Saint Catherine

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5 travelers at this place
  • Day10

    Jebel Musa

    December 14, 2021 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Jebel Musa means Mountain of Moses in Arabic. It is also traditionally understood to be Mt. Sinai or Horeb where Moses received the 10 Commandments. There is some debate about that, but this is the best known traditional site.
    The 1st picture is of Jebel Musa. It's the one farthest back. The 2nd picture is taken from the trail up the mountain and looks down the valley over St. Catherine's Monastery (see another post). The next picture is farther up the trail and looks off another side. You can see a school hidden in the valley. A few Bedouin families live there, too. The 4th picture looks down the side of the mountain at the twisting trail that leads up to where I took the picture. The 5th picture is Elijah's Basin, just below the summit. The building was a hermitage for monks.
    I did not make it to the summit for a number of reasons, including strong winds. It is still amazing to walk where tradition says Moses walked.
    The last picture is not at Jebel Musa. It is nearby. We were told that this is the site where the golden calf was placed. While it can't be verified, it is interesting that there seems to be a calf carved in the face of the rock by where the girl is standing, and the top of the rock is a large flat space. My thought is that it's unlikely but not totally impossible.
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  • Day11

    St. Catherine's Monastery

    December 15, 2021 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    If there is a bucket list for people interested in church history, this place is surely on it. It has certainly been on mine. It is a privilege to be here.
    The monastery dates to the 6th century and is one of the oldest active monasteries in the world. It also has the oldest library that contains many extremely important manuscripts and church art. It is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai or Jebel Musa (see another post), the traditional place where Moses received the 20 Commandments. The site is sacred to all 3 monotheistic religions.
    The 1st picture is taken from outside through the door into the church as photography isn't allowed inside. The place is spectacularly beautiful.
    The 2nd picture is a large shrub that is believed to be the burning bush that attracted Moses' attention, and the 3td picture is an ancient well called Moses's Well. This is believed to be the well where Moses rested after fleeing pharaoh and where he met Jethro.
    St. Catherine's is also famous for its collection if religious art and icons, a few if which are in the 4th picture. Some of these date to the 6th century. Of equal importance is the library with critically important manuscripts in many languages. The 5th picture shows 4 manuscripts, one each in Slavonic, Georgian, Latin and Syriac.
    Perhaps the most important document that had been kept by the monastery library is the Codex Sinaticus, one of the most important books in the world. It dates back over 1600 years and contains what is probably the oldest known complete copy of the New Testament. The last picture is of part of that.
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  • Day126

    St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai

    April 19, 2018 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 73 °F

    On Friday we reached the high point of the entire cruise for me—St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Desert. We had been here before in 1994, but back then the monastery did not admit visitors. Additionally, back then everyone on our bus except Glenda was sick with food poisoning. Glenda had eaten only salted peanuts and nabs that she carried with her.

    The monastery is in the middle of absolute, freakin’ nowhere. We had to drive through the desert for 3 hours to get to St. Catherine’s. It was begun by St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, on her tour of the Holy Land in 330 A. D. She spent two years in the Middle East collecting relics, and attempting to determine the locations of events mentioned in the Bible. There is a mountain here where God gave the tablets of the law to Moses. This is Mount Sinai. Or at least that’s what the folks here told Constantine’s mama. Oh, by the way, they also have the burning bush here, and a well that Moses dug.

    OK. Sounds good.

    However, there are a few other things that attracted my attention to this place. First, it contains the oldest library in the world still in existence. Secondly, it contains the oldest Christian icons in the world. Thirdly, it MAY contain the oldest Christian Church in the world. But the really important thing for me at St. Catherine’s is a Biblical manuscript written in the mid-fourth century by the monks here. Because it comes from Sinai, it has become known as the Codex Sinaiticus. It is the oldest copy of the Bible in existence. It is so important that the abbreviation for its name is the Hebrew letter A (Aleph). As far as Biblical textual studies are concerned, this is the alpha text.

    The story of the discovery of this document is “colorful.” In 1844 a German Count named von Tischendorf, with too much time and money on his hands, decided to go to the Middle East to, well, discover stuff. Young European aristocrats were into that kind of thing back then. He returned to St. Catherine’s in 1859. While at the church here, Count vonT said he found a sheaf of old papers lying on the floor with a bunch of other garbage, and noticed that one sheaf was written with Greek capital letters. He knew that such uncial (capital letter) manuscripts were older than others, so he stuffed them into his knapsack. Then he took/bought/stole the manuscript. When he returned to the University of Leipzig—Surprise! Surprise! He had the oldest copy of the Bible ever found. OK, a few books of the Bible were missing, but almost all of it was there.

    Egypt cried “Foul!” So did the monastery. And the argument began. Then, under very uncertain circumstances, the codex mysteriously showed up in Russia. To complicate matters, Stalin sold it to the British Museum in 1933 and they staked a claim to it. Then strangely, in 2003 a letter appeared, supposedly written in 1859 by the Bishop of Alexandria, which documents the sale of the manuscript to von Tischendorf. The fuss and the furor would make a novel that I don’t want to write in this post, but it really got nasty. The good news is that by the time of the mid-20th century all of the concerned parties decided to be nice about sharing the wealth. When I was in seminary we had photocopies of the manuscript on microfiche. Now it’s widely available on the Internet. The parties concerned have even agreed to share the document itself. Sort of. Part of Codex Sinaiticus is now in Leipzig, part at the British Museum, and (hooray!) part of it was allowed to come back home to St. Catherine’s Monastery.

    Today first we went to the library and museum, then to the church. We are most blessed to be allowed to come here. The wonderful people of Viking Cruises have no way of knowing how much they are enriching our lives.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Saint Catherine, SKV, _Egypt