[…] Jesus and His friends disembark at the south-east point of Lake Tiberias, to go to the town of Gadara. “You know the shortest way to Gadara, don’t you? Do you remember? Jesus asks. ‘I should just think so! When we reach the hot springs above Yarmoc, all we have to do is follow the road’, replies Peter” [356.1]. “This is the Yarmoc, these buildings are the Roman Spas and further along, there is a very good paved road leading to Gadara” [356.3].
The Yarmoc: In fact the Yarmouk is an “insignificant” affluent of the left bank of the River Jordan, 6 km south of Lake Tiberias, barely 80 km long. Its name does not even appear in the Bible, but is found only in the Talmud. Several hot springs, (sometimes over 50° C), are situated in the Yarmouk valley. The ancient Greek name for the site is preserved in Arabic: Tel Hammi. This is, in fact, the Arabic corruption of the word bath in Greek. The vestiges of Hamat Gader were partially excavated and investigated in 1932, but it was only from 1979 that several years of excavations revealed the entire site.
It is today a very popular tourist site for the Israelis. Maria Valtorta even smells “the unpleasant odours of the sulphurous waters” [356.3], exactly as modern tourist guides describe this particularity of these waters. But this fact was totally unknown in 1945! The ancient, little-known name of the site is even mentioned later in a short dialogue: “The Lake had become hotter than the Hamatha waters” [450.2].
So it is really not at all surprising when the apostolic group goes along “a beautiful road with very large cobblestones and leading to the superb town at the top of the hill, surrounded by walls” [356.3], as the Roman road leading to Gadara is, in fact, superb, with its large paving stones, just as the town perched on the hill must have been and which the many photographs of the archaeological site of Gadara today attest!
Jesus and His apostles enter the town and Maria Valtorta adds this detail: “The road becomes a thoroughfare, decorated with porticos and fountains. There are ornate squares, each more beautiful than the other. It cuts across a similar thoroughfare and there is probably an amphitheatre below” [356.7]. The ruins of Gadara (modern-day Umm Qais) do, in fact, show a flourishing Greek city, with three basalt theatres, Roman baths, a temple, cobbled roads, shops etc…
“A considerable city, the capital of Perea”, according to the historian Flavius Josephus.
There are still scores of other sites that I could mention, all perfectly described by Maria Valtorta, but not designated by name, such as that “creek between two low hills” into which flows “a capricious little stream” [94.2], to describe the Korazim mountain stream, the Wady Kerazeh, which flows into Lake Tiberias, or this road “that goes alongside the stream towards the north-east, in a cultivated and wonderfully fertile region” [287.4], when Jesus is on His way to Gerasa. The river that does go down north-east to south-west from Gerasa is the Chrysorrhoas, the golden river, its name indicating the role that this river has always played in the exceptional fertility of this valley. Or again, this other river (the Wadi Amud, between Capernaum and Gennesaret) beside which Jesus and His friends break their journey from Capernaum to Magdala: “There’s a stream, we’ll eat there…” [182.6 & 183.1].
And who would leave out “this tiny little village, a few houses, a hamlet as we would call it today. It is higher than Nazareth, which we can see down below, a few kilometres away” [106.5]. Jesus finds refuge there after the Nazarenes try to throw him off a high embankment (Luke 4:29). He passes there again in the opposite direction, coming this time from Cana: “the cool shortcut that leads to Nazareth… When we reach the top of a hill” [244.1], Mary recalls: “I came to this little place halfway up the hill with my nephews when Jesus was chased out of Nazareth” [244.2].
Halfway between Cana and Nazareth is Mount Har Yona (a hill 550 metres high) and 4.5 km north-east of Nazareth. It is the only point that is higher than Nazareth in the region, as Maria Valtorta remarks! And yet, this indication appeared on no maps in 1945!
Then too, there is the Wady Nimrim Shu’eib that Maria Valtorta describes as follows: “a mountain torrent that probably goes to the Jordan River, an abundant flow of water coming down from I know not what summit” [286.1] when Jesus is on His way to Ramoth from Jericho. Today, this Wady Nimrim Shu’eib is classed (along with the Zarqa and the Yarmouk) as one of Jordan’s main fresh water sources. The etymological meaning of the present-day name of this torrent is precisely “abundant waters”! Could Maria Valtorta have been inspired by chance?
On another occasion, when Jesus is waiting for the apostles near Achzib, Maria Valtorta gives a precise description of the surroundings, adding: “On the highest peak of a small mountain upon which there is also a village” [325.1], one can but note that it is precisely there that the ruins of a very ancient village have recently been discovered: the village of Khirbat Humsin (at Tell Hammoudout) which was completely unknown at the time that Maria Valtorta wrote these lines.
So we can say today, backed up by cast-iron proof, that the geographical descriptions that Maria Valtorta gives in her work are in no way the fruit of her poetical imagination, but most truly the meticulous and methodical description of real places which, by a phenomenon that science cannot explain, she appears to have truly seen.
These few examples will, I hope, enable us to understand the wonder of those readers with excellent knowledge of the Holy Land and this remark made by Jesus to Maria: “A few days ago you said that you were going to die without having satisfied your yearning to see the Holy Places. You are seeing them, and what is more, you are seeing them as they were when I sanctified them by My presence. Now, after twenty centuries of profanations perpetrated through hatred or through love, they are no longer as they were then. So, at present, you see them and those who go to Palestine do not see them”. (The Notebooks. 1944, March 3rd)
Geographers and archaeologists will, of course, note that the information given in Maria Valtorta’s work corresponds to the most recent archaeological observations, discoveries and reconstructions. Therefore, the accuracy of these details will clearly reinforce the credibility of the whole. In addition, there is little doubt that Maria Valtorta’s work may even give rise to new archaeological discoveries, when the specialists in this field become more fully aware of the relevance and richness of these descriptions.
Note: The attentive reader will have noticed that the descriptions are very meticulous in the first volumes, becoming somewhat more sober in the last ones, in accordance with these words of Jesus to Maria: “I authorise you to omit the descriptions of places. We have given so much to curious researchers. And they will always be ‘curious researchers’. Nothing else. That is enough now. Your strength is going. Save it for the Word. Just as I noted that much of my fatigue was unnecessary, I note that much of yours is unnecessary. And so I tell you: ‘Keep yourself for the Word’”. [297.5]