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My Trip to Turkey

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!

Lecture: Jesus and the Historian
The Lost Writings of Papias



  1. Avatar
    Judith  June 3, 2015

    Whatever you decide to do for the blog will be fine with me. Happy trails…

  2. Avatar
    Alfred  June 3, 2015

    Have fun! Maybe you could tell us about identifying spices mentioned in the Bible at the spice fair.

  3. Avatar
    vern.dewit  June 3, 2015

    Hey Bart, have a great trip! Is there any way you can post pictures with some of the relevant posts while you travel? I would be very interested in some CIA commentary along with photographs of what you’re talking about.

  4. Avatar
    BrianUlrich  June 3, 2015

    Turkey is excellent. I’m jealous!

  5. Avatar
    doug  June 3, 2015

    Please don’t knock yourself out trying to do the blog while you’re in Turkey. “Reruns” are fine. Have a good time!

  6. Avatar
    John  June 3, 2015

    Yup, just arrived as well and looking forward to a busy few days in Istanbul before heading South.

  7. Avatar
    Jim  June 3, 2015

    As for the four people on the trip who are connected with the blog, I hope they’re put to hard labor like digging for artifacts. (No outward display of jealousy on my part 🙂 )

  8. Bethany
    Bethany  June 3, 2015

    This is sort of on topic, and I’d be interested to hear if any fellow blog readers had input:

    One of these years I’d like to go on a trip to the Holy Land and am (probably unreasonably) nervous about the idea of going by myself. Does anyone have suggestions on good organizations to look for the sort of tours that readers of this blog are looking for (i.e. emphasis on Hebrew Bible / New Testament history)?

  9. Avatar
    Stephen  June 3, 2015

    So when people accuse you of being “In it” for the money or the fame, tell them those are just the perks. What you’re really in it for are the cool trips!

  10. Avatar
    walstrom  June 4, 2015

    How about compiling your choice of ‘interesting questions’ asked of you, as well as your ‘process’ in answering them?
    What, if any, were ‘stumpers’ which sent you back to the books?
    That would be interesting, pertinent, and informative for the blog. Since already ‘exists’ you wouldn’t have to shift into
    high mental gear after a long day of sightseeing and lecturing.


  11. Avatar
    Jason  June 4, 2015

    What if you just uploaded a few photos each day? This is WordPress, isn’t it?

  12. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 4, 2015

    Have a great trip. The blog will survive whatever you decide.

  13. TracyCramer
    TracyCramer  June 4, 2015

    As an old reader and “student” of yours, I want to hear about your Turkey adventures on the blog! tracy

  14. Avatar
    sozmore  June 4, 2015

    Perhaps one of the people connected with the blog is more technologically adept and can help with some photos. I’m new and look forward to whatever you post, new or rerun. Have a great time! ~Susan

  15. Avatar
    Steefen  June 5, 2015

    Oh, just hang a sign: “On Vacation for three weeks.” I’d understand.

    Are you sure every major city or port city in the first century didn’t have a spice bazaar? How about Jerusalem, Sepphoris, Ceasarea Maritima, or Rome?

    When I think of the spice bazaar in Turkey, I’m thinking that’s how life was for everyone during the first century: street fairs or farmer’s markets.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 6, 2015

      No, I’m not saying that Istanbul is the only place where spices were/are sold!!!

    • Avatar
      mkusak@yandex.ru  July 21, 2015

      What are you talking about? Turkey is a European country my friend:)

  16. Avatar
    mkusak@yandex.ru  July 21, 2015

    Dear Mr Ehrman, What a pity I missed your visit to Turkey (((
    If you liked our country do be our guest the next time. I am writing a book about the New Testament. I would appreciate your advices so much..
    My mail is: mkusak@outlook.com

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