by Bobby Jack
An architect, from his culture, produces an object. An archaeologist, from an object, deduces a culture. The Bible describes the object, from which we can deduce the context and the message.
I was born in Argentina to Scottish missionary parents, Willie and Pearl Jack. Although saved aged five and baptised at 13, it was only during my time at university that I had a deeper encounter with God. In the 1970s, a military dictatorship was in power in Argentina and I was involved in the student movement. One day, I was detained because I did not have my identity card. A simulated ring squad and the love of my Heavenly Father brought me to a spiritual turning point. I vowed then to study the Word of God and discover its truths for myself.
I trained as an architect and worked in a secular job for 13 years. I married Isabel Czubarski (Ukraine) and together we were involved in the church at Posadas, in northeast Argentina. In 1991 we were sent out as full-time gospel workers from Greenview Evangelical Church, Glasgow, the same assembly that had commended my parents in 1935.
An Idea Takes Shape
I had been working on a model of the Tabernacle to get a better understanding of the subject, when I was given the idea of using scale models for Bible teaching. Information was plentiful and I soon realised the potential there was in this ministry.
In making accurate models, we undertake to research God’s spaces and places. As an architect by training, I have an aptitude for researching, planning and preparing models, that accurately reflect God’s glory and creative design. Little did I know that this first experimental model of the Tabernacle would be the beginning of a whole new field of ministry.
When starting our research, it is vital to consider the historic context of the design in question. Each period has its own technological capacity, which is reflected in the buildings. All have been built by man but are essentially God’s design.
The important objects in the Bible are God-designed: Noah’s Ark, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple. These combine God’s design, which is divine and unchanging, and human workmanship, which is shaped by the prevailing technology of the era. For example, the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple have the same basic layout, God’s design, but the building techniques are different. Egyptian techniques influenced the design and construction of the Tabernacle, while Phoenician methods were used in Solomon’s Temple.
For each model, research is carried out into the Word of God and the relevant historical context. For example, Solomon’s Temple is placed within the new technology of the Iron Age, where iron tools made possible the proper cutting of stones, so they could build constructions vertically. For this period, we have a fair amount of historical evidence; however, as we move further back in time, it becomes more difficult to correlate the biblical descriptions with any known architectural designs and building techniques.
The Process of Making Models
Usually several models are prepared as part of an overall design. First, a small basic one is constructed, to get the general idea of the task at hand. Sketches are drawn to work out the details on paper. Then a larger scale sectionis made to consider details in 3D. A final model is produced, which must accomplish several objectives: the scale must be such that it can be seen clearly and understood by the audience; it must have detachable parts to reveal the interior; and it must be practical to transport over long distances.
These combine God’s design, which is divine and unchanging, and human workmanship…
The Big Challenge
Noah’s Ark was a considerable challenge; it proved difficult to work out a technology which had been wiped out by the flood.However, Scripture makes clear that pre-flood technology was very advanced and that the ark was an immense object. The best reference available to us was that used by the Egyptians to create the funerary vessel for Pharaoh Khufu. Built with planks of wood held together by ropes, Khufu’s vessel was dismantled and buried at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza, where it remained until discovered in 1954. It was originally intended that the ship would be rebuilt for the afterlife of the pharaoh. This artefact is the oldest technological example we have for objects such as Noah’s Ark. If the same methods were used in the ark, it could have been dismantled once it came to rest on Mount Ararat, providing a vast amount of wood, ready for the new start on earth. If this were so, then there would be no trace of the ark to look for in archaeological explorations.
The Scale Models
In addition to Noah’s Ark, other models include: the Ark of the Covenant, at a third of its original size; and Solomon’s Temple, which was an interesting challenge. We managed to design the temple so that the side wall can be removed to reveal the beauty of the Holy and Most Holy Places, all in gold.
Jerusalem Through the Bible comprises a base model of the terrain, showing the different stages of the great city. Furtherlayers are placed on top of the original, as the narrative progresses.
The New Testament model depicts Jerusalem in Jesus’ day; all the main sites of His last week, before His death and resurrection, are clearly visualised. The final stage shows present-day Jerusalem, with a consideration of prophetic events.
We have finished the study and model of the Tower of Babel. It was not God’s design, so the Bible is silent about how it was visually conceived and physically constructed. We can only infer about its design through the way humanity has repeated it in many stepped pyramids and ziggurats through the ages, and the wide geographical placing of similar buildings: a clear example of people’s expansion after the dispersal at Babel.
We have also used illustrated panels to depict books and events in the Bible. These include a series of panels on Daniel, Esther and Revelation.
Over three decades of working with scale models, we have learned a lot about how to best use the visual message in Bible teaching. Now we complement our model presentations with PowerPoint, which is a useful tool allowing for details to be magnified. The graphics enhance the overall presentation and printed copies of the slides are available for those interested in further study.
The models have been used in Bible schools, churches, exhibitions and in schools, to audiences both large and small. We have also travelled to several other countries, including Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Spain and the UK. Keeping our vehicle in good condition is necessary to transport all that is needed for a successful presentation.
A recent presentation was to students in a Christian school in Buenos Aires – our largest audience yet. The presentation was filmed for distribution in other schools and transmitted live on the school’s website. There was excellent attention from the 1,850 students.
Most presentations are given in churches, which enables us to reach a wide range of listeners: from children to adults, people who can barely read or write, to university students, and from new Christians to mature ones. Numbers vary, but usually more than 100 people are in attendance. Bible schools also provide good opportunities to showcase the models to large numbers of people, as, over a week, ten in-depth presentations can be made to sizeable classes.
Over the years, I have received interesting feedback. Several years after presenting on Solomon’s Temple, one Christian told me that, as the golden interior was revealed, and reference was made that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit, his Christian life was given a new meaning. Another person said, ‘We have studied the Tabernacle, but now it has all become extremely clear, as we see the model.’
Overall, scale models have a significant impact on people both young and old. They allow viewers to see the buildings and objects as they would have looked at the time. Also, they permit us to concentrate on the spiritual message, and avoid going into intricate explanations of measurements and sizes, all of which can be seen at a glance.
A Life-long Passion
The vow I made as a youth holds true and making models to present the Bible is now a passion. Researching the information, designing models, and implementing corrections, along with my wife Isabel’s artisan skills, allow us to take on new challenges. We now have a website where we can showcase the models and will concentrate our efforts there, to reach a wider audience. The interest and enthusiasm for these models is tangible.