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[caption id="attachment_181409" align="alignright" width="300"] A.J. Tomlinson[/caption] When A.J. Tomlinson created Fields of the Wood, a more than 200-acre Bible park near the Cherokee County town of Murphy, this wasn’t exactly

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[caption id="attachment_181409" align="alignright" width="300"] A.J. Tomlinson[/caption] When A.J. Tomlinson created Fields of the Wood, a more than 200-acre Bible park near the Cherokee County town of Murphy, this wasn’t exactly

Home of the World’s Largest Ten Commandments

Ten Commandments in the Fields of the Woods
A.J. Tomlinson, founder of the Fields of the Wood

A.J. Tomlinson Photography courtesy of Adrian L. Varlack, Sr. Library and Archives, International Offices of the Church of God of Prophecy

When A.J. Tomlinson created Fields of the Wood, a more than 200-acre Bible park near the Cherokee County town of Murphy, this wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.

Tomlinson, an early 20th-century Holiness Pentecostal evangelist and a key figure in establishing the Church of God of Prophecy, envisioned a spiritual retreat of sorts, where men and women of faith might come to be nearer to God. It’s where he claimed to have had a close encounter with the Creator, and Tomlinson prayed that others would, too.

And to a large extent, park officials say, that has happened.

“[Tomlinson] wanted people to experience God’s presence there, and they have,” says Bishop Todd Bagley, who oversees the park for the Church of God of Prophecy, which owns it. “We often have people pray there and give their hearts to Christ.”

Fields of the Wood is part holy ground and part “holy cow!” Or, more to the point, “Holy Moses!”

At the same time, though, Fields of the Wood has evolved into a religious roadside attraction — a park of biblical proportions, if you will — that appeals not only to true believers but also to the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” crowd. It’s part holy ground and part “holy cow!” Or, more to the point, “Holy Moses!”

You see, Fields of the Wood is home to the world’s largest Ten Commandments, spelled out on a mountainside in concrete letters that are five feet tall and four feet wide. In fact, the colossal commandments are so large and striking — white letters set against a sea of green grass — that they’re legible from 5,000 feet in the air.

For many Christians, the oversize Ten Commandments offer comfort and hope — blessed assurance that even in today’s chaotic world, God’s word abides. For other visitors, the commandments represent something not quite so lofty — they’re more of a sightseeing curiosity, a scriptural Stonehenge that gives casual tourists a unique photo opportunity.

While the Ten Commandments may be the park’s biggest draw, that’s not all there is to see. At the top of Ten Commandment Mountain, a concrete Bible that’s 30 feet tall and 50 feet wide has been billed as the world’s largest New Testament.

Monuments leading the path up to Prayer Mountain in Fields of the wood

On the path up Prayer Mountain, 29 monuments describing biblical teachings, including tithing and holiness, line the way. photograph by Tom Moors

As you ascend another peak, Prayer Mountain, a series of marble tablets displays various biblical teachings. At the top, visitors are welcome to kneel and pray at an 80-foot altar.

Other highlights include replicas of Golgotha — the site of the Crucifixion — and the tomb where Jesus was buried. The All Nations Cross, a concrete cross that lies flat on the ground — 150 feet long by 115 feet wide — and is bordered by dozens of other countries’ flags, reflects the nations where the Church of God of Prophecy has established places of worship. A pool — available by reservation only — awaits those who wish to be baptized there.

Although the first Fields of the Wood marker was erected in 1941, Tomlinson never got to see the completion of his vision. He died in 1943, before the full opening of the park. Church officials believe, however, that he would be happy with what the site has become — a pilgrimage for true believers that also shares the word of God with others.

No matter which of those camps you belong to, if you go for a visit, thou shalt be filled with wonder.

Fields of the Wood
10000 NC Highway 294
Murphy, NC 28906
(828) 494-7855
cogop.org

This story was published on Mar 25, 2024

Jimmy Tomlin

Tomlin has been a features writer and columnist for the High Point Enterprise since 1990. His writing has won numerous state, regional, and national awards.