Since 1973 I have been working with academic groups in Israel. Often the first 4 or 5 days in Israel are spent in and around the city of Jerusalem visiting sites associated with biblical events and the whole gamut of the history of Jerusalem and its surroundings. At the end of this sequence I like to visit the top of the Mount of Olives—early, before the tourist buses arrive. This gives us a chance to sit and enjoy the early sunlight as it illumines “Jerusalem of Gold.” At this time the students review and identify what they know about Jerusalem and its surrounds—sweeping from Nebi Samwil in the northwest, south through the Old City to Har Gilo in the southwest (see partially the photo in the header above!). Pride of place certainly goes to the walls of the Old City, the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and now(!) the Hurva Synagogue—not to mention the Dormition Abbey and Mount Zion.
After reviewing the “stones” and the history of Jerusalem I like to take about 20(!) minutes to reflect on the “theology of Jerusalem” as it is presented in the Bible (my favorite deaf mute vendor patiently waits until I am finished—and I promote his wares!). I begin in Genesis 2:15 and end in Revelation 22—yes, all of it 2o minutes! This reflection is based upon a summary of a class that I taught to university students for 15+ years entitled “Jerusalem: Earthly City Heavenly Symbol.” It was one of the most popular classes that I taught. I have been amazed at how much of the Bible can be tied into the City of Jerusalem!
At one point I had hoped to write a book on this topic but I have never had the time to do all of the relevant scholarly research for such a project. And indeed over the years others have approached this topic in somewhat similar but different ways.
Because of the importance of a “a biblical theology of Jerusalem,” and its usefulness to those I have shared it with in the past, I invite you to join me every Monday for “Mondays on the Mount of Olives.”