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Vol.  9  No. 8 August 2007  Page 10
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Louis RushmoreFunny Name Bible Geography

By Louis Rushmore, Editor

    From my first quarter of study at Memphis School of Preaching (1975), sitting at the feet of the beloved and belated brother Richard Curry, I began to learn about Bible geography through funny names that brother Curry associated with various places. I immediately bought a set of Eilers’ Sunday School Maps at the Gospel Advocate Bookstore in Memphis and began to teach my three-year-old daughter Bible geography through the use of funny names. (The current Eilers’ map set and some others can be found at http://www.stinsonpress1.com/catalog/maps.html if nowhere else.) I loved Bible geography from the moment brother Curry began to unfold it in such an easy way to remember.

    Over the years, I have expanded the number of funny names and taught Bible geography thereby to preschoolers through adults, from congregational settings to preacher training classes for ten years at West Virginia School of Preaching. Occasionally, someone asks me to provide a list of these funny names associated with Bible geography, which in part sometimes I have done. Herein, though, I hope to provide a more complete list.

    I firmly believe that we do an injustice to our Bible studies, to those before whom we stand in the classroom and those to whom we preach if we do not link in those audiences’ minds the biblical places with the biblical events and characters mentioned in our teaching. Since I teach Bible geography to children in the auditorium before the evening worship, I often make passing references to the funny names along with the real names of Bible places in my preaching and teaching of adults. The adults have overheard the associations by either intentionally watching the achievements of the children, or indirectly by being present. This way, adults may think that the use of funny names along with the real names, for instance, in the sermon are for the children, and I know that the adults can get a handle on it if the children can. No one is embarrassed and comprehension of places associated with a given lesson is achieved.

    Eventually, the children learn the real names of places and events associated with the Bible places without being prompted by the funny names. The learning process also provides some interesting and amusing moments along the way. Three-year-old Brayden Chambers remarked when quizzed recently about what happened to the apostle Paul at the island of Malta, “That’s where he dropped his cookies.” You see, the funny name for Malta is “cookie crumbs.” Brayden knows that Paul’s ship sank, but thought that’s where and why he dropped his cookies. Aside from this amusing misstep, this young man knows the Bible maps more thoroughly by real place names and the events that transpired at them than any adult, including and maybe especially preacher students, to whom I have ever taught Bible geography. If I was a bett’n man, I’d wager on Brayden’s Bible geography knowledge above almost any other adult (preachers excepted).

    Come with me on a little trip through the Bible lands. Let’s start in Palestine because it is the center of the greater part of biblical history. At the far north of the map east of the Jordan River is Mt. Herman, the Big Eye; there is snow atop Mt. Herman all year long, which melting snow fills the Muddy Jordan River, Snaky (Fishing) Line, which flows all the way down to the Dead (Salt) Sea, the Big Blue Fish. It is called the Dead Sea because it has too much salt in it, which kills all plant and fish life in it. Surely, you can discern the mouth of the fish, its fin and its tail. The first body of water on the Jordan River south of Mt. Herman is Lake Merom (or Hula), the Blue, Fried Chicken Leg; you might want to caution youngsters not to eat any blue fried chicken. The next body of water south on the Jordan River is the Sea of Galilee, the Blue, Upside-down Pear, where Jesus walked on the water.

    Just east of the head of the Dead Sea is Mt. Nebo, Knee-high Nebo, where God buried Moses. Of course, you can easily find Mt. Carmel, the Thumb on the Seacoast, where the preacher Elijah served God. Just north of Mt. Carmel is the Plain of Accho, the Beach Called Accho; just south of Mt. Carmel is the Plain of Sharon, the Beach Called Sharon; below the city of Joppa is the Plain of Philistia, the Beach Called Philistia. The city of Jerusalem is the Doughnut with the Hole in the Middle; Bethlehem where Jesus was born is just under the Doughnut. The city of Dan is the Topmost City in Palestine (top of the map); Beersheba is the Bottom City in Palestine (bottom of the map). The Mediterranean Sea is the Big Water.

    The inset map of Jerusalem has on it the Valley of the Cheesemakers (Tyropean Valley) running north to south through the city. At the bottom of the inset map is the Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna, the Garbage Dump on Fire. The Mt. of Olives from where Jesus went back to heaven is in the bottom right corner of the inset map.

    These are the chief places on the map of Palestine for general memorization. You get the idea. For the sake of conciseness in this writing, the balance of funny names and their respective real names are merely listed below.

    Map of the Mediterranean world: Mediterranean Sea=Biggest Blue Water on this map; Dead Sea=Little Blue or Baby Fish; Antioch of Syria where Paul began all his trips to tell people about Jesus=Under the Blue Elephant’s Nose; Cyprus= Pink Alligator with his Mouth Open; Crete=Man Lying on his Back with a Bad Hair Day; Malta where Paul’s ship sank=Cookie Crumbs; Sicily=Yellow Football being kicked by the Boot; Italy=Pink Cowboy Boot; Corinth=Apple Falling Out of the Ugly Blue Horse’s Mouth; Black Sea=Big Blue Peanut.

    Map of the Bible Lands: Mediterranean Sea=Biggest Blue Water on this map); Caspian Sea (largest salt lake in the world)=Casper the Blue Ghost; Black Sea (largest freshwater lake in the world before the Mediterranean spilled into it)=Big Blue Peanut; Persian Gulf=Blue Pig (aerial view of back, hind legs and tail); Red Sea=Blue Rabbit; Gulf of Suez=Big Rabbit Ear; Gulf of Aqaba=Little Rabbit Ear; Mt. Ararat=Where Noah’s Ark Landed after the Flood Waters Went Down; Mt. Sinai where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone=Bump on the Rabbit’s Head; Nile River (longest river in the world)=Flower Stem with Bloom on Top; Fertile Crescent=Rainbow (going from the Pig’s tail to the Elephant’s nose to the Rabbit); Euphrates and Tigris rivers=Grasshopper Antenna; Arabian Desert=Big Green Sandbox (under the Rainbow); mountains above the Fertile Crescent=Rock Garden (in which the prettiest stone is Mt. Ararat).

    A neat experiment after youngsters (as young as preschoolers) have become accustomed to the Bible maps is to have them take turns identifying places in Palestine on the imaginary map of a blank wall. Ask the first student (perhaps the weakest) to touch the wall where Jerusalem the Doughnut with the Hole in the Middle is located. Place your finger where the young one touched and ask successive students to touch places on the imaginary map in relationship to the location of Jerusalem. It is truly amazing, and evidence that the children have really learned something about Bible geography. If these babies can do, even adults can learn something about Bible geography!
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