Today was a great day. We had a much slower pace and only went to one site, but got to really enter into the Biblical story in a variety of ways, making for a very spiritually enriching day.
Our text for the day was John 4, the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. The Gospel states this is at Jacob’s Well, a historic site that it is easy to locate. As Rodney put it, wells don’t move, so it’s much easier to say “this is really the place” than with all the cave sites, where one cave is much like another. Jacob’s Well is now in the modern West Bank town of Nablus, about an hour’s drive north of Jerusalem (Jesus went there on his way from Jerusalem back home to the Galilee).
The well is now — you guessed it — in the basement of a church. This one is a Greek Orthodox Church which is somewhat modern but very beautiful.
We started our visit by gathering in the garden courtyard outside the church. Bob, a student in our course who is a New Testament professor at a seminary in New Zealand, gave us some academic background about the passage and especially about the Samaritan sect (he just published a book on the topic). The Samaritans still exist — all 750 of them. They are now the smallest ethnic group in the world.
After Bob’s talk, we had another guest speaker, Tracy who is visiting the College from the States. She is a professional Biblical storyteller and directer of an institute of Biblical storytelling in Baltimore MD. She gave us an utterly compelling telling of this story in a way that brought tears to my eyes. It was really amazing. I’ve read this passage a million times, probably preached 10 sermons on it, but I saw it in a new way today.
Then, we silently walked into the church (where a service was going on — lovely chanting) and quietly entered the crypt where the well is. It’s very deep. There’s a bucket on a rope and pulley system, so the Greek Orthodox sexton or what have you helped us draw some water, and we all drank from it. So I got to drink from the exact same well that Jesus drank from. After that, we broke into small groups and sat in the garden courtyard for some sharing and Bible study on the passage. All in all, a very prayerful, fun, fascinating morning.
We had a huge lunch at a restaurant in Nablus of a Middle Eastern version of pit barbecue. Apparently there is pit barbecue in New Zealand, too, as our Maori group liked the food so much they sang a song to the cook afterwards. Singing a thank-you song to the cook is a Maori tradition. But this was the first time I ever heard a song in Maori being sung to a Palestinian chef. New experiences every day.
After a long drive back to the College (construction and lines at check-points slowed us down), Rodney gave us a late afternoon lecture on Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Tomorrow we are going to Qumran and Masada. This trip is not technically part of the course (there’s no Jesus connection, really) so it’s optional. I think most everyone is going, though. Rodney won’t be coming with us, but Mike and Judy will be our shepherds for the day. It is supposed to be 87 degrees there tomorrow!
P. S. Just a quick apology for the typos in these blog posts. I’m glad the internet is good enough for me to get them posted, but it’s really slow as molasses and so making corrections turns out to be a 15 min process per typo. I’ll fix them up when I get back to my home wifi! In the meantime, please bear with me and ignore the occasional mistyping.