Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
The Winter 2020 edition of Biblical Archaeology Review has a fascinating article about a recently completed project involving date palm seeds from the Judean Wilderness. The Judean Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) was widely grown and sold for at least 1600 years, from at least the fifth-century B.C. until the 11th-century A.D. Archaeological excavations at Masada, Qumran, and Wadi Makukh netted several ancient seeds which researchers then went to work to try and germinate. Of the 32 planted, six germinated. It takes 4-10 years for female palm trees to produce fruit, and in the fall of 2019 this extinct fruit tree was brought back (“New Fruit From Old Seeds,” BAR, Vol. 46, No. 5, Megan Sauter, p. 18-19).
To me, it’s particularly fitting that such a discovery and experiment transpired in the very area where the church was established. The fact that ancient seed was planted and successfully produced results today serves as an illustration of a Bible truth. Peter wrote, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:22-23). Peter draws on an imagery he heard his Lord use in His parables (Luke 8:11). Other New Testament writers draw the same analogy (1 Cor. 3:6-9). They planted the Word and it produced disciples of Jesus. How do we produce true followers of Him today? We plant the same, ancient seed. The researchers involved in the Judean date palm project had to soak and fertilize those seeds to coax their growth, but their perseverance paid off in reestablishing the original, fruit-bearing tree.
How often in history have people taken the ancient seed, planted it in hearts, watered it, tended it, and produced the exact same thing despite the passing of centuries? Restoring New Testament Christianity is possible. In fact, if we believe the Bible, it’s necessary. If we plant what they planted, the living and enduring word, we will have what they had–purified souls who obey the truth and are born again. We cannot give up on that principle. It’s essential, but also doable! Let’s be looking for new soil to plant that ancient seed in, then watch God work!