, and how the Assyrians were ready for this, using water to douse the flames.
Finally, I showed him the Judean prisoners prostrating themselves before the Assyrian king and begging for mercy, while other prisoners were being executed and tortured.
Okay, so it wasn't the most cuddly bedtime story I could have told, but it had plenty of the action and adventure little boys crave. I assured Jo Jo that even though the Assyrians were strong and terrible, God preserved the people of Judah and eventually the Assyrians were defeated. As I said, I could have told warmer and fuzzier stories, but here was a chance to reinforce the fact that the Bible story he had asked me about was something that really happened. And thanks to the PhotoGuide, it was easier than going to the bookshelf to find Green Eggs and Ham.
Last week, my wife and kids participated in Vacation Bible School at our church. This has had two ongoing effects on our family. First, they brought back a cold which has inexorably worked its way through every member of the family! Second, since the VBS curriculum took several lessons from the life of Paul, they have come back with a lot of questions about Paul's conversion, his missionary journeys, and his imprisonment. We have therefore been spending time in family devotions surveying the chapters in Acts which deal with Paul's life and ministry.
The other day we were reading through Acts 13, which relates the events of Paul's first missionary journey. After the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul at Paphos, Paul and Barnabas suddenly leave the island of Cyprus and head to Pisidian Antioch in what is now southwest Turkey. To show them this sudden change of location, as well as to explain the difference between this Antioch and the one at the beginning of the chapter, I naturally turned to the Accordance Bible Atlas.
Now, I have an icon for the Atlas in my workspace Toolbar, so I simply opened a map by choosing a map background from the pop-up menu associated with that icon. (I like the Light Browns background.) Once the map was open, I chose Paul's First Journey from the Route Layer pop-up menu.
Now I could show them how Paul and Barnabas started from Syrian Antioch, sailed to Cyprus (where Barnabas was from), crossed the island until they reached Paphos, then sailed to Attalia, passed through Perga, and arrived at Antioch of Pisidia. I then asked my family why Paul and Barnabas would decide to go there.
I have to admit that I asked the question before I was entirely sure the point I wanted to make was correct. You see, I vaguely remembered from somewhere that there is a connection between Sergius Paulus, the proconsul converted at Paphos, and the city of Pisidian Antioch. So while my family was pondering the question, I double-clicked the name Antioch on the map to look it up in my Bible Lands PhotoGuide.
Sure enough, a quick skim of that article reminded me that an inscription with the name Sergius Paulus had been found at Pisidian Antioch. This suggests that Sergius Paulus may have urged Paul and Barnabas to take their message to Pisidian Antioch because he had some personal connection there.
While explaining this to my family, it occurred to me that it would be clearer if I could actually show them the inscription. Unfortunately, the PhotoGuide does not include a photograph of the inscription itself. So I decided to search the rest of my library for any pictures of the Sergius Paulus inscription. I clicked the magnifying glass inside the Search All field of the Workspace toolbar and chose Image from the pop-up menu. Then I entered the word "Sergius" and hit return. Instantly I found several pictures of the Sergius Paulus inscription—in the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, the Biblical Archaeology Review archive, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the New Testament, and Gundry's Survey of the New Testament.
Now that I had brought this interesting archaeological discovery to their attention, I needed to answer that all-important question: so what? I explained that for me, the so what is that Paul and Barnabas began their missionary work by going places where they had a natural connection: to Barnabas' native land of Cyprus, then to Pisidian Antioch because of its connection to Sergius Paulus. They didn't just go haphazardly from town to town, but chose their destinations strategically, going through whichever doors were most open to them.
Our family Bible study started out as an attempt to clarify the details about Paul's life, but thanks to Accordance, I was able to (re)discover an interesting detail that led to a meaningful application.
In this series of posts, we've been exploring why Matthew sees the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem as "fulfilling" Jeremiah 31:15, which speaks of Rachel weeping for her lost children at Ramah. In part one of this series, we saw that the connection between Bethlehem and Ramah has to do with Rachel's death in childbirth on the way to Bethlehem. It appears from 1 Samuel that she died and was buried in the vicinity of Ramah. In part two of this series, we looked at the geographical and historical context of Jeremiah 31:15. There we discovered that in Jeremiah's day, Rachel was weeping because it was from Ramah that the conquering Babylonians were deporting the captive Jews from Jerusalem. In this post, we'll conclude by putting all the pieces together so we can understand the point Matthew was trying to make.
When I taught this to my Sunday School class, I explained that Matthew is not merely quoting clear predictive prophecies about the Messiah. Rather, he is associating the events in Jesus' life with a wide range of events in the history of Israel. I said it's a bit like that word-association thing psychologists do:
Psychologist: "What do you think of when I say 'Bethlehem'?"
Matthew: "Rachel's death."
P: "And what does that make you think of?"
M: "Her tomb at Ramah."
P: "And 'Ramah'?"
M: "Rachel weeping for her lost children!"
If we understand this dynamic, then we can appreciate the parallels Matthew wants his readers to draw.
In Genesis, Rachel dies giving birth while on the road to Bethlehem. In the midst of her suffering, the midwife tries to comfort her with the news that she is having another son. In this way, her child is both her cause of weeping and her hope for the future.
In Jeremiah's day, Rachel weeps over her children once more, this time because they are being led into captivity and exile near the very spot where she is buried. She is then comforted with the promise that her children will return. Once again, her offspring are both her cause of weeping and her hope for the future.
In Matthew's day, Rachel weeps yet again: this time over the slaughter of the children at Bethlehem. No words of comfort are given her in Matthew, but the very next verse speaks of Herod's death and the return of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to the land of Israel. Just as in Jeremiah's day, the situation seems bleak, but the hope of salvation lives on.
There are, of course, additional historical parallels in this passage. When the wicked king Herod orders the slaughter of innocent children to protect his rule, we naturally think of the Egyptian pharaoh who ordered the slaughter of Hebrew children. One child, Moses, escaped the slaughter and went on to deliver his people from captivity and exile. In the same way, Jesus escapes the slaughter of the innocents—ironically, by going into exile in Egypt. Like the Israelites, he is led into Egypt by a man named Joseph, a man whom God speaks to in dreams. Like the Jews for whom Rachel wept in Jeremiah's day, this child knows the experience of living in exile, and like the Israelites of Moses' day, he goes through his own exodus from Egypt. Just as Rachel was comforted with the promise that her children would be restored, and just as Moses' birth was a sign that the Israelites' deliverance was near, so Matthew's readers are meant to understand that the long-awaited Messiah has been born and the hope of salvation is close at hand.
Obviously, there's a lot more going on in Matthew's infancy narrative than most modern readers realize. If you want help in bringing out these kinds of connections, here are some resources you'll find helpful:
You may find this surprising, but the main resource I used in preparing my Sunday School lesson was our Bible Lands PhotoGuide. It's tempting to think of the PhotoGuide as primarily a collection of pictures, but it's actually one of the best places for clear, concise information about biblical sites. The photos are really just the icing on the cake. The PhotoGuide article on Ramah gave me all the relevant passages needed to explain the connection between Ramah and Bethlehem, so that constituted the bulk of my research.
Of course, this passage was focused specifically on a place name, so the PhotoGuide was an obvious place to begin. For other New Testament passages that deal with quotations from or allusions to the Old Testament, I find Beale and Carson's Commentary on the New Testament Use of The Old Testament to be particularly helpful. While most good commentaries will deal with the interpretive issues this commentary focuses on, it is precisely this commentary's focus which makes it so valuable. Rather than having to skim commentary which deals with the use of the Old Testament as one of a dozen important aspects of a passage, Beale and Carson put that one issue front and center.
Other resources which help to explain the links between the Old and New Testaments are the various Bible Background Commentaries available from Zondervan and IVP. These are not as narrowly focused on OT and NT parallels as Beale and Carson, but they'll generally draw your attention to those parallels, along with providing information on the historical background of a passage.
While explaining why Rachel was weeping at Ramah required having my Sunday School class look at a number of different passages together with several maps, they were able to follow my explanation without getting overwhelmed by the details. On the contrary, they were excited to see how all these passages fit together. I hope you've found this series helpful—and maybe even a little exciting—as well.
In Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, he points to specific events as the "fulfillment" of several Old Testament "prophecies." For the past several weeks, I've been exposing my Sunday School class to these Old Testament passages in their original context to show how Matthew's narrative is much more nuanced and profound than most of us realize. I wrote about doing this with the Immanuel prophecy in a previous post. This past Sunday, I talked about how Matthew saw the slaughter of the innocents as the fulfillment of Jeremiah's imagery of Rachel weeping at Ramah.
The subject of Sunday's lesson was all too painfully illustrated by the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and I hesitate to discuss it for that reason. While the wanton killing of small children is always shocking, it is, sadly, nothing new. It wasn't new in Matthew's day, either, and he tapped into the memory of a still more ancient infanticide to make his point.
I began by asking my class why Rachel would be weeping at Ramah over the slaughter of children at Bethlehem. Are these two towns close to each other?
To answer that question, I selected "Ramah" in Matthew 2:18 and chose my favorite Map background (Light Browns) from the Map submenu of the Amplify toolbar icon. This opened a map with two sites named Ramah highlighted in red. I didn't bother pointing out the northern Ramah, but quickly zoomed in on the one between Bethel and Jerusalem.
I then pointed out that Ramah and Bethlehem are not all that close. Ramah is north of Jerusalem, while Bethlehem is south of it. There are about 11 miles between them—a fact I just happened to mention, but I could easily have shown my class by option-dragging from one site to the other and pointing out how the distance is shown in the Instant Details panel. (See the image above.)
If these were not neighboring towns, why would Rachel weeping at Ramah have anything to do with the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem? To explain the connection between these two towns, I presented several seemingly disconnected passages. First, we looked at Genesis 35:16–20, in which Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin somewhere along the road from Bethel to Bethlehem. In her suffering, she is comforted with the news that she is having another son.
Genesis 35 says that Rachel was buried on the way to Bethlehem, and tradition locates her tomb about a mile north of Bethlehem. I even showed my class a photo from the PhotoGuide of Rachel's Tomb. But then I explained that there are reasons to believe that Rachel was not quite so close to Bethlehem when she died. I had my class turn to 1 Samuel 7:17, which describes Ramah as the center of Samuel's prophetic activity. Then we looked at 1 Samuel 10:2, in which Samuel tells Saul that he will meet two men at Rachel's Tomb shortly after he leaves the town (of Ramah). This would seem to indicate that Rachel actually died in the vicinity of Ramah.
If true, that would certainly explain the connection Matthew saw between Ramah and Bethlehem: Rachel died near the one while traveling toward the other. Thus, she weeps at Ramah because she is buried there, and she weeps over what is happening in Bethlehem because it's as if she is still looking in that direction.
There's still more to this story, but I'll have to finish it in another post. In my next post, we'll look at why Jeremiah spoke of Rachel weeping at Ramah. In the process, I'll show you several little-known tricks to using the Accordance Bible Atlas.
On Monday, I recounted a study of Psalm 91 I did with my family last week. During his temptation of Jesus, the devil quoted Psalm 91:11-12, so we also looked at the account of the temptation in Luke 4. There we discovered that the devil was using these verses to tempt Jesus to throw himself down from the "pinnacle of the temple."
Have you ever wondered what the "pinnacle of the temple" is? Here's how to stop wondering and find out: simply select the phrase "pinnacle of the temple," then choose PhotoGuide from the English Tools menu of the Resource palette. (I'm assuming, of course, that you have the PhotoGuide, because, well, why wouldn't you?)
As I explained in a recent post, the value of the PhotoGuide is not just in its vast collection of photos, but in the detailed historical and geographical information it contains. If you want to know something about Jerusalem in general or the temple mount in particular, the PhotoGuide is one of the first places you should turn. Here we can see photos of the southeast corner of the temple mount, which is its highest point above ground level. We also see the model of what that location would have looked like in Jesus' day. The caption also discusses another possible identification of the "pinnacle" and points to another figure in that same article.
If you don't own the PhotoGuide, you could choose any other resource in your Accordance library, or even choose to search all your tools at once. To do the latter, simply select the phrase "pinnacle of the temple," then choose [All Tools] from the Search menu of the Resource palette. A Search All window will open displaying every occurrence of the phrase "pinnacle of the temple" in your entire Accordance library.
Now, it's certainly nice to be able to do such a broad search so quickly, but this particular example shows how problematic such searches can be. Browse the results, and you'll see that no Bible dictionary has an article on the pinnacle of the temple. Instead, almost all of the results come from the body text of articles focused on other things, such as the martyrdom of James or the account of Jesus' temptation. Click to read those articles and you'll find interesting information, but not much of it is focused on describing the pinnacle itself.
That's the challenge of library-wide searches: you get the results quickly, but then have to wade through them looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. It doesn't take long for your Bible study to become bogged down looking for the answer to a simple question like "What is the pinnacle of the temple?"
In this way, it ends up being far more efficient to consult a resource like the PhotoGuide which specializes in illustrating such historical details. Remember to consult it, and you can usually find your answer quickly and get back to your passage of study.