Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sepphoris

After Cana, we drove to Tsipori (Zippori), a few km away. Unlike Hippos which is an amazing site but a mess, this is a well-managed, well-signed and presented site to visit. Not that I am fazed by sites that are messy sites, in a way you get a sense of the real state of the place. The first thing I noted is how close to Nazareth it is (about 6 km NW/less than an hours walk). In the photo to the left, Nazareth is nestled on the far hills. As such, Jesus without doubt hung out there and in that it was rebuilt during his early years. There is a tradition that Mary’s parent’s home is there, down the hill at the western end of the town. Who knows if this is true, but it is not completely implausible especially if they were living there for work.





The town was well preserved because unlike other towns. When the Romans came to quell the Jewish rebellion in the late 60s AD, the town capitulated without conflict and it was preserved. Coins have been discovered inscribed “City of Peace” indicating this attitude. This also indicates that it was a hellenized and Romanised town at the time.


There is a great theatre overlooking the valley to the north of the city. It would have been an amazing place to watch shows (below).











There is also an awesome Crusader Citadel. On the top floor of this is a lot of historical material on the city including a great timeline.


There is also a private home which is basically a shrine to Dionysius (the Dionysius House), the god of wine – I am sure there were some real parties in that place!








Sepphoris was critical in the post-biblical Jewish story where it was a key centre of Judaism. It was rebuilt by Herod Antipas who renamed it “Autocratoris” and was an amazing city, the “ornament of the Galilee” (Josephus, Ant. 18.27). It was very Greco-Roman rather than Jewish. Tradition also suggests that it was in the fields to the north overlooked by the city that Jesus and his disciples plucked heads of coins (Mark 6). Scholars also ponder other ways this city may have influenced Jesus. The Scriptures do not mention the city (nor Tiberias, Hippos), but that doesn’t mean Jesus did not visit them. I am sure he did. All in all it is a thought-provoking great place to visit.


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