Published December 18, 2008
ROME — Those who are interested in being part of an archeological dig in Israel should look into joining Alan Hix and James Scarry of Shorter College in the late spring of 2009.
Hix, chair of the department of religion and philosophy and associate professor of religion at Shorter, and Scarry, assistant professor of history, will lead the archaeological excavation at Kursi May 11-June 12. Kursi (Gergesa), the traditional sight of Jesus’ encounter with the Gaderene demoniac (Mark 5) and the miracle of the fish and the loaves (Mark 8), is located on the eastern bank of the Sea of Galilee.
Hix stated, “My interest in this site is on several levels. Since it was only discovered after the Six-Day War (1967), very little has been done, so the potential is wide open. Because it was discovered by the Israeli Department of Transportation, it is controlled by the Israeli Institute of Archeology, and not any religious body such as the Latin or Greek churches.
“The Jerusalem Institute has the only concession to excavate, so that means that American Christians, and by our involvement, Georgia Baptists, have an opportunity to have a stake in uncovering a part of the history of the early Gentile church. The excavators believe that Kursi is the site for the earliest expression of Gentile Christianity in Israel, potentially going back to the witnessing of the Gadarene demoniac.”
Hix, who has been appointed as an associate director of the excavation and is also a member of the faculty of the Jerusalem Institute of Biblical Exploration, is imminently qualified to lead the excavation.
“We will be looking for continued evidence to tell us what this early Christian community was like and how they lived,” Hix explained. “Kursi was a Christian enclave during a time when all those who lived around them were Jewish.
“Connecting with our ancient Christian forbears is an important focus for me. We are who we are today because of those who have gone before. These people stood firm for Christ in difficult and dangerous times. Some even paid for their faith with their lives. Their story of faith is both encouraging and humbling – two things Christians need today in these challenging times.”
In addition to the excavation and touring biblical sites on the weekends, Hix and his team of archeologists will spend some time on a Cultural Immersion experience. They will visit a Palestinian refuge camp, a Jewish settlement on the West bank, a kibbutz or Torah study, a Druze village and worship with Melkite Christians in Ibilin, and at St. Georges Church in Jerusalem.
Hix added, “I also hope to connect with a new theological school in Nazareth where our International Mission Board personnel are at work. I also look forward to visiting Fayiz Saknini’s (GBC missionary to Middle Easterners in Georgia) brother, who is pastor of First Baptist Church of Nazareth.”
Any artifacts discovered will become the property of the IIA, but some finds may be loaned to Shorter on a temporary basis. Those who become of the part of the expedition will have permission to publish reports and research on the excavation project.
The Kursi Excavation 2009 is open not only to Shorter students, but to non-students who desire to have an educational and inspirational experience in the land of the Bible. For additional information go to www.shorter.edu/Kursi2009.
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