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76 > 77 the definition of what constitutes a “sacred place” beyond traditional churches and shrines. Influenced by these trends, studies of contemporary Holy Land travel have begun to recognize that even U.S. evangelicals are “saturated with notions of place and place meaning.”5 Yet to date no major study has examined this relationship in its full complexity, and the assumption remains that evangelical visitors have little connection with the material culture on site or one that is fundamentally fraught.6 Scholars and Holy Land guides pinpoint two major ways that evangelicals can decrease their ambivalence enough to view a place as “authentic.” They rely on verification by experts, mainly biblical archeologists , who date a place and match it to descriptions in the scriptures. A classic example is the town of Capernaum, which is mentioned by name in the Gospels and whose ruins archeologists date to the first century . Second, they gravitate to “open” sites, those with no Catholic or Orthodox structures that seem to hinder an unmediated connection with Jesus.7 While this characterization is (often) correct, it skirts what is most important to pilgrims themselves: a sense of presence—the feeling that divine or invisible beings are manifest (often mediated through material things) and engage in intimate relationships with the living. Howpeopleseeandconversewithheavenlyfiguresisculturallydependent ,ofcourse.Protestantpilgrimsmostoftendescribebeinginrelationship with Jesus, angels, and deceased loved ones, whom they may picture as, for example, luminous apparitions or a feeling of overwhelming comfort and joy.8 I leave aside here their precise composition and focus instead on the interplay between textual literality, “place-consciousness,” and this network of human and invisible beings. What becomes clear is that for evangelicals the Holy Land is not only (or even primarily) a visionscape,asisoftenassumed,butalsoatouchscape,asoundscape,and asmellscape.9 Inshort,“authenticity”reliesonhowplacesfeel. Travel Snapshot 1: A Cleaner, Quieter Tomb The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a complex of churches and shrines that was first built in the third century. Today it is located in the center of Jerusalem’s Old City. For the majority of the world’s Christians, the site is believed to mark the place where Jesus was crucified and buried. It is infamous for inter-sect squabbles, which Ottoman rulers attempted to 78 > 79 era.13 As we waited, a young woman approached Helen and said, “English ?” The group was wary and did not want to respond, thinking of the trinket sellers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But she handed Helen a paper lily inscribed with a biblical blessing and refused any tips, explaining that she was a Christian from Brazil. Everyone was very pleased with the interaction; it legitimized the Garden Tomb as a spiritual place (not “commercial”) and as a nexus for Bible-believing Christians the world over. Our Garden Tomb guide, a Scotsman named Ken, ran a businesslike tour, describing the tomb’s discovery and justifying its claims to authenticity . Like a TV prophecy preacher, he peppered his speech with biblical allusions and disparate bits of scriptural evidence.14 He repeated the five biblical “criteria” for the tomb’s location a number of times, ticking them off on his fingers: “What does the Bible say? It says five things: it was close to the city, it was outside the walls, it was by a busy road, the skull shape, and the new tomb. We feel all these criteria fit exactly.” Once he established the link between scripture and this particular place, he switched gears, catching the group off guard. Ken: I grew up with an image in my mind, and you probably did too, that Jesus was on a hill [when he was crucified]. . . . And there’s a garden where Jesus was crucified, right? What would the garden have looked like? Group: “Flowers, trees.” “Like this.” “Like the garden we’re in.” Ken: No. This is an ornamental garden. It wouldn’t have looked like this at all. So forget this. Likely it was an olive grove or maybe a vineyard. Then Ken led us to the tomb site, and while we waited to enter the rockhewn cave, he showed us a third-century cross cut into the cliff above it. “Early Christians must have been here. Why would they come here?” He paused for effect, Maybe because this place meant a lot to them. But we can’t be one hundred percent sure, like I said. Anyway the tomb is empty. Again, we haven’t come to worship a tomb. We worship a living God. People sometimes leave...


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