The theme for today should have been, “Artistry.” The beauty from the mosaics, to the landscapes of God’s design, to the engineering of the theater, the hand of the Artist is everywhere.
Zippori (Sepphoris) developed how I suspect the Roman Empire wanted Jewish cities to develop—by slowly acclimating to the culture, caring more about their lives than religious conviction. Sepphoris embraced Hellenism in architecture, mosaics, etc.
I like the possible connection of Joseph (and possibly Jesus) working on the palatial structures in Sepphoris. Because the structure was a major building project for many years, it was likely that carpenters (which were stone masons in this region in antiquity) were brought in from surrounding towns. Nazareth was within a reasonable radius to commute to Sepphoris on a daily basis. Even though Sepphoris was not mentioned in the Gospels, this city can be considered as “Jesus’ backyard,” so understanding the culture, people, and land of Sepphoris is helpful in understanding the nuances of Jesus’ teaching. For instance, Jesus often used the image of “hypocrites.” That was the word used for “actor,” and Sepphoris was a major Hellenistic city. One of the major forms of entertainment was the theater, so hypocrite would be something that Jesus and his audience would be very familiar with.
I adored that they had a whole mosaic section on Amazon women. I’ve always had an affinity for strong, fit women, but the myth behind their name freaked me out a bit. “A” meaning “no” and “mazon” meaning “breast,” the myth says the Amazon women cut off their right breast to draw arrows better. This myth goes against what I loved about the Amazons: strong, curvy, empowered women who didn’t need to change who they were to be powerful forces. Despite the myths, the mosaics of them portrayed rather epic women (with both breasts)! Sepphoris really was a cultural center with a collage of Greco-Roman and Egyptian influence–as shown by the main mosaic floor with animals depicted from both those regions. After Zippori, we headed out to Mount Precipe where we remember where the people tried to push Jesus over the precipice.
At the Mount Precipice, I was kind of zoning out. After the lecture was over, three men from Nazareth came up to preach. My soul was rejuvenated and challenged by their testimonies. Do I try to drink from both Satan’s and God’s cup? Do I try to eat from both their tables? The men’s courage to preach without knowing where each of us are with Jesus is inspiring and convicting. I’m so happy I got to experience that.
We ended our inclusio day on Greco-Roman influence at Beth She’an. Throughout our visits to theaters, I have had the urge to sing “O Mio Babbino Caro.” I decided to stay behind after our group left and just let it out. Little did I know, an Italian group enter the theater when I started singing. Apparently, there were a few cameras and smartphones recording me. When I stopped singing, a man started singing back to me in Italian and we had some operatic banter—so fun! The space had beautiful acoustics. I only wish my voice was more in shape so my technique was better! The rest of Beth She’an was fairly hazy from the heat. Eating an almond covered magnum bar while leaning on the model of Beth She’an while watching the birds in the vines along the terrace was a rather glorious end to that day.
Now back to Jerusalem for a few days before I head out for Jordan for two weeks.
Originally written June 5, 2014.