I drove from Easton to Ronks, in Lancaster County, in a couple of hours.
It could have been a few minutes quicker perhaps, if I had followed the original Google Maps directions. Toward the end of the Google route, you have to leave the highway and make turns on roads that aren’t part of any established route.
You can take that kind of shortcut if you know the area. But then, you wouldn’t need to consult Google Maps.
It’s what happens when you let a computer make decisions.
I took Google’s advice for the start. I went north on Third Street to U.S. 22 West, which later merges with I-78 for a while. You travel about 25 miles from Easton and take the exit at Fogelsville for U.S. 222 south.
This could take me back to Reading, so I used the bypass. U.S. 222 meets one of my favorite highways, U.S. 30, a few miles west of where I was going.
Some of the signs got a little confusing, so I stopped for gas and directions. The lady at Speedway said, yes, I was on the right track to the Lincoln Highway in Ronks.
The highway is almost like Pigeon Forge, Tenn. But here the emphasis is on Amish. There’s Amish this and Old Dutch that, which probably have precious little to do with anybody Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch.
Ah, gang, it was a good morning.
The Sleep Inn is a hundred or so yards east of the Bible History Exhibits, which is the reason I came here.
I had no idea what the museum would be. Maybe it’s one of those places that tries to convince people that the story of the creation of Adam and Eve is sound history and that the world indeed is 6,000 years old.
The museum is in a small house on the Lincoln Highway. I walked from the hotel and went into the entrance, where I met two small dogs behind a baby gate. They barked aggressively, as small dogs do. Maybe that’s small dog for hello.
They serve as the entry bell, because a man came up from the backyard to let me into the museum. For eight bucks, he led me on an hour-long tour of the Old and New Testaments and church history.
And it was history, not propaganda.
There was far too much for me to remember it all. Most of the exhibits are replicas, although there are some originals.
There is a replica of the copy of Isaiah found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The man showed how the scrolls were stored in jars in the cave where they were found in 1947.
One small scrap from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is represented by a replica, is believed by some to be a fragment from the Gospel of Mark. That’s controversial, the man said.
There were replicas of cuneiform and hieroglyphic tablets, some actual size and some scaled down. The inscriptions included references to the Habiru, which is generally interpreted as a form of the word “Hebrew.”
Some of the replicas show figures, illustrating how people mentioned in the Bible may have dressed. One had images of three Patriarchs, including Israel, an alternative name for Jacob, with names written in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The New Testament section included a full-size photo reproduction of the Shroud of Turin and replicas of several historical codices. One of the most important from a scholarly point of view is the Codex Sinaiticus, so called because it was retrieved from a monastery on Mount Sinai in the 19th century.
The codex, a hand-written text bound as a book instead of a scroll, contains the Septuagint, a pre-Christian translation of the Old Testament into Greek, and the oldest complete text of the New Testament. It is generally believed to have been made in the 4th century.
It was taken from the monastery by a German scholar named Tischendorf, who presented it to the Tsar of Russia. The codex is now scattered among several places, including Moscow and Berlin. A few pages have been returned to the monastery.
I had read about the codex several years ago in a book lent to me by Pyrrhus Ruches, a newspaper copy editor whose real occupation was the study of the former Roman and Ottoman Empires. He’s the only guy I ever knew whom you could stop on the street to ask, “What’s a Janissary?” And get an answer.
I really did that one morning on University Place when Pyrrhus and I worked for Fairchild Publications.
Anyhow, to see the codex, even though in facsimile, was quite a treat.
The church history section contains a complete facsimile of the King James Bible and a few leaves from an original. After the plays of Shakespeare, the King James, or Authorized, translation of the Bible is a crowning work of English literature, so I always approach it with a certain awe.
I’ve seen originals in the British Museum in London, but even so, it was fun to see it again.
The exhibit is illustrated by framed photos of places like Petra and Tel el Amarna, which are identified with locations in the Bible. The man said he had taken most of them himself.
He also mentioned taking his kids to a site in the Near East where they could dig and recover pottery shards. That surprised me.
But maybe it was like the spots in his museum’s backyard where kids can dig for replica treasures that he put there.
He also has an olive press out back. He explained the different pressings. Extra virgin (as Beatrice once put it, “squeezed only a little bit”) was the first press with only one weight on the lever. Then he pulled a bottle of EVOO out of the press.
That was used for special occasions, like religious observances and anointing kings.
Second pressing needed extra weight and was used for every day cooking. The oil in that bottle had a little less color.
Last press would have impurities in it and so was used for burning. No bottle this time, just an oil lamp.
The big thing in the yard, though, is a reconstruction of a tomb. The practice was much the same as in present-day New Orleans. The body is laid out in a shroud for a year inside the tomb. Then the bones are transferred to an ossuary and placed in a niche in the wall.
What you see in the photo of the day would have been the interior of the tomb. The body wasn't left exposed to the elements.
It has been a long while since I was last in Lancaster County. It’s surprising how Amish it still is. I would have expected the big tourist trade to have driven them out.
They are here, though. You see buggies everywhere. They carry small electric lights, probably required by law.
There is also an innovation over the past 10 or 20 years of using scooters and bicycles with no pedals.
I saw the bicycle in use on the Eastern Shore of Maryland a few years ago. In Lancaster there were men pushing scooters, equipped with tires that you might find on a child’s bike and handle-bar baskets to carry packages home from the store.
The men wearing long beards, straw hats, and suspenders patiently push them along on the side of the Lincoln Highway, next to the traffic.
My favorite Amish sighting of the day was a young man, beardless and in his teens or twenties, driving a traditional black one-horse buggy up the shoulder of the highway. He was holding the reins in one hand because the other hand was holding what appeared to be a smart phone.
I have no idea what the story behind that is.
This is a tourist trap area, so the food and drink here are adequate, but so far generally undistinguished.
It’s Sunday afternoon right now, so I’m about to go exploring to see what I can find.
Be well, all.