In Search of Paul-2018 An Aegean Odyssey

Come along with the Rev. Dr. Don Carlson
and search for the Paul of the 1st century.
Tuesday, April 3-Thursday, April 19, 2018


Welcome to the ancient world where scripture will come alive as you enter the past to reimagine the future church.

Continue scrolling for an interactive introduction to the pilgrimage.


Istanbul In Search of Paul

Constantine the Great made Byzantium (Constantinople/Istanbul) the eastern capital of the Roman Empire in 330 CE. This is where we begin to appreciate the genesis of the imperial church as we tour Hippodrome Square, archeological museums, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and the gardens of the Topkapi Palace.

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From the port cities of Paul’s missionary tours to the heights of the Areopagus, this was an incredible immersion experience. Expert, knowledgeable guides brought the ancient ruins alive. Conversation, study, and fellowship with fellow travelers provided depth and perspective to Paul’s world. It changed the way I read Paul’s letters! – Rev. Blair Lundborg

Philippi Paul Arrives in Europe

In 42 BCE, on the Plain of Philippi, Octavian (Augustus) and Marc Anthony defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius thus ending the Republic and beginning the Empire. Paul landed at Neapolis (Kavala) and made his way to Philippi (Acts 16:11ff), walking along the Via Egnatia. At the traditional river site where Paul met Lydia, we discuss Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Then, amid the ruins of ancient Philippi, we begin to understand 1st century urban life. Temple ruins of the Egyptian deities of Isis and Serapis demonstrate the inclusivity of Roman religion.

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Greece and Turkey continue to excavate their massive and seemingly omnipresent Roman ruins. As we read Paul’s letters at these sites, we could still feel the impressive power of St. Paul as he stood face-to-face with the Roman Empire and declared that Jesus Christ, not the Emperor, was the true Son of God. – Rev. Heath Abel

Thessaloniki Capital of Macedonia

In Thessaloniki, the capital of Macedonia during Paul’s life, we view the forum of the ancient city and visit the arch and mausoleum of Galerius–a predecessor of Constantine–who issued the Edict of Toleration in 311 CE. Then while at the archeological museum, we discuss 1 Thessalonians. Next we visit a Monastery in Meteora and the world of Greco-Roman culture and religion in Delphi as we move to our next destination.

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Greece and Turkey continue to excavate their massive and seemingly omnipresent Roman ruins. As we read Paul’s letters at these sites, we could still feel the impressive power of St. Paul as he stood face-to-face with the Roman Empire and declared that Jesus Christ, not the Emperor, was the true Son of God. – Linda Dommelsmith

Corinth Dynamic Christian Communities

Corinth was the capital of Achaia. Athens’ population was about 30,000 in Paul’s time, but Corinth’s was over 100,000 – with a Christian community of perhaps 50-60. Paul first visited the city in 51-52 CE when Gallio was proconsul. Priscilla and Aquila moved there when the Jews were expelled from Rome under Claudius. While on the grounds, and seated in view of the Temple of Apollo and the ancient meat market (1 Cor. 8), we discuss 1st Corinthians. After visits at the temples of Athens and the “Cave of St. John” in Patmos before moving to our next destination!

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It was amazing to have access to that kind of history! To stroll through those ancient ruins and think, “This is where the events happened!” It’s an experience not to be missed! But even more, to be able to read Paul on location and discuss the world he encountered while walking in his footsteps… I will never see the New Testament or hear the words of Paul the same way again! – Rev. David Schulte

Ephesus Temple of the goddess Artemis

After discussing Romans on our boat trip from Patmos, Ephesus – the Roman capital of the province of Asia – gives the most impressive glimpse of 1st century urban life. The Library of Celsus, Temple of Artemis (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world; Artemis was the twin sibling of Apollo), Temple of Hadrian, Temple of Domitian, and the terrace houses are but a few of the restorations. (Acts 19). Next stops are in Didyma, Miletus, Aphrodisias, Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Sardis!

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The Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The fifth version of the temple was destroyed by the Goths (around 262 AD). With the Christianization of the empire in the fourth century AD, it was never rebuilt.

Pergamum A Natural Fortress Tower

Another of the 7 churches, Pergamum had a population of about 200,000 in the 1st century. There were temples to Athena, Zeus, and Trajan – along with the great theater for 10,000 people. Below the acropolis we visit the Asclepion, a center of healing where the great physicians Hippocrates and Galen practiced.

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We stood where Paul stood, studied what he wrote about, learned first hand what 1st century life was like. We saw the Roman influence. I’d do it again and take someone from a younger generation. The experience has forever changed my understanding of Paul and adds insight to my preaching. – Rev. Diane Campbell

Reviews/Testimonials

“This trip expanded my knowledge of the journey of Paul greatly.  I have been able to put into practice new ways of talking about and seeing texts about Paul and the whole bible.  This trip was not just a gift to me personally, professionally and spiritually but also a gift to the way I will be a leader in the church for years to come.”  Tim

“Thank you again, and again, and again for not only leading us on this trip, but getting to learn from you. I look forward to preaching from a 16th century lens.  Great experience.” Peace, Chris