“A snowy biblical tour” was not the subject line Professor Jeff Weima expected to use when he updated his seminary colleagues on the biblical study course he was teaching in Turkey and Greece during J-term 2017. 

And it certainly wasn’t the expectation of the 15 seminarians and nine other travelers in Weima’s class.

As professor of New Testament at Calvin Seminary, Weima has led countless study trips to the sites of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation and to the cities of Paul’s missionary trips.

But the extremely rare amount of snow and cold temperatures caused not only schools and roads to be closed, but even some of the ancient sites on the itinerary. 

That didn’t stop the students from immersing themselves in the relevant biblical texts, ancient history, geography, and Weima’s annotated study guide—where Bible stories came to life with the vividness of 3-D.  

One student commented that he had read four different commentaries in trying to understand the story of Acts 19 that recounts how the idol industry of the goddess Artemis was being threatened by Paul’s preaching.

But walking the well-preserved streets and structures of Ephesus, including the theater where the angry crowd assembled almost 2,000 years ago, gave him “a totally different level of understanding the Scripture.”

The challenges and struggles of the Ephesian church were further amplified when Weima preached a sermon based on the Revelation letter to the church in Ephesus.

The last days of the 12-day study course ended in sunshine at the ancient site of Corinth. Once again, the physical remains of the ancient port city gave geographical and historical evidence to what Corinth was like when Paul brought the gospel to this wealthy, cosmopolitan city. 

The parallels to North American churches of privilege were not lost on these pastors in formation. As another student pondered on the trip blog, “in places where the church is marginalized, it grows, but in places where the church is privileged, the church sees problems.”

Benefitting from a recently funded program of generous travel scholarships for M.Div. students, these seminarians could afford a trip that many pastors don’t experience until retirement.

As they complete their pastoral and theological studies, they are equipped with firsthand archeological observations, reflections, and photographs from the 12 days they walked (or slipped) where Paul the Evangelist walked.

About the Author

 

Jinny De Jong, Calvin Theological Seminary