In the Bible and History
Lebanon became a separate country from Syria during World War II. Like much of the area, it was a part of Greater Syria after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The French were given the mandate to develop the area and formed the countries of Syria and Lebanon (from Mount Lebanon) out of the northern Greater Syria.
In the Old Testament there are many references to Lebanon under the name of Syria. It was the home of the Phoenicians and especially known for its cedar wood. King Solomon ordered cedars of Lebanon to build the temple from King Hiram, for example. Isaiah 23 is an Oracle Concerning Tyre.
Jesus visited the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon and it was here that Jesus healed the daughter of the Canaanite women (Matthew 15.21) and encountered the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 3:8; 7:24 and 31; Luke 6:17). The area had a reputation for wickedness and there is an implication of judgment on Tyre and Sidon (Luke 10:13-14). Paul visited the area (Acts 21:3)
The Maronites are a Catholic church founded in the 5th century in Antioch. When they were persecuted, they fled to the Lebanon Mountains and have become the dominant church in Lebanon. Because of them, Lebanon has the largest per cent of Christians in any Middle Eastern country.
The constitution of Lebanon places religion into politics with certain roles designated as Christian, others as Shi'a Muslim and others as Sunni Muslim. The Civil Wars had religious overtones but not theological overtones. (Unlike wars in the early Christian centuries.) They also reflected family clans and loyalties as well as changing demographics. When Israel was formed and Palestinian refugees fled to Lebanon, the country was destabilized by the influx of thousands of Muslims.
Christians number about 35% today with the Maronites as the largest group followed by the Melkites (Greek Catholic). The relationships between Christians and Muslims are improved and the Arab Working Group on Christian-Muslim Dialogue is building this relationship and trying to prevent any further interreligious deterioration. Near East School of Theology in Beirut is also running lectures and courses on Christian/Muslim relations to encourage a better atmosphere.
Special Sites to Visit
Tyre and Sidon
These two port cities are in ruins today but they give you evidence of the great Phoenician civilization.
There are several beautiful shrines to Mary perched on the mountains over Beirut and Junieh. Dar-Sayyidat-ul-Jabal (Our Lady of the Mountain) was established in the early 1990s and was built as an up-side-down Phoenician ship and has a formidable open space interior.
Churches to meet the living Christian communities
Lebanon is a good place to meet living Christian communities, especially among the Protestants. The Near East School of Theology (NEST) is located in Beirut and teaches Protestant clergy and educators for much of the Middle East. Active church groups welcome relationships with Westerners.
For More Information
Lebanon Tourism Office
Tel: +961-1-340-940/1/2/3/4; Fax: +961-1-340-945
Website: www.lebanon-tourism.gov.LB (site in French but easy French)
Embassy to the USA
2560 28th St.
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy to the UK
21 Kensington Palace Gardens
London W8 4QM
Middle East Council of Churches Beirut office
Notes from Personal Visits
Obtain a visa at the airport if you come from the USA or an EU country. Check it out as things change. If you like grottos there is a famous one at Jeita near Beirut complete with stalagtites and stalagmites. There are also many ancient sites that are not refered to in the Bible worth looking at.