For the class I’m taking, the professor asked us to write these ‘impressions’, basically diary entries about what you did that day. I figured this would be the quickest way to relate every past day. I haven’t actually finished them yet (I’m way behind), but here are the first four.
July 4th, 2012
The day started with a very interesting lecture given by Rabbi Moshe. He did a teaching on parables but related it back to a ancient Israelite practice called Midrash in which the Jewish leaders would interpret parts of the Hebrew Bible and teach on them. These are found in the mishnah – a sacred extra-Biblical Jewish text. In any case, Moshe’s main point was that one of Jesus’ most used titles was that of rabbi or teacher and as a rabbi he was likely familiar with the practice of midrash.
Even though I found Moshe’s teaching very convincing and interesting, I couldn’t help but be speculative about this last part. Although many referred to Jesus as a rabbi, he was not actually trained as one. This can be solved in two ways: the first would be that all Jewish boys were trained in the art or technique of midrash. However, that would also mean that Jesus would not have deserved the title of rabbi. This would also be unlikely because if all young men were in fact taught this, there would be no need for rabbis. The second solution would be to claim that Jesus was in fact trained in this school. However, this would be false because we know that Jesus didn’t have this training. We would have to conjecture that his knowledge about these things came from some other understanding of the scriptures.
In any case, this little hiccup didn’t cause too much confusion in my understanding of his lesson and I was excited to hear his talk at the Inn of the Good Samaritan. Although said inn was actually named after a story and not a real event, it was useful to see the type of place Jesus was speaking about. I’ve heard many sermons preached about the road from Jerusalem to Jericho but to actually see the road first hand and its desolation gave me a new understanding of that story. It’s definitely not a road I’d like to walk alone.
From that site, we went to a trail to learn the type of terrain Jesus would have taught on or about. There we saw fig trees, olive trees, dates and more. We went on a (surprisingly strenuous) hike down the trail and talked about the parable of the barren fig tree. This whole section was interesting to me since I didn’t really have any understanding about fig trees and what they looked like. For instance, we saw a fig tree that was possibly 1500 years old which I didn’t know was even possible for such a tree.
Finally, after learning all we could about fig trees and other Israeli produce we took a walk back up the trail. There the day ended, but my thoughts about the relevance of Jesus’ parables had just begun. For me, reading a parable of Jesus is like reading a good Shakespearean play (without the language barrier). I can appreciate the general idea of the story and possibly even understand some of the implications but the foundational meaning is lost on me since I wasn’t there in that time. But now after seeing some of the terrain Jesus could have walked and seeing fig trees and other trees I feel a little closer to his time. Granted, reading a parable is still tantamount to traveling back in time but maybe not as far back as Shakespeare now. Now maybe it’s just the early 20th century.