Early Christianity in Asia Minor
January 9-20, 2013
(Please note the dates have changed from January 8-19, 2013)
Join Professors Deirdre Good and Katherine Shaner of General Theological Seminary for an illuminating and informative journey to Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), exploring both the urban contexts out of which early Christianity was shaped and some of the spaces in which Christianity grew to prominence. They explain that through visits to some of the great archaeological sites of the world, the group will examine the historical and cultural context in which the earliest Christians and their writings emerged.
This is a unique opportunity to travel with New Testament experts who know how to bring history to life in some of the most fascinating archaeological sites in the world. We invite you to join us!
Professor Good writes about her own life-changing first trip to Turkey:
How often can you say of a trip: it changed my life? I can say it of my first visit to Turkey. I saw and felt the Hellenistic and Roman worlds of Asia Minor, and because I saw where Paul was, where the cities of Revelation are, and where John and Jesus' mother Mary may have been, I now see the letters of Paul, the history of Mary and John after the New Testament and the Revelation of St John the Divine in a new light.
On the first day we went south from Izmir (ancient Smyrna) to Miletus. We stood in the theatre where Paul, according to Acts 20, made his farewell speech. And we were able to calculate later how long the author of Acts envisaged it would take the Ephesian elders to get there and to return home knowing they'd never see Paul again. Two days later we gazed sadly at ruined buildings in Thyatira thinking of the judgment of Revelation 2:18-23 and wondering who "Jezebel" might have been. And who was the Lydia (Acts 16:14) of Thyatira offering Paul hospitality? Where did she live? In Sardis, we were awed by the synagogue right in the middle of town and its sheer size. On the acropolis in Pergamum, we looked out across the valley at the sweeping view and just below us at the empty place where the Pergamum altar (now in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin) had once been and we wondered if it would have survived without being moved.
What about Ephesus? Everyone should see it before they die. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, Ephesus is one of the wonders of the ancient world. To visit Ephesus is to grasp what an ancient Hellenistic city looks like: you can walk down ancient intersecting streets. I've been down Roman roads in Europe. And I've been on Roman roads that intersect with other Roman roads but they were built up into modern streets. I've never been on Hellenistic streets that intersect with other ancient Hellenistic streets so that when you walk down them you can turn left or right at the end and keep walking.
At Ephesus, the main street is the Arcadian way. It is 100 feet wide and paved with marble slabs. At night it was lit by lanterns. Adjacent Curetes Street is named from the Curetes (priests serving Artemis) who guarded the sacred fire of the hestia (hearth). The beautiful building on Curetes Street is the Temple of Hadrian (117-138 CE). Halfway down is the most photographed building in Ephesus--the Library of Celsus built in 135 CE by Julius Aguila in memory of his father, Celsus, who was a Roman senator and governor-general of the province of Asia. Thousands of parchments and papyri were stored here long before books were thought of.
Opposite the Hadrian Temple we saw several of the best-preserved Roman houses for the elite in Asia Minor. Many had interior courtyards restored to show heating systems and clay pipes. On the floors are mosaics and on the walls are rich interior decorations including blue frescoes of birds and fish. Further on down opposite Harbor Street is the largest theatre in Asia Minor seating 25,000 people. Acts 19 locates the silversmiths of Ephesus there chanting, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" in opposition to Paul. We would have read the passage out loud in the theatre if it hadn't been raining.
We spent our final days in Istanbul. Istanbul is an international city at one and the same time both European and Asian, both secular and religious. The muezzin outside our hotel window called the faithful to prayer each morning. Shopping and drinking tea in the Grand Bazaar is like no other shopping experience in the world. The cash machines offer Turkish lira, Euros or dollars. But it's the same everywhere. Even in the smallest villages, everyone makes change in lira, Euros or dollars. We visited the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, the Hippodrome and the baths. Turkey has something for everyone: from prehistoric through Roman and later Byzantine cultures and now as a modern Islamic state. Join us on a trip that will change your life.