This is a picture of my wife Leigh and me before a tree in the Garden of Gethsemane that we like to call “The Chelsea Tree.” Our family had the wonderful opportunity of living in Jerusalem for a year. While there, we often went to the Garden of Gethsemane for family devotionals. Our daughter Chelsea would climb in this tree, perch herself on the branch above us, and pray. Thus, “The Chelsea Tree.”
Over the last decade I’ve had the privilege of co-leading tour groups to the Holy Land with my good friend Douglas Jacoby. (Go to https://www.douglasjacoby.com/2019-bst-israel/ for details of the 2019 tour). We always have a devotional (usually a Sunday service) in the Garden of Gethsemane on our tours. While there, I find “The Chelsea Tree” and pray beside her tree. It’s one of several special connections I’ve made with the Holy Land over the years.
People often ask me about good books to read before going on a trip to the Holy Land. It should probably go without saying, but the first and most important book to read is the Bible. It’s good to go into a tour of the Holy Land with a working knowledge of the people and places of the Bible. After visiting the Holy Land you will be able to visualize the scenes of the Bible like never before. So, start with the Bible and end with the Bible.
Outside of the Bible itself, here are five of my favorite books on The Holy Land:
1. For the scholar:
THE best scholarly book is Jerome Murphy O’Conner’s The Holy Land: Oxford Archaeological Guides. I was blessed to go on a walking tour with Dr. O’Conner when I lived in Jerusalem. He autographed my copy of his book. So I have that going for me, and that’s cool.
2/3. For the general reader:
Two good books for the general audience are:
With Jesus Through Galilee According to the Fifth Gospel
With Jesus In Jerusalem.
My wife and I were fortune enough to hear Dr. Pixner lecture on his books.
4. For the tourist:
There are many tourist guides, but I like the Knopf Guide: The Holy Land. It’s a good size, built with rugged construction, and is very readable. Plus, it has gorgeous pictures throughout. I think you’ll like this book.
5. For the mystic:
For a nice spiritual journey through the Holy Land I suggest Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin. It’s easy to read and full of practical knowledge on Jesus and his ministry. Interestingly, most of his archaeological material comes from Jerome Murphy O’Conner’s book.
There you are. My 5 favorite books on the Holy Land.
And come on a tour with Douglas and me. It will be one of the highlights of your spiritual journey.
Dr. G. Steve Kinnard