Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 3, 1967
NUMBER 13, PAGE 3b,5b-6a

The Jenkins-Wallace Bible Land Tour - No. 1

Wm. E. Wallace

April 24, 1967 - Rendezvous in Alitalia! The Alitalia airline office at Kennedy International Airport in New York City is the place. This is the beginning of an overflowing of excitement which has been building up through the long an involved processes of decision, inoculation, red tape, and manifold preparation.

Our group of nineteen Christians assembled from five states at the John F. Kennedy airport for briefing and then for departure from Alitalia at Kennedy for airport Leonardo de Vince at Rome, Italy.

The excitement shared in the rendezvous, the mutual joy, the fellowship in motive and purpose and the congenial disposition added a flavor to this trip which gave us a delightful send-off and a genuine bon voyage.

We boarded the Alitalia DC-8 for a mighty and conquering of the Atlantic barrier to continental fellowship - an eight hour trans-Atlantic hop, from sundown over American-Atlantic waters to sunup over the Mediterranean. This may be routine for travel crews and world wanderers, but to humble Bible studying and homespun folks who are usually bound to the homeland, all this is nothing less than exhilarating. And this travel on a trans-Atlantic interurban of the skies was merely the prelude to greater things to be experienced on this trip.

Touch Down In Rome

Rome first impressed me with an oldness, not a depressing oldness, but a magnificent antiquity with many shades of aging brown peculiarly attractive in a strange but inspiring setting.

Our tour of Rome was primarily a visit to the sites of Old Rome - old remains which though ruined as structures yet function to reflect the glory of the Rome that was. The sites of ancient Roman glory hold a relevance to Christianity respected by studious Christians. For example, the Arch of Titus, which was erected in A. D. 81 in honor of the conqueror of Jerusalem (70 A. D.), shows by inscription a triumphal procession carrying loot from Jerusalem's temple. There are the ruins of the Roman Forum and other government buildings from which Rome ruled in the Judeo-Christian heritage from 63 B. C. I was especially interested in things Paul saw in his time in Rome, Paul came to Rome on the Appian Way and we travelled on the same route and saw what is left of some things Paul saw. One of the first things Paul viewed upon entering Rome was the Circus Maximus where 300,000 people at one time could witness the chariot races. The ruins stir your imagination of a spectator crowd matched in our country only by the "500" Indianapolis Memorial Day race.

Paul would have noted the Caius Cestius pyramid which was erected a hundred years or more before Christ. It still stands along with the ruins of the public and governmental monuments which though in ruin are yet glorious. They are glorious even without the exterior marble and veneer work of their original appearance. Paul was surely impressed by the palaces of the Caesars on Palatine Hill, and the pagan temples. There is something left of the Basilica Julia where Paul likely stood trial before Caesar. The ancient Mamertine prison where Paul may well have been imprisoned in his second incarceration stands intact. The possibility of Paul's bones lying under the basicilia bearing his name is challenging, if not quite certain.

If the visitor cannot accept the evidence of Paul's bones resting here, he can be inspired in the catacombs where in the days after Paul, Christians buried their dead in times of persecution. They often worshipped in secret in these underground caverns and the inscriptions they left on the walls are significant.

A trek through the Vatican library, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Cathedral held no sacramental value to us. But the art, the history, the ancient literature and the general extravaganza of the whole Vatican set-up is nothing less than sensational in impact on the visitor. We looked down in the hole where Peter's bones are supposed to rest. I thought of Pope Pius XII's statement that it is impossible to identify these bones as those of Peter.

It is not possible to give adequate description of the splendor seen in the Vatican's facilities. I can understand how the person who is not Bible orientated could be swept into Catholicism by merely viewing the fantastic marvels of the Vatican complex.

What a paradox - to be so impressed by the historical, cultural, aesthetic and architectural wonders of the Vatican while holding a deep resentment for the apostate Roman Catholic system! One of the most impressive things we viewed at the Vatican was a portion of the finest Bible manuscript available-the Codex Vaticanus.

The things I looked for in Rome were the edifices or ruins of structures which Paul could or would have seen. The famous and impressive coliseum is not one of these - it was built after Paul's days. But in addition to the things already mentioned, Paul could have viewed the tomb and monument of Augustus Caesar, the pantheon, and many other ancient Roman structures. When Paul arrived in the capitol of the empire he came to the very epitome of accomplishment in marble and stone. It is ironic that such cultural advancement as seen in Rome is made by those so far from God. As it was with the Romans.

As Charles F. Pfeiffer observed of Thebes, so it is with Rome: "Still the city remains one of the living witnesses to the fact that human glory is short-lived, that earthly fame lasted at most but a few generations."

The Land The River Gave

Most everyone who knows much about Egypt, from Herodotus the historian on, speaks of Egypt as the "gift of the Nile." Without the Nile there would be no Egypt - just more Sahara desert. A visit to Egypt brings this truth out in a most vivid way. This land, Egypt, often became involved, and often involved itself, in the affairs of God's people and in the events in God's Canaan land.

In the early Bible days Abraham involved Egypt by going there and getting into trouble (Gen. 12:10-20.) There Joseph arose from slave to governor and served as the providential means of bringing the Jacob clan to the land of Goshen where the clan became a people. From Egypt fled those descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to born national Israel and inherit the promised land. In the days of Israel's kings Egypt was sometimes an enemy meddler in Israel's affairs, more often an inadequate ally and a false security (Isaiah 28:15-18) to which Israel and Judah turned in times of ominous threats from neighboring states or distant empires. Hebrew prophets have much to say about Egypt, or to Israel about Egypt. From Abraham to Joseph and Mary, "The proximity of Egypt to Palestine had made that country a natural haven for Jewish fugitives..."

In the inter-testament period Judah was caught up in Greco-Egyptian affairs. Although Palestine under the Seleucid branch of Grecian authority suffered until the Maccabean revolt, Egypt under the Ptolemaic branch served a good cause through the Jewish community in Alexandria which produced the Septuagint translation of the scripture - the Bible Jesus used.

Egypt served as a haven to Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus (Mt. 2:13-15.) "They are said to have rested under a tree in Heliopolis. Their traditional stay in Old Cairo, commemorated in the crypt of the Church of St. Sergius is plausible because of the Jewish community there." "Local tradition claims that they also visited Upper Egypt as far south as Drunkah near Asyut."

Upon visiting the St. Sergius church we were shown an underground room which, we were told, was the very place the "holy family" lived for three months before going to southern Egypt. This tradition is based on the existence of the Jewish colony here in the days of Jesus.

A visit to the Ben Ezra synagogue in old Cairo was interesting because it was here that famous ancient books and manuscripts were found.

Strong traces of Egyptian influence in art, religion, and literature are found in Bible events. Biblical texts from the land of the Nile have contributed tremendously to biblical transmission and scholarship.

-To be continued-