Exploring Bible Times -- By: Carolyn R. Hansen
BSpade 15:4 (Fall 2002) p. 122
Exploring Bible Times
A visit to Asia Minor can simply be a whirlwind tour of Biblical sites, or it can be much more. Traveling May 18-31, 2002, with Dr. James Martin, of Bible World Seminars, not only provided ABR members with the opportunity to see the locations of New Testament churches, it also illuminated the world of Paul and the early believers in Jesus, the Messiah.
We began our study program with brief visits to the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, followed by a flight to Adana and drive into Tarsus, the hometown of Paul. Here Dr. Martin began our study by focusing on the questions that challenged the Apostle Paul as he brought the Good News into a Hellenistic and Roman world. The first study covered Paul’s cultural heritage and religious training which had prepared him for the role of Apostle to the Gentiles.
Next, we looked at these questions: Who is the One True God? How did Paul know what this God is like? How did the God of Scripture differ from the gods worshipped in Greek and Roman culture? How did the Biblical writers reveal the cosmic condition and the role of the adversary? How did the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics, Sophists, and Gnostics influence the attitudes of those who heard Paul and other missionaries?
The discussions and study were woven into each day’s travels as we wound our way north through the Cilicean Mountains into Cappadocia, then west to Antioch and Iconium in Galatia. Our study emphasized that Paul was traveling in his home world, teaching believers the truth about a God who loves His own, is separate from His creation, and whose purposes include believers in a great restoration from a cosmic mutiny.
The drive from Antioch of Pisidia south to Perga reminded us of the physical challenges facing the first Christians and left us humbly grateful that people like Paul, Silas, Timothy and Barnabas were willing to endure unbelievable hardship to take an often unpopular message throughout such a large region.
Visits to the sites of the Revelation churches gave opportunity to study the condition of the first believing gentile communities and to see how geographical locations, economic conditions, and political events had influenced their faith, for good and sometimes for evil. Our day in Miletus reminded us of the personal love and attachment those dear brothers and sisters had for each other. It was from this city that Paul said farewell to the Ephesian believers when he returned to Jerusalem.
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