From the Pulpits of Tennessee to the Desert of Israel: Legacy of Spiritual Maverick Vendyl Jones Lives On

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”(Jeremiah 31:33-34)

There are people in the world that have a unique that vision drives them to bring Jews and Christians closer. Vendyl Jones, who passed away six years ago this year, was clearly one of these people. A Baptist preacher from Texas who studied Biblical archaeology, he served as a pastor, first in the mountains of Tennessee and then later in South Carolina. A spiritual maverick using his inner beliefs to guide him to the truth, his criticism of the way the Church related to the Jewish people compelled him to leave his calling as a pastor.

Studying under rabbis convinced him of the holiness in the relationship between God, Torah and Israel as an everlasting covenant. Jones went on to found the Institute of Judaic-Christian Research (IJCR), later called the Vendyl Jones Research Institutes (VJRI). He also established the official Noahide Movement, which advocates all religions accepting their part in the Torah based on the Seven Noahide Laws.

Vendyl Jones (Photo: Courtesy Jones Family)
Vendyl Jones (Photo: Courtesy Jones Family)

This initiative was adopted by others, including the nascent Sanhedrin and the late leader of the Hassidic Chabad Lubavitch movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Today, the Chabad movement distributes information in Arabic instructing Israeli-Arabs in the Seven Noahide Laws.

Still a devout Christian, Jones moved to Israel in 1967 to further his understanding of Jewish teachings. His daughter, Sara Chaya, converted to Judaism and lives in Israel. She described to Breaking Israel News his struggles within the Church that led him to bring his family to Israel.

“He used to say, ‘The Teacher serves the Headmaster’, and for Dad, that Headmaster was Hashem (God). I asked Dad what we believed in exactly, and he said, ‘It doesn’t matter what you call yourself. What matters is what you do. And that is to always pursue the truth.’ I took that to heart, and here I am today; a Jew, living in Israel. But neither my father nor I believed that you had to be Jewish to have a connection with God. That comes from the soul,” she explained to Breaking Israel News.

“But there is no separating the corn from the cob on this one. The nation of Israel needs the Bnei Noah in order to bring back the Temple. The other nations need to know that Hashem did not leave them unprotected,” Sara Chaya told Breaking Israel News. “Religion was created as a code that links all men into life, with the Nation of Israel at the center where they all come together. It is the answer to peace. My father saw this. We are all so close, yet so far from seeing the simplicity of it all, because it is a natural thing.”

While in Israel, Jones pursued his intense interest in Biblical archaeology at the Qumran dig along the Dead Sea. Three years earlier, a find known as the Copper Scrolls had been discovered at Qumran, listing the hiding places of 64 sacred articles, including the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.

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Jones began his excavations in earnest in 1972. Funded by private donations, Jones brought over 300 volunteers to his digs, utilizing the most advanced technologies at the time. He refused funding from the Israel Antiquities Authority or the Israeli government because he wanted to remain unencumbered by their rules and expectations. The Israeli government responded in kind, denying him permits and delaying his projects even when permits were in place, forcing workers to stand around idle until given permission to begin.

Rabbi Shalomo Goren at a dig with Vendyl Jones. (Photo: "A Door of Hope" by Vendyl Jones/ Courtesy Jones Family)
Rabbi Shalomo Goren at a dig with Vendyl Jones. (Photo: “A Door of Hope” by Vendyl Jones/ Courtesy Jones Family)

Undaunted and ahead of his time, Jones was in search of artifacts from the Temple. His methodology and goals were criticized by experts and the establishment. One of the reasons Jones never converted to Judaism was his mission of finding relics from the Temple. All Jews are ritually impure and without the ashes of the Red Heifer, they are unable to purify themselves to a state where they can touch the relics. A non-Jew cannot be impure, so, as a Christian, Jones was able to handle the Temple artifacts that he found.

Despite the heavy criticism, in April of 1988, Jones and his team discovered what they believed to be shemen afarsimmon (Psalm 133), persimmon oil, used to anoint high priests to serve in the Temple and kings of Israel. His discovery was verified by the Hebrew University, but many still contest the authenticity of his find or credit it to other archaeologists.

The anointing oil discovered by Vendyl Jones. (Photo: "A Door of Hope" by Vendyl Jones/ Courtesy Jones Family)
The anointing oil discovered by Vendyl Jones. (Photo: “A Door of Hope” by Vendyl Jones/ Courtesy Jones Family)

Even more remarkable was his discovery of a hidden silo carved into the bedrock, containing a cache of 600 kilograms (over 1,300 pounds) of powder. The powder was sent to the Weizmann Institute and Bar Ilan University for testing, where they confirmed that it contained the eleven ingredients listed in the Bible for the incense used in the Temple service.

Interestingly, the cinnamon, listed in the Bible as an ingredient, was actually three different types of cinnamon. Nonetheless, the Israeli Department of Antiquities refused to recognize his find, even after analysis.

Jones’s journey and his connection to God affected the world and his children. Two of his five children – Sarah Chaya and son Gershom – are Jewish. Julia was married to Muslim.  Sons Nunnery and Vendyl Jr. are Noahides.

“He worked all these years with one thing in his heart, and that was the Temple,” Sara Chaya explained to Breaking Israel News. “My father lived humbly before God, in his heart and mind.”

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