Nazareth is wonderfully interesting because the town has an air about it
of being precisely as Jesus left it, and one finds himself saying, all the
time, "The boy Jesus has stood in this doorway—has played in that
street—has touched these stones with his hands—has rambled
over these chalky hills." Whoever shall write the boyhood of Jesus
ingeniously will make a book which will possess a vivid interest for young
and old alike. I judge so from the greater interest we found in Nazareth
than any of our speculations upon Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee gave
rise to. It was not possible, standing by the Sea of Galilee, to frame
more than a vague, far-away idea of the majestic Personage who walked upon
the crested waves as if they had been solid earth, and who touched the
dead and they rose up and spoke. I read among my notes, now, with a new
interest, some sentences from an edition of 1621 of the Apocryphal New
[Extract.] "Christ, kissed by a bride made dumb by sorcerers, cures her.
A leprous girl cured by the water in which the infant Christ was washed,
and becomes the servant of Joseph and Mary. The leprous son of a Prince
cured in like manner.
"A young man who had been bewitched and turned into a mule, miraculously
cured by the infant Savior being put on his back, and is married to the
girl who had been cured of leprosy. Whereupon the bystanders praise God.
"Chapter 16. Christ miraculously widens or contracts gates, milk-pails,
sieves or boxes, not properly made by Joseph, he not being skillful at
his carpenter's trade. The King of Jerusalem gives Joseph an order for a
throne. Joseph works on it for two years and makes it two spans too
short. The King being angry with him, Jesus comforts him—commands
him to pull one side of the throne while he pulls the other, and brings
it to its proper dimensions.
"Chapter 19. Jesus, charged with throwing a boy from the roof of a
house, miraculously causes the dead boy to speak and acquit him; fetches
water for his mother, breaks the pitcher and miraculously gathers the
water in his mantle and brings it home.
"Sent to a schoolmaster, refuses to tell his letters, and the
schoolmaster going to whip him, his hand withers."
Further on in this quaint volume of rejected gospels is an epistle of St.
Clement to the Corinthians, which was used in the churches and considered
genuine fourteen or fifteen hundred years ago. In it this account of the
fabled phoenix occurs:
"1. Let us consider that wonderful type of the resurrection, which is
seen in the Eastern countries, that is to say, in Arabia.
"2. There is a certain bird called a phoenix. Of this there is never but
one at a time, and that lives five hundred years. And when the time of
its dissolution draws near, that it must die, it makes itself a nest of
frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when its time is
fulfilled, it enters and dies.
"3. But its flesh, putrefying, breeds a certain worm, which, being
nourished by the juice of the dead bird, brings forth feathers; and when
it is grown to a perfect state, it takes up the nest in which the bones
of its parent lie, and carries it from Arabia into Egypt, to a city
"4. And flying in open day in the sight of all men, lays it upon the
altar of the sun, and so returns from whence it came.
"5. The priests then search into the records of the time, and find that
it returned precisely at the end of five hundred years."
Business is business, and there is nothing like punctuality, especially in
The few chapters relating to the infancy of the Saviour contain many
things which seem frivolous and not worth preserving. A large part of the
remaining portions of the book read like good Scripture, however. There is
one verse that ought not to have been rejected, because it so evidently
prophetically refers to the general run of Congresses of the United
"199. They carry themselves high, and as prudent men; and though they
are fools, yet would seem to be teachers."
I have set these extracts down, as I found them. Everywhere among the
cathedrals of France and Italy, one finds traditions of personages that do
not figure in the Bible, and of miracles that are not mentioned in its
pages. But they are all in this Apocryphal New Testament, and though they
have been ruled out of our modern Bible, it is claimed that they were
accepted gospel twelve or fifteen centuries ago, and ranked as high in
credit as any. One needs to read this book before he visits those
venerable cathedrals, with their treasures of tabooed and forgotten
They imposed another pirate upon us at Nazareth—another invincible
Arab guard. We took our last look at the city, clinging like a whitewashed
wasp's nest to the hill-side, and at eight o'clock in the morning
departed. We dismounted and drove the horses down a bridle-path which I
think was fully as crooked as a corkscrew, which I know to be as steep as
the downward sweep of a rainbow, and which I believe to be the worst piece
of road in the geography, except one in the Sandwich Islands, which I
remember painfully, and possibly one or two mountain trails in the Sierra
Often, in this narrow path the horse had to poise himself nicely on a rude
stone step and then drop his fore-feet over the edge and down something
more than half his own height. This brought his nose near the ground,
while his tail pointed up toward the sky somewhere, and gave him the
appearance of preparing to stand on his head. A horse cannot look
dignified in this position. We accomplished the long descent at last, and
trotted across the great Plain of Esdraelon.
Some of us will be shot before we finish this pilgrimage. The pilgrims
read "Nomadic Life" and keep themselves in a constant state of Quixotic
heroism. They have their hands on their pistols all the time, and every
now and then, when you least expect it, they snatch them out and take aim
at Bedouins who are not visible, and draw their knives and make savage
passes at other Bedouins who do not exist. I am in deadly peril always,
for these spasms are sudden and irregular, and of course I cannot tell
when to be getting out of the way. If I am accidentally murdered, some
time, during one of these romantic frenzies of the pilgrims, Mr. Grimes
must be rigidly held to answer as an accessory before the fact. If the
pilgrims would take deliberate aim and shoot at a man, it would be all
right and proper—because that man would not be in any danger; but
these random assaults are what I object to. I do not wish to see any more
places like Esdraelon, where the ground is level and people can gallop. It
puts melodramatic nonsense into the pilgrims' heads. All at once, when one
is jogging along stupidly in the sun, and thinking about something ever so
far away, here they come, at a stormy gallop, spurring and whooping at
those ridgy old sore-backed plugs till their heels fly higher than their
heads, and as they whiz by, out comes a little potato-gun of a revolver,
there is a startling little pop, and a small pellet goes singing through
the air. Now that I have begun this pilgrimage, I intend to go through
with it, though sooth to say, nothing but the most desperate valor has
kept me to my purpose up to the present time. I do not mind Bedouins,—I
am not afraid of them; because neither Bedouins nor ordinary Arabs have
shown any disposition to harm us, but I do feel afraid of my own comrades.
Arriving at the furthest verge of the Plain, we rode a little way up a
hill and found ourselves at Endor, famous for its witch. Her descendants
are there yet. They were the wildest horde of half-naked savages we have
found thus far. They swarmed out of mud bee-hives; out of hovels of the
dry-goods box pattern; out of gaping caves under shelving rocks; out of
crevices in the earth. In five minutes the dead solitude and silence of
the place were no more, and a begging, screeching, shouting mob were
struggling about the horses' feet and blocking the way. "Bucksheesh!
bucksheesh! bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh!" It was Magdala over again,
only here the glare from the infidel eyes was fierce and full of hate. The
population numbers two hundred and fifty, and more than half the citizens
live in caves in the rock. Dirt, degradation and savagery are Endor's
specialty. We say no more about Magdala and Deburieh now. Endor heads the
list. It is worse than any Indian 'campoodie'. The hill is barren, rocky,
and forbidding. No sprig of grass is visible, and only one tree. This is a
fig-tree, which maintains a precarious footing among the rocks at the
mouth of the dismal cavern once occupied by the veritable Witch of Endor.
In this cavern, tradition says, Saul, the king, sat at midnight, and
stared and trembled, while the earth shook, the thunders crashed among the
hills, and out of the midst of fire and smoke the spirit of the dead
prophet rose up and confronted him. Saul had crept to this place in the
darkness, while his army slept, to learn what fate awaited him in the
morrow's battle. He went away a sad man, to meet disgrace and death.
A spring trickles out of the rock in the gloomy recesses of the cavern,
and we were thirsty. The citizens of Endor objected to our going in there.
They do not mind dirt; they do not mind rags; they do not mind vermin;
they do not mind barbarous ignorance and savagery; they do not mind a
reasonable degree of starvation, but they do like to be pure and holy
before their god, whoever he may be, and therefore they shudder and grow
almost pale at the idea of Christian lips polluting a spring whose waters
must descend into their sanctified gullets. We had no wanton desire to
wound even their feelings or trample upon their prejudices, but we were
out of water, thus early in the day, and were burning up with thirst. It
was at this time, and under these circumstances, that I framed an aphorism
which has already become celebrated. I said: "Necessity knows no law." We
went in and drank.
We got away from the noisy wretches, finally, dropping them in squads and
couples as we filed over the hills—the aged first, the infants next,
the young girls further on; the strong men ran beside us a mile, and only
left when they had secured the last possible piastre in the way of
In an hour, we reached Nain, where Christ raised the widow's son to life.
Nain is Magdala on a small scale. It has no population of any consequence.
Within a hundred yards of it is the original graveyard, for aught I know;
the tombstones lie flat on the ground, which is Jewish fashion in Syria. I
believe the Moslems do not allow them to have upright tombstones. A Moslem
grave is usually roughly plastered over and whitewashed, and has at one
end an upright projection which is shaped into exceedingly rude attempts
at ornamentation. In the cities, there is often no appearance of a grave
at all; a tall, slender marble tombstone, elaborately lettered, gilded and
painted, marks the burial place, and this is surmounted by a turban, so
carved and shaped as to signify the dead man's rank in life.
They showed a fragment of ancient wall which they said was one side of the
gate out of which the widow's dead son was being brought so many centuries
ago when Jesus met the procession:
"Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold there was a dead
man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and
much people of the city was with her.
"And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said, Weep
"And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still.
And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, arise.
"And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him
to his mother.
"And there came a fear on all. And they glorified God, saying, That a
great prophet is risen up among us; and That God hath visited his
A little mosque stands upon the spot which tradition says was occupied by
the widow's dwelling. Two or three aged Arabs sat about its door. We
entered, and the pilgrims broke specimens from the foundation walls,
though they had to touch, and even step, upon the "praying carpets" to do
it. It was almost the same as breaking pieces from the hearts of those old
Arabs. To step rudely upon the sacred praying mats, with booted feet—a
thing not done by any Arab—was to inflict pain upon men who had not
offended us in any way. Suppose a party of armed foreigners were to enter
a village church in America and break ornaments from the altar railings
for curiosities, and climb up and walk upon the Bible and the pulpit
cushions? However, the cases are different. One is the profanation of a
temple of our faith—the other only the profanation of a pagan one.
We descended to the Plain again, and halted a moment at a well—of
Abraham's time, no doubt. It was in a desert place. It was walled three
feet above ground with squared and heavy blocks of stone, after the manner
of Bible pictures. Around it some camels stood, and others knelt. There
was a group of sober little donkeys with naked, dusky children clambering
about them, or sitting astride their rumps, or pulling their tails. Tawny,
black-eyed, barefooted maids, arrayed in rags and adorned with brazen
armlets and pinchbeck ear-rings, were poising water-jars upon their heads,
or drawing water from the well. A flock of sheep stood by, waiting for the
shepherds to fill the hollowed stones with water, so that they might drink—stones
which, like those that walled the well, were worn smooth and deeply
creased by the chafing chins of a hundred generations of thirsty animals.
Picturesque Arabs sat upon the ground, in groups, and solemnly smoked
their long-stemmed chibouks. Other Arabs were filling black hog-skins with
water—skins which, well filled, and distended with water till the
short legs projected painfully out of the proper line, looked like the
corpses of hogs bloated by drowning. Here was a grand Oriental picture
which I had worshiped a thousand times in soft, rich steel engravings! But
in the engraving there was no desolation; no dirt; no rags; no fleas; no
ugly features; no sore eyes; no feasting flies; no besotted ignorance in
the countenances; no raw places on the donkeys' backs; no disagreeable
jabbering in unknown tongues; no stench of camels; no suggestion that a
couple of tons of powder placed under the party and touched off would
heighten the effect and give to the scene a genuine interest and a charm
which it would always be pleasant to recall, even though a man lived a
Oriental scenes look best in steel engravings. I cannot be imposed upon
any more by that picture of the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon. I shall
say to myself, You look fine, Madam but your feet are not clean and you
smell like a camel.
Presently a wild Arab in charge of a camel train recognized an old friend
in Ferguson, and they ran and fell upon each other's necks and kissed each
other's grimy, bearded faces upon both cheeks. It explained instantly a
something which had always seemed to me only a farfetched Oriental figure
of speech. I refer to the circumstance of Christ's rebuking a Pharisee, or
some such character, and reminding him that from him he had received no
"kiss of welcome."
It did not seem reasonable to me that men should kiss each other, but I am
aware, now, that they did. There was reason in it, too. The custom was
natural and proper; because people must kiss, and a man would not be
likely to kiss one of the women of this country of his own free will and
accord. One must travel, to learn. Every day, now, old Scriptural phrases
that never possessed any significance for me before, take to themselves a
We journeyed around the base of the mountain—"Little Hermon,"—past
the old Crusaders' castle of El Fuleh, and arrived at Shunem. This was
another Magdala, to a fraction, frescoes and all. Here, tradition says,
the prophet Samuel was born, and here the Shunamite woman built a little
house upon the city wall for the accommodation of the prophet Elisha.
Elisha asked her what she expected in return. It was a perfectly natural
question, for these people are and were in the habit of proffering favors
and services and then expecting and begging for pay. Elisha knew them
well. He could not comprehend that any body should build for him that
humble little chamber for the mere sake of old friendship, and with no
selfish motive whatever. It used to seem a very impolite, not to say a
rude, question, for Elisha to ask the woman, but it does not seem so to me
now. The woman said she expected nothing. Then for her goodness and her
unselfishness, he rejoiced her heart with the news that she should bear a
son. It was a high reward—but she would not have thanked him for a
daughter—daughters have always been unpopular here. The son was
born, grew, waxed strong, died. Elisha restored him to life in Shunem.
We found here a grove of lemon trees—cool, shady, hung with fruit.
One is apt to overestimate beauty when it is rare, but to me this grove
seemed very beautiful. It was beautiful. I do not overestimate it. I must
always remember Shunem gratefully, as a place which gave to us this leafy
shelter after our long, hot ride. We lunched, rested, chatted, smoked our
pipes an hour, and then mounted and moved on.
As we trotted across the Plain of Jezreel, we met half a dozen Digger
Indians (Bedouins) with very long spears in their hands, cavorting around
on old crowbait horses, and spearing imaginary enemies; whooping, and
fluttering their rags in the wind, and carrying on in every respect like a
pack of hopeless lunatics. At last, here were the "wild, free sons of the
desert, speeding over the plain like the wind, on their beautiful Arabian
mares" we had read so much about and longed so much to see! Here were the
"picturesque costumes!" This was the "gallant spectacle!" Tatterdemalion
vagrants—cheap braggadocio—"Arabian mares" spined and necked
like the ichthyosaurus in the museum, and humped and cornered like a
dromedary! To glance at the genuine son of the desert is to take the
romance out of him forever—to behold his steed is to long in charity
to strip his harness off and let him fall to pieces.
Presently we came to a ruinous old town on a hill, the same being the
Ahab, King of Samaria, (this was a very vast kingdom, for those days, and
was very nearly half as large as Rhode Island) dwelt in the city of
Jezreel, which was his capital. Near him lived a man by the name of
Naboth, who had a vineyard. The King asked him for it, and when he would
not give it, offered to buy it. But Naboth refused to sell it. In those
days it was considered a sort of crime to part with one's inheritance at
any price—and even if a man did part with it, it reverted to himself
or his heirs again at the next jubilee year. So this spoiled child of a
King went and lay down on the bed with his face to the wall, and grieved
sorely. The Queen, a notorious character in those days, and whose name is
a by-word and a reproach even in these, came in and asked him wherefore he
sorrowed, and he told her. Jezebel said she could secure the vineyard; and
she went forth and forged letters to the nobles and wise men, in the
King's name, and ordered them to proclaim a fast and set Naboth on high
before the people, and suborn two witnesses to swear that he had
blasphemed. They did it, and the people stoned the accused by the city
wall, and he died. Then Jezebel came and told the King, and said, Behold,
Naboth is no more—rise up and seize the vineyard. So Ahab seized the
vineyard, and went into it to possess it. But the Prophet Elijah came to
him there and read his fate to him, and the fate of Jezebel; and said that
in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs should also lick
his blood—and he said, likewise, the dogs should eat Jezebel by the
wall of Jezreel. In the course of time, the King was killed in battle, and
when his chariot wheels were washed in the pool of Samaria, the dogs
licked the blood. In after years, Jehu, who was King of Israel, marched
down against Jezreel, by order of one of the Prophets, and administered
one of those convincing rebukes so common among the people of those days:
he killed many kings and their subjects, and as he came along he saw
Jezebel, painted and finely dressed, looking out of a window, and ordered
that she be thrown down to him. A servant did it, and Jehu's horse
trampled her under foot. Then Jehu went in and sat down to dinner; and
presently he said, Go and bury this cursed woman, for she is a King's
daughter. The spirit of charity came upon him too late, however, for the
prophecy had already been fulfilled—the dogs had eaten her, and they
"found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her
Ahab, the late King, had left a helpless family behind him, and Jehu
killed seventy of the orphan sons. Then he killed all the relatives, and
teachers, and servants and friends of the family, and rested from his
labors, until he was come near to Samaria, where he met forty-two persons
and asked them who they were; they said they were brothers of the King of
Judah. He killed them. When he got to Samaria, he said he would show his
zeal for the Lord; so he gathered all the priests and people together that
worshiped Baal, pretending that he was going to adopt that worship and
offer up a great sacrifice; and when they were all shut up where they
could not defend themselves, he caused every person of them to be killed.
Then Jehu, the good missionary, rested from his labors once more.
We went back to the valley, and rode to the Fountain of Ain Jelud. They
call it the Fountain of Jezreel, usually. It is a pond about one hundred
feet square and four feet deep, with a stream of water trickling into it
from under an overhanging ledge of rocks. It is in the midst of a great
solitude. Here Gideon pitched his camp in the old times; behind Shunem lay
the "Midianites, the Amalekites, and the Children of the East," who were
"as grasshoppers for multitude; both they and their camels were without
number, as the sand by the sea-side for multitude." Which means that there
were one hundred and thirty-five thousand men, and that they had
transportation service accordingly.
Gideon, with only three hundred men, surprised them in the night, and
stood by and looked on while they butchered each other until a hundred and
twenty thousand lay dead on the field.
We camped at Jenin before night, and got up and started again at one
o'clock in the morning. Somewhere towards daylight we passed the locality
where the best authenticated tradition locates the pit into which Joseph's
brethren threw him, and about noon, after passing over a succession of
mountain tops, clad with groves of fig and olive trees, with the
Mediterranean in sight some forty miles away, and going by many ancient
Biblical cities whose inhabitants glowered savagely upon our Christian
procession, and were seemingly inclined to practice on it with stones, we
came to the singularly terraced and unlovely hills that betrayed that we
were out of Galilee and into Samaria at last.
We climbed a high hill to visit the city of Samaria, where the woman may
have hailed from who conversed with Christ at Jacob's Well, and from
whence, no doubt, came also the celebrated Good Samaritan. Herod the Great
is said to have made a magnificent city of this place, and a great number
of coarse limestone columns, twenty feet high and two feet through, that
are almost guiltless of architectural grace of shape and ornament, are
pointed out by many authors as evidence of the fact. They would not have
been considered handsome in ancient Greece, however.
The inhabitants of this camp are particularly vicious, and stoned two
parties of our pilgrims a day or two ago who brought about the difficulty
by showing their revolvers when they did not intend to use them—a
thing which is deemed bad judgment in the Far West, and ought certainly to
be so considered any where. In the new Territories, when a man puts his
hand on a weapon, he knows that he must use it; he must use it instantly
or expect to be shot down where he stands. Those pilgrims had been reading
There was nothing for us to do in Samaria but buy handfuls of old Roman
coins at a franc a dozen, and look at a dilapidated church of the
Crusaders and a vault in it which once contained the body of John the
Baptist. This relic was long ago carried away to Genoa.
Samaria stood a disastrous siege, once, in the days of Elisha, at the
hands of the King of Syria. Provisions reached such a figure that "an ass'
head was sold for eighty pieces of silver and the fourth part of a cab of
dove's dung for five pieces of silver."
An incident recorded of that heavy time will give one a very good idea of
the distress that prevailed within these crumbling walls. As the King was
walking upon the battlements one day, "a woman cried out, saying, Help, my
lord, O King! And the King said, What aileth thee? and she answered, This
woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to-day, and we will
eat my son to-morrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him; and I said
unto her on the next day, Give thy son that we may eat him; and she hath
hid her son."
The prophet Elisha declared that within four and twenty hours the prices
of food should go down to nothing, almost, and it was so. The Syrian army
broke camp and fled, for some cause or other, the famine was relieved from
without, and many a shoddy speculator in dove's dung and ass's meat was
We were glad to leave this hot and dusty old village and hurry on. At two
o'clock we stopped to lunch and rest at ancient Shechem, between the
historic Mounts of Gerizim and Ebal, where in the old times the books of
the law, the curses and the blessings, were read from the heights to the
Jewish multitudes below.