10 Interesting Facts, Beliefs and Theories About the Bible Lands

photos: Rev. Leon V. Kofod, P.W.P.D.

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The Bible lands…beautiful, sacred, mysterious, brimming with history, abounding in contrasts… There is so much to learn about this area of the world, that you might not already know these “interesting facts, beliefs and theories” listed below. Some shed light on the events of the Bible, making the Scriptures “come alive” for us, while others are just fascinating bits of knowledge to have. For sure, all ten bring us a little closer to knowing and understanding the world that Christ knew and loved.

Did you know …

…that the real Last Supper may not have looked very much like Leonardo DaVinci’s classic depiction? Ordinarily, at the suppers that Jesus and the Apostles held, they reclined on the floor instead of sitting. The Last Supper was no exception: “Now when evening arrived, He reclined at table with the twelve disciples.” (Matt. 26:20)

According to Rev. Kenneth Campbell, a Franciscan Friar who serves as guide in the Holy Land, they ate in this manner in order to get the feeling that they were indeed “free men” – of Egypt’s domination.

…that tears were precious in Egypt and Palestine, and were actually collected and kept in bottles? Sometimes made of decorated glass, bottles containing tears of the bereaved were placed in tombs with the deceased.

The existence of tear bottles explains the Biblical quote: “You have noted my agitation, now collect my tears in your wineskin.” (Ps. 56-8) The fact that tears were precious also helps us to understand why Christ was so moved by the penitent woman in St. Luke’s Gospel account.. “And turning to the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Dost thou see this woman? I came into thy house; thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she has bathed my feet with tears, and has wiped them with her hair. Wherefore, I say to thee, her sins, many as they are, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved much.”’

…that the Antonia Fortress – where Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate – was a residence and guard tower rebuilt by Herod the Great and named in honor of his friend, Mark Anthony? Situated at the N. W. corner of the Temple court in Jerusalem, the fortress gave Roman authorities a good view of the entire temple area, should any insurrection occur when great numbers of Jews gathered on the Sabbath or on feast days. (Model shown above)

…that four of the seven Sacraments were instituted in the same place? At different times, Christ inaugurated Penance, Confirmation, Holy Orders and Holy Eucharist in the Cenacle, or “Upper Room.”

…that a pavement found below the present Church of the Dames de Sion in Jerusalem may be part of the ancient courtyard, identified with Gabbatha, where Jesus appeared before Pilate? The Gospel account tells us: “Pilate therefore, when he heard these words, brought Jesus outside, and sat down on the judgment-seat, at a place called Lithostrotos, but in Hebrew Gabbatha,” (John 19:13). Located near the Via Dolorosa, part of the paving has been identified by Pere H. Vincent. Scratched on the paving is a Roman gaming board, one of the most valuable archaelogical finds in Jerusalem, on which soldiers may possibly have whiled away their time while awaiting Pilate’s verdict (John 19:23). The etchings in the pavement are still clearly discernible today.

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