On June 9, 1957, the group composing the Seminary Guided Tour to Europe and the Bible lands left by BOAC plane for London. During the preceding week we had sat for five hours a day in the third-floor Seminary classroom of our very competent guide, Dr. Siegfried H. Horn, and taken notes on the history and geography of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, as he gave an intensive orientation course to prepare us for the trip.
The group was composed mainly of ministers and teachers of Bible and religion in Adventist colleges and academies. Included were two medical doctors, several wives, and a few other laymen. On the main part of the tour in the Near East there were thirty-six men and five women. The usual things that occur on such tours happened to us—someone lost his ticket before even reaching New York, but had time for a duplicate to be made up; at least one camera was lost, but later recovered; several light meters were broken; and assorted pencils, pens, and other small objects were lost—even someone's notebook full of copious notes on the tour. And there was a certain amount of minor illness—a few colds, many stomach upsets from unaccustomed food and water, a minor sprained ankle, a few fevers, two of which prevented two men from visiting Sinai and Petra; but we were very thankful that there was no major accident or illness on the trip—our heavenly Father watched over us.
Four men who had British and French passports were not allowed to enter Egypt, but spent the two weeks visiting islands of the Aegean Sea—Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Delos, Patmos, et cetera. Five men visited the sites of the seven churches of Revelation in Asia Minor (Turkey) immediately after the end of the tour in Athens on August 8; five other men went on around the world from Beirut, having visited Greece before going to Egypt, and were scheduled to stop in Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Java, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Formosa, Japan, and Hawaii.
Since this was an archeological study tour, the main reason for going through Europe was to visit the museums where the outstanding archeological finds are kept and displayed (see Siegfried H. Horn's article). But members of the group were also interested in church history, gathering material for sermon illustrations, and other general cultural aspects, and Dr. Horn had planned to include such sightseeing as our limited time in each place would allow.
In our four days in England we visited the British Museum, had two tours of West and East End London, including Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Tower of London; spent a few hours at Adventist institutions in Stan-borough Park; and had a day's excursion to Windsor Castle, Stoke Poges church (of Gray's "Elegy"), and Oxford, briefly visiting Magdalen College and the Martyrs' Memorial.
A long weekend in Paris gave opportunity for shopping and tours in that fascinating city, as well as a short trip to the historic, beautiful Palace of Versailles, and of course a few hours in the wonderful museum of the former Palace of the Louvre.
An overnight stop at our Seminaire Adventiste at Collonges, just across the border from Geneva, enabled us to see this school and to enjoy the Saleve Mountain that rises challengingly behind it, overlooking Geneva with its lake and high fountain. Then there was a quick tour of Geneva, including the huge white League of Nations building and the Memorial Wall of the Reformation, before we went on by train to Bern. There we met old and new friends and shopped, enjoying the well-preserved, shining-clean medieval city until time for our train ride through the exquisitely beautiful Swiss Alps to Milan.
From Milan through the rest of our time in Italy we had a private coach, which eliminated the mad scramble to put all of us and all our baggage on board trains That had been no minor feat! After an all-toobrief visit to the vast stone-lacework Cathedral of Milan and da Vinci's Last Supper fresco, we drove through the lovely green Apennine Mountains to Florence, the city of the arts—really an art gallery in itself. There we enjoyed Sabbath services at the Adventist school in a beautiful villa on a former estate dating from the fourteenth century, and then visited the ancient marble cathedral, campanile (bell tower), and baptistry, found Michelangelo's famous statue of David with his sling, et cetera.
In Rome we spent a number of days visiting various churches, the Roman Forum, the Mamertine (Paul's prison?), the Colosseum, the Vatican Museum, and seeing the Pope in an audience in St. Peter's. Below the Church of St. Clement we found an excavated Mithras temple, with its altar and evidences of sun worship. In the Scala Sancta there were devout people painfully ascending on their knees the staircase supposedly brought from Pilate's judgment hall in Jerusalem.
On a long day's trip by bus we visited Naples, with its fine museum, and Pompeii, the excavated Greek-Roman city that always surprises visitors by the good state of its preservation, buried as it was in A.D. 79 by hot ashes and cinders from the violent eruption of nearby Vesuvius (see Edwin R. Thiele's article). Returning to Rome, we drove out along the Appian Way that Paul had walked, and visited the Catacomb of San Sebastian, one of such places where Christians buried their dead and took refuge in times of pagan persecution.
Our fabulous two weeks in Egypt included visits to the Cairo Museum, many mosques and bazaars; Memphis, Sakkara (see Douglas Waterhouse' article), and the Pyramids of Giza, where we crawled into tunnels and up and down shafts, and climbed to the 450-foot-high top of the Great Pyramid. We made a three-day trip by overnight train to the ancient capital of Thebes (modern Luxor and Karnak), with its tremendous, impressive temple ruins, and across the Nile, the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahari, and the Ramessemn and Medinet Habu. The desert sun beat down upon us mercilessly. We entered ancient tomb chambers where the colors of the beautifully carved hieroglyphs and pictures were still bright and fresh looking after more than two millenniums; and marveled at the skill demonstrated in the mid-third millennium B.C. by workers in stone—building with tremendous granite and limestone blocks, and also executing such delicate stone sculpture.
A high point, not only of the visit to Egypt, but of the entire tour, was our four-day trip in an eleven-car caravan to Sinai. After crossing the Suez Canal and passing Marah and Elim, we camped overnight beside the Red Sea at the point of Abu Zenima and had a refreshing swim there. Southward from the peaked buff tents set up for us by the travel agency was the Wilderness of Sin.
The next day we plowed through the sand in the Wadi Feiran, and many of us climbed the traditional peak where Aaron and Hur upheld Moses' hands for the victory in the battle with the Amalekites in Rephidim. We passed through many "deep, gravelly passes," as mentioned in Patriarchs and Prophets, and then reached St. Catherine's Monastery, nestled in a valley below the Horeb Range.
The following morning everyone in our group climbed to the top of Gebel Musa, or Mount of Moses, the Arab traditional Mount Sinai. There we gathered in the sunshine at the south side of the beautiful little Greek Orthodox church on the peak and experienced a wonderful worship service led by Neal Wilson, president of the Nile Union. He did not let us leave Mount Sinai without a spiritual blessing on that place where God manifested His mighty power and gave to Israel His holy law.
Afterward some of us climbed another peak in the Horeb Range, Ras es-Safsaf, which overlooks the plain of Er-Raha, vast enough for the huge encampment of the Israelites. As we looked down upon the plain from the peak, it seemed clear that this was the right location, for here the "massive front" of the mountain, as Ellen G. White calls it, rises abruptly from the plain and a fence could easily be placed around its base. Later, looking back at Safsaf from the plain, we were confirmed still more in our theory that this was the place where God's display of power was given and where Moses broke the tablets of the law in sight of the camp, though it could easily be true that during his forty-day stay he had also gone over to the Gebel Musa. There we had been shown a cleft in the rock that tradition says is where Moses was hidden while the glory of the Lord passed by, as he had requested. (See also Orley M. Berg's article.)
The following weekend at our Middle East College in Beirut, Lebanon, was a restful treat, with time to catch up on a little sleep and good food. We made a half-day trip southward along the coast to see Sidon, Sarepta (or Zarephath, where the widow fed Elijah), and Tyre (see Halyard J. Thomsen's article); then came an all-day trip northward to visit the monumental inscriptions on the cliffs along Nahr el-Kalb, or the Dog River, the ancient city of Byblos, and the Crusader castle at Tripoli. Most of us had a swim in the Mediterranean at Jouneh (Jonah) Bay near Byblos on the way back along the beautiful blue sea to Beirut.
On the bus trip from Beirut to Damascus we went northward in the fertile Beqa Valley between the Lebanons and the AntiLebanons to view the magnificent Greek-Roman ruins at Baalbek, where the Temple of Jupiter had been the greatest pagan temple of the Near East. In the quarry we found a huge block, the largest ever quarried, more than 69 feet long, still attached on the bottom to the bedrock.
In the oasis city of Damascus, of course, we saw the "street called Straight," the traditional church of Ananias, and the window from which Paul was let down in a basket to escape. Although the wall is Roman of a century or two later, as a guide once said, "the hole is the same"! In Damascus, as in Beirut, we visited the museum, full of objects discovered in excavations in Syria.
Then we started on the uncomfortable twenty-four-hour trip by Nairn trailer-bus across the trackless desert to Baghdad, with the sand constantly streaming in a tan curtain across our tightly closed windows as we experienced a Turkish bath all the way! Since no one who has not experienced the Nairn bus trip can believe it if one describes it, there is no use talking about it! But finally we reached Baghdad, the fabulous city of the Arabian Nights—and found it surprisingly modern looking, except, of course, the old bazaar sections.
South of Baghdad we visited the former Parthian city that became the capital of the Sassonites from A.D. 210 on, where the oldest and highest brick arch is found—the tremendously high, vaulted roof of the banquet hall of the palace at Ctesiphon, across the Tigris from another ancient capital, Seleucia. Then we stopped at Tell Harmal, where the Eshnunna Law Code was discovered, older than Hammurabi's, about 2000 B.C. We spent Sabbath with our believers at the Dar el-Salaam Hospital church. In the shade the thermometer registered 113°.
Sunday morning we went in cars southward to old Babylon, exploring the excavated Ishtar Gate, the hanging gardens, Belshazzar's palace area, et cetera, and going out through Kweiresh Village, built in the ancient river bed, to the present course of the Euphrates. Then we drove on southward to Birs Nimrud, the highest temple-tower ruins in Mesopotamia, but probably not the site of the Tower of Babel—that probable site we had just seen, a low mound surrounded by a lake, to the south of Babylon. (See Herbert E. Douglass' article.)
We made an overnight train trip in Iraq from Baghdad north to Mosul, across the Tigris from Nineveh. At Nimrud (Biblical Calah) we tramped over ruins of palaces built by Shalmaneser III (859-824 B.C.), Adad-nirari III (810-782 B.c.), and TiglathPileser (745-727 B.c.). At Nineveh we went to see a restoration of the Nergal Gate and looked at other excavations on the Kuyunjik mound; on the Nebi Yunus mound we entered the Moslem mosque at the top to see the supposed tomb of Jonah. No excavations can be made at this mound, which is under Moslem control, although it is known that at least two palaces lie underneath it—that of Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.) and that of Ashurbanipal (669-c. 626 B.C.).
Northward from Mosul-Nineveh we visited Khorsabad, the capital of Sargon II (722-705 B.c.). A few weeks earlier, in digging for a new road, the workmen uncovered temple ruins. Now the road is making a curve around the area and excavators are at work on the temple. We sat on a brick bench along the side of the long, narrow room where perhaps the ceremonial meal was eaten on a long table down the middle.
Back at Baghdad, we drove out in the sandy desert to the ziggurat (temple-tower) ruins of Aqarquf, and pulled pieces of 3,500-year-old matting from the layers between courses of bricks. Then a quick visit to the Baghdad Museum—as we had also made to the Mosul Museum—and we were ready (?) for another twenty-four-hour bus crossing of the desert, this time to Amman, Jordan. And this time we rode in two ancient Mercedes-Benz buses, one of which broke down every few hours. After three Nairn buses had passed this bus, even when it was moving, as though it were standing still, we came to the point of actually being able to wish we were on a Nairn bus!
The weekend we spent camping in marvelous Petra was another unforgettable high point; this is described in Paul Grove's article. Then after visiting Jerash, described in Walter Specht's article [see next issue], we crossed the Jordan, visited excavations at Jericho, and went up to Jerusalem.
One day we drove southward to Bethlehem and Hebron; another day the buses took us northward to Gibeon, Beitin (Bethel), and Balata (Shechem), in all three of which places we saw actual archeological excavations now being carried on. A quick drive past Nablus, the city of the Samaritans, and to the top of the hill of Samaria, allowed no time for exploring any ruins, for we had to hurry back to Jerusalem before that Friday evening sunset.
On one day Mr. Joseph Saad, curator of the outstanding Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem, escorted us around the ruins of the Essene monastery at Qumran and took forty-one of us down through a narrow tunnel into Cave IV, one of the eleven caves in which the Dead Sea scrolls have been discovered (see Kenneth J. Holland's article). On our visit to the museum Mr. Saad escorted us all through, and even took us into the Scrollery, where visitors simply do not penetrate, to see where the fragments of the scrolls, under glass plates on long tables, are being worked over to try to piece them together and translate them. This privilege ranked with that which we had received in the Cairo Museum, as the result of the friendly influence of Dr. Selim Hassan, of viewing the royal mummies, which are no longer shown to even visiting professors or politicians!
Wading through Hezekiah's water tunnel from the Pool of Siloam to the Gihon Spring was another interesting experience we are glad not to have missed.
Our last Sabbath together we spent in Gethsemane and at the Garden Tomb. There we had Sabbath school at 7:30 A.M., followed by the communion service in that quiet garden. Although this is probably not Christ's actual tomb, it is a Roman tomb dating from His time, and afforded us the best place in all Jerusalem for our meeting and for quiet meditation. The pretty little ceramic wine cups that we had used, inscribed "Jerusalem, 1957," were given to us as a souvenir of this sacred occasion, by courtesy of the Jordan Mission. In the afternoon we visited the two Gethsemanes, watching a colorful Greek-rite service at the Russian church higher on the Mount of Olives, and then descending in the late afternoon to the Roman Catholic (Franciscan) Gethsemane. Beside the Church of All Nations, in the flower garden with its ancient, gnarled olive trees, we held our vesper service. This day was the true climax of our tour.
The next morning we flew to Beirut, where the five men, Members Berg, Lewis, Mershon, Ruppert, and Dr. Beltz, left us to go on around the world. We flew on to Nicosia and Athens, where we had the most luxurious hotel, the largest and most comfortable bus for our use, and the best food, that we had anywhere on the trip! Of course we visited- the Acropolis, with its treasures of architecture, especially the Parthenon; Mars' Hill, once described as "the stone of impudence" where we thought of Paul and his effective speech to the philosophers; the museum, and other interesting places. One all-day trip was made to visit Corinth—the ruins of its Temple of Apollo and its Agora (like the Roman Forum)—and Mycenae, where we tramped over the ruins of Agamemnon's palace on top of the acropolis and saw his nearby "beehive tomb." On the way back to Athens we enjoyed a swim in the blue Aegean.
The tour ended almost before some of us had been able to realize we were actually on this dream-come-true trip. Up to the end in Athens on August 8, we had traveled 6,415 miles by plane, 1,800 miles by train, 4,485 miles by bus or car, and at least 200 miles by foot! Each one traveled at least 20,000 miles by the time he reached home. We had visited ten countries in the sixty days; it seemed as though we had lived a whole month in each week. All of us agree that the Bible has "come alive" for us in a way it never had or could, before. We have new understanding, interests, and appreciations as the result of our profitable and unforgettable trip.