The Prodigal Son

Jerash (known in the Jesus’ time as Gerasa) – One of the Greco-Roman cities of the Decapolis (meaning “ten-cities,” but in Jesus’ day there were some 18 cities). In Jesus’ day Gerasa was approximately the same population as Jerusalem. But apart from the size and grandeur of the Jerusalem Temple, Gerasa was more impressive architecturally. Josephus tells us that Scythopolis (Beth-Shean) was the largest city of the Decapolis, and was less than 25 miles from Nazareth. In Jesus’ day, the contrast between Galilean towns, constructed of black basalt, homes having roofs of mud and sticks, would have been a striking contrast to the beauty and allure of the nearby Greco-Roman cities, with their theatres, athletic arenas, running water, indoor toilets, bathhouses, gymnasiums, beautiful streets, public buildings, and fleshly pleasures. Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son was a common problem for Israelite families, where Jewish boys were seduced away from Judaism and their families by the majesty and temptations that the pagan world offered. To illustrate this – when Jerusalem fell to the Roman legions and the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, it was a Jew who was second in command under Titus, Tiberius Julius Alexander, the Alexandrian Jew, was the embodiment of a Jewish prodigal.Jerash

Indiana Jones’ Petra

For all you Indiana Jones fans – here is a picture of Petra that figure so prominently in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In Jesus’ day, Petra was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom, a rock city roughly the same size as Jerusalem (50,000). We climbed to mountain to see the “High Place” above Petra, where they sacrificed to Molech. Herod Antipas was married to the Nabatean king’s (Aretas IV- 9BC – 40AD) daughter, Phasaelis. Herod divorced her to married his brother’s wife, Herodias the mother of Salome. When Phasaelis learned that Antipas intended to divorce her, she fled to her father, King Aretas. Eventually Aretas went to war against Herod and defeated him. When John the Baptist denounced Herod for divorcing Phasaelis and marrying Herodias, this was not merely a moral statement, but worsened the political crisis Herod was facing because of his divorce and remarriage, leading to John’s imprisonment and execution.

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Daniel Molyneux in the Holy Lands.

Author and Pastor Daniel Molyneux just returned from an extensive trip to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, visiting such places as: Herod’s Dead Sea Fortress Machaerus where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded, the “rock city” Petra (for you all you Indiana Jones fans), Jerash (biblical Gerasa in the Gospels), Abu Simbel near the Egyptian border with Sudan, the ancient Jericho road to Jerusalem, Sepphoris (Galilee’s ancient capital during Jesus’ day, only 3 miles from Nazareth) Tel Hazor, and so on. Molyneux said about the trip, “It is always a transformative experience to go to the Holy Lands. It provides tremendous inspiration and data for teaching, preaching, and for my books. It was especially great to have George DeJong lead the trip.” To find out more about Daniel Molyneux’s books go to www.angelofa.com

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THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF RUSSIAN BOOKS IN THE WORLD

This is the Helsinki Cathedral (Lutheran).

Left of the Cathedral is Finland’s National Library.

I did not bother take a picture because it is covered in construction mesh for renovation. The National Library’s main building will reopen in January.

If one wants to do research with original Russian books, magazines and other sources, one is more likely to end up here, than in Russia.

Finland’s National Library is home to the world’s largest Russian/Slavic collection, because the Soviet Communists destroyed mass quantities of books in Russia and the Soviet Union in their efforts to rewrite history. The Russian Civil War and World War II also destroyed massive numbers of books in the Soviet Union.

The Librarian in the Finland’s National Library was extremely friendly and helpful. She invited us to come back when they reopen the newly renovated main building.

Finland remains one of my favorite places – great people, a great country, prosperous, clean, tech savvy, helpful, and friendly. What more could one want (well maybe warmer weather).

Daniel Molyneux

Daniel Molyneux’s website: www.angelofa.com

The Angel of Antioch on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Angel-Antioch-Daniel-Molyneux/dp/0692349634

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Daniel Molyneux in front of Helsinki’s Cathedral

WHAT IS THE BESTSELLING BOOK IN RUSSIA?

Trivia time… What is the bestselling book in Russia since the fall of Communism (besides the Bible)?

We went to Doma Knegy (House of Books bookstore) last week. I bought a book that looked interesting. Turns out it is the bestselling book in Russia since the fall of communism. First Published in 2011, within a year the book had sold more than 1 million hard copies and several million e-book copies.

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) is the bestselling book in Russia since communism’s fall.

Everyday Saints is a 500 page book written by a Russian Orthodox monk (Archimandrite Tikhon), telling about his conversion to faith in Soviet Russia during the early 1980s while attending film school, his subsequent experiences as a Monk in the Pskov Caves Monastery, and the stores of various monks in the monastery.

It is a fantastic book. I highly recommend it.

Can you imagine a Christian book being the equivalent of “Harry Potter” in the Russian publishing world? This is truly AMAZING.

If you want to learn more about the persecutions of Christians during the Communist era, and about Orthodox spirituality, this is the book for you. It is available in an English translation from Amazon, etc. All proceeds go to build a church in memory of the millions of Christian martyrs killed during Soviet rule.

Daniel Molyneux

Daniel Molyneux’s website: www.angelofa.com

The Angel of Antioch on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Angel-Antioch-Daniel-Molyneux/dp/0692349634

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Everyday Saints

CHURCHES IN SAINT PETERSBURG By Daniel Molyneux

Photos of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, in Saint Petersburg, taken from our hotel room window.

The story of Kazan Cathedral, on Nevsky Prospect, across from Doma Knegy (House of Books bookstore), is really amazing. Kazan was closed by the communists after the Russian Revolution. In the 1930s the communists turned Kazan into the Museum of Atheism. But Kazan was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1990s. It is now the Primary Cathedral for Saint Petersburg, and the seat of the bishop for the Eparchy (diocese) of St. Petersburg.

Almost all churches in the Soviet Union were closed under Stalin in the 1930s, and again under Khruchev in the 1950s. (And virtually all priests and pastors were arrested, tortured, sent to the Gulags and/or killed. It is difficult to estimate how many millions of Christians were killed under the communists.) Even in the late 1980s only 20 churches were allowed to legally function in Saint Petersburg, a city of 5 million people.

Today, the number of functioning churches in Russia has multiplied by 10 fold since the fall of communism; and the number of monasteries has grown from only 1 to many 100s, with more churches and monasteries opening every day.

The most recent estimates are that 75% of all Russians now profess faith. In spite of its many problems and issues, Russia today is one of the most religious countries in the world.

Daniel Molyneux

Daniel Molyneux’s website: www.angelofa.com

The Angel of Antioch on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Angel-Antioch-Daniel-Molyneux/dp/0692349634

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Saint Isaac’s Cathedral Saint Petersburg Russia
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Saint Isaac’s Cathedral at night, Saint Petersburg Russia
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Kazan Cathedral, Saint Petersburg Russia