I am en route to Istanbul now with a layover, at this moment, as we speak, in London’s Heathrow airport. I’ll be in Turkey for nearly three weeks. This is a trip sponsored by my home institution, the General Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As is true of most universities, UNC has a vibrant travel program for alumni. Trips can be on the expensive side, but they are usually fantastic. As the guest lecturer, I get a free trip out of it.
There are four people connected with the blog on the trip (maybe more: but there are four that I know of so far). (It may seem strange, but one does not have to be an alum of the university to go on an alumni trip!) It is intentionally a small group, just twenty-five of us.
Turkey is one of the great places on earth, with a massive and varied cultural history. My lectures concern only one small part of the Turkish legacy. As it turns out, this is one of the first places in the Roman empire where Christianity was founded. The first and most successful missionary to these parts that we know about was the apostle Paul. And so I will be giving a few lectures on Paul.
The last time I was in Turkey for any length of time was five years ago. My friend Dale Martin, who teaches New Testament at Yale, and I came over, rented a car, and went to archaeological sites for two weeks. It was great. We didn’t make any hotel reservations – just drove to where we wanted to go to see what we wanted to see and found a place to stay. The current trip, as you would expect, is highly structured, day by day.
The trip starts in Istanbul, where we will spend about five days, taking in some of its amazing culture and history. Then we head south along the west coast, seeing some of the amazing archaeological sites, some of them connected with early Christianity, but others not. (The trip itself is not centered around the Christian movement, but is simply a tour of some of the highlights of Turkey.) And so, for example, early on we’ll visit both Ephesus (significant for Paul’s mission) and Pergamum (not significant, so far as we know, for his mission).
After a week and a half of sites and culture, we go out for a few days on gulets, which are a kind of 15-person Turkish yacht, going down the coast and visiting places that cruise ships can’t get into. And after that, about half of us are going on to Cappadocia, another place where early Christianity took a foothold, and one of the most amazing landscapes on earth (google it!).
I am going to try very hard to keep up with the blog while on this little venture, but frankly I’m not quite sure how I’m going to pull it off. Our days are pretty packed. I thought about maybe posting about what we do each day, but a lot of the days are not really relevant to the blog (the Istanbul Spice Bazaar is amazing, but not exactly germane to Christianity in Antiquity!) .
I may just try to find the time to do posts each day, if it’s possible. I do have a few posts that I’ve already written (on Papias, etc.) that I will be using. But if it’s *not* possible to post something fresh, I’m thinking about possibly doing some “reruns.” Hey, it’s summer. We’re used to reruns!
The other day I was looking over posts from three years ago, and realized that I don’t remember them at all. And so, if I’m pressed, maybe I’ll repost some of those. (I don’t want to have any downtime on the blog, because I don’t think that would be healthy for it.) And my sense is that if I don’t remember a post, most others won’t either, even if they were on the blog back then. And, of course, most people on the blog now were not on it then.
So we’ll see. I’ll certainly let you know if a post is a rerun. In the meantime, I’m off to Istanbul!