The ancient scrolls had arrived at the science center under armed guards. On loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the scrolls dated back to the time when Jesus walked among us and included the most important archaeological discovery in history, the oldest existing copy of the Ten Commandments. For a long time I stood gazing at the small scrap of papyrus and ink, yellowed and crinkled and barely legible, and I was transported back 2000 years and a half a world away, to the wind-swept caves high up in the cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea, where scribes worked silently, the quiet broken only by the scratching of the styluses on the papyrus as they meticulously copied the ancient words that had been handed down from the time of Moses. And the precious surviving bits and fragments of their work had made the long journey from Israel to the Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, Alabama to be displayed in an exhibit that would be viewed by over a quarter million visitors.
Just before the doors opened, I hurried off to the center’s new virtual reality theater where I was thrilled and honored to be able to share the fruits of my many years of study conducting tours of 1st Century Jerusalem and the Herodian Temple. Through the efforts of the foremost archaeological architect Leen Ritmeyer and the team at CalTech University, visitors to the theater would experience a guided tour of the streets and markets and public buildings of Jerusalem, and see and experience the places where Jesus once walked, the scenes of so many events recorded in the Gospels. And after exploring the city and its environs I would lead the audience up those monumental stairs to the top of the Temple Mount, step from the towering shaded porches out onto the broad, sun-lit courts, and mingle with pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. And through modern technology we were able to do what would never have been possible in the past … to enter the gates beyond which no foreigner was allowed to pass on pain of death, and with bated breath step into the Holy Courts of the Sanctuary, to see firsthand it’s walls and porches and gates and hallowed courts and buildings, the inner courts where priests were busily engaged in the slaughter and sacrifices offered up each and every day, the towering altar with the smoke rising from the burnt offerings, and towering above it all, the gleaming white Sanctuary, the golden grapevine entwined over the gates and the gold-tipped turrets sparkling in the morning sun.
It is with humble and grateful heart that I now share my life’s work with a broader audience through an upcoming series of novels and study guides dedicated to a deeper and richer understanding of the “faith once delivered,” and that long-ago world as it existed during The Life and Times of Jesus.
A Personal Note
I have always loved books. Especially old books. Dusty, cracked leather bindings that groan when you open them, yellowed pages filled with words written by people from ages past, whose bodies long ago returned to the dust but whose voices still echo down the centuries through the words that fill these pages. So it was only natural when I became a Christian early in my life to dive headlong into the records of the ancient manuscripts and original documents of the world where the Master lived and walked and taught. To study first-hand the testimony his followers left, those who saw him, heard him teach, knew him, and loved him. And to reach even further, to all those who lived in those days and were witnesses to those times and have so much to share with us about that world, a world that now lies buried deep beneath the rubble of war and desolation, a land swept clean by the unforgiving winds of time.
When I’m not immersed in that world of long ago I live a quiet but full life with my children, grandchildren, and large extended southern family in a modest home I have filled with books and flowers and things that make me happy. In addition to my passion for studying New Testament history and archaeology, I am an avid gardener on a two-acre spot of earth God has given into my keeping, and I love the birdsong and flowers that fill my gardens and my days. I look forward to sharing occasional glimpses into my life through my blogs and postings and hope that through them, more than writer and reader, we might become friends.
On a final personal note, I would like to say that my greatest hope and sincerest prayer is that in sharing the fruit of all my years of study, those of you who read my humble offerings will find your faith strengthened, not only in the historical accuracy of the Scriptures themselves, but also in Christendom’s historical observances of those most precious times and seasons of the life of Jesus, our Maker, our Master, the Messiah.