Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Turkey and Greece Study Tour Reading List

From an email I sent out to participants on this spring's Briercrest Study Tour of Turkey and Greece:

I compiled this list of readings for the academic course that goes along with the “Following Paul” study tour. Since I know from past experience that advance preparation pays off in a richer experience on the trip itself and more enduring memories afterward, I am sending it along to all of you. Don’t feel bad if you are not able to do all the readings; I encourage you to do as much as you can.

An Introduction to the History and Culture of Turkey and Greece

For most of us, the trip’s main attraction is its potential to help us understand the New Testament world better. Yet we cannot really return to the past. Our only access to ancient Greece and “Asia Minor” is through the twenty-first-century countries of Greece and Turkey. Focusing on only one small slice of the region’s history will actually distort our perspective on the period in which we are most interested. And, of course, there is a great deal that we can learn from the fascinating contemporary world that we will experience together. For these reasons, I encourage everyone to read about contemporary Turkey and Greece before we leave.

Students who take the study tour as a credit course will be required to read the “Understand Turkey” and “Understand Greece” chapters from the latest edition of the Lonely Planet Guides to Turkey and Greece. There may be better options, but these are short, engaging, and available on-line. The section on Greece is currently available from the Lonely Planet website as a free download. The section on Turkey will put you out $3.46 for the 90 page pdf. Here are the details:

·         Turkey: Bainbridge, James, et al. “Understand Turkey.” Pages 620-666 in Lonely Planet: Turkey (12th ed.), 2011. Chapter available online for $3.46:
·         Greece: Miller, Korina, et al. “Understand Greece.” Pages 710-758 in Lonely Planet: Greece (10th ed.), 2012. Chapter available online here:

(You can purchase the entire guide books in print form if you like. Note, however, that the Lonely Planet series is geared primarily toward do-it-yourself travelers.)

The World of the New Testament

Students who take the study tour as a credit course will be required to read James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999) before the tour begins. Based on my initial sampling, the book appears to be an excellent, well-written introduction to the social world of the earliest Christians. I think you will find that it brings to life the bare ruins we will visit. Recommended for everyone! The book will soon be available at the Briercrest Bookstore (; you can also order it through your favourite online retailer.

We are looking forward to the expert teaching of Dr. Mark Wilson during most of our time in Turkey. Students who take the study tour as a credit course will be required to read three of Dr. Wilson’s essays that deal with aspects of Paul’s missionary journeys and/or cultural life in Asia Minor:

Wilson, Mark. “The Rise of Christian Oracles in the Shadow of the Apollo Cults.” Ekklesiastikos Pharos 90 (2008): 162–175.
________. “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s Ministry Journeys.” Ekklesiastikos Pharos 87 (2005): 76–95.
________. “The Route of Paul’s First Journey to Pisidian Antioch.” New Testament Studies 55 (2009): 471–483.

Please email me if you would like a copy.

Ancient Sites

Student who take the study tour as a credit course will be required to read the relevant sections of Clyde E. Fant and Mitchell G. Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). The book will soon be available at the Briercrest Bookstore (; you can also order it through your favourite online retailer.

If you have room in your luggage, you may want to purchase and bring along one or more of the following specialized guide books, which complement the general treatment in Fant and Reddish:

Ancient Sites in Turkey
·         Hemer, Colin J. The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. (It reads like the dry doctoral dissertation it is, but the content—essentially a geographical commentary on Revelation 2-3—is fascinating and illuminating.)
·         McDonagh, Bernard. Blue Guide Turkey. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. (I found McDonagh’s Blue Guide to be an invaluable resource on a previous trip to Turkey, and also, remarkably, a lot of fun to read.)
·         Wilson, Mark. Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor. Istanbul: Ege Yayinlari, 2010. (Lavishly illustrated in full colour, Mark Wilson’s guide is an excellent introduction to biblical sites in Turkey. As it is rather heavy, you may want to read it before you leave to whet your appetite for the trip itself.)

Ancient Sites in Greece – Both of the following books come highly recommended on Amazon. Take your pick:
·         Marker, Sherry, and James Pettifer. Blue Guide Greece: The Mainland. 7th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.
·         Mee, Christopher, and Tony Spawforth. Greece: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford University Press, 2001.

The Bible

Last, but not least, you will want to read Paul’s epistles, Revelation 1-3 and the relevant sections of Acts as you prepare for and participate on the tour. Here is a reading schedule for the tour itself, along with our final itinerary:

April 29, Monday Arrive Istanbul
·         Meet our Tutku Tour guide and transfer to the Grand Hotel Halic ( in Istanbul. The rest of the day is free. Overnight in Istanbul. 

April 30, Tuesday Istanbul
·         On our first full day in Turkey we will sample some of the stunning sites in Istanbul, including the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Archaeological Museum, the Underground Cistern and the Grand Bazaar. Overnight in Istanbul at the Grand Hotel Halic.

May 1, Wednesday Morning Flight to Antalya; Perga - Attalia
·         After our arrival in Antalya, we will visit the Greco-Roman city of Perga (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25) and the Antalya Museum before taking a walking tour of Attalia that concludes at the Asia Minor Research Center. Overnight in Antalya at the Dedeman Antalya Hotel (
       Bible Reading: Acts 13-14; Galatians

May 2, Thursday Pisidian Antioch - Colossae
·         This morning we will drive to Yalvaç to visit Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14) and Yalvaç Museum. We will then drive west past ancient Apollonia and Apamea, with a brief stop at the unexcavated site of Colossae. Overnight in Pamukkale at the Lycus River Thermal Hotel ( 
·         Bible Reading: Colossians

May 3, Friday Hierapolis - Laodicea - Aphrodisias - Kuşadasi
·         Today we will visit the biblical cities of Hierapolis (Col 4:13) and Laodicea, and stop in Aphrodisias. Overnight Kuşadasi at the Grand Onder Hotel ( 
·         Bible Reading: Revelation 1-3

May 4, Saturday Ephesus
·         We will spend the day touring the ancient site of Ephesus, including terrace houses and the temple of Artemis, as well as St. John's Basilica and the museum in Selçuk. Overnight Kuşadasi at the Grand Onder Hotel. 
·         Bible Reading: Acts 18:18-20:1; Ephesians; 1 Timothy

May 5, Sunday Miletus - Didyma - Priene - Izmir
·         Today we will visit Miletus (Acts 20:15, 17), the Temple of Apollo at Didyma, and the Hellenistic city of Priene. Overnight Izmir at the Karaca Hotel (
·         Bible Reading: Acts 20

May 6, Monday Smyrna, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Thyatira - Bergama
·         Today we will concentrate on the cities mentioned in Revelation 2-3, with visits to Smyrna, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Thyatira. Overnight Bergama at the Berksoy Hotel ( 
·         Bible Reading: Revelation 2-3

May 7, Tuesday Pergamum - Assos
·         We will spend most of the day visiting the extensive cite of Pergamum (Rev 2:12-17), including the acropolis, the Red Basilica, and the Asclepium. We will then drive past the port city of Adramyttium mentioned in Acts 27:2. Overnight Assos at the Grand Assos Hotel ( 
·         Bible Reading: Revelation 2:12-17; 27:2

May 8, Wednesday Assos - Troas - Troy - Transfer to Greece
·         After an early breakfast, we will tour the site of Assos (Acts 20:13-14), and then travel to Greece with stops along the way in Troas and Troy. Overnight Kavala at the Esperia Hotel ( 
·         Bible Reading: Acts 20:1-18

May 9, Friday. Neapolis - Philippi - Amphipolis
·         We will begin our day in Neapolis and then follow the route of Paul's second missionary journey with visits to Neapolis, Philippi and Amphipolis, and a final drive to Thessalonica. Overnight Thessaloniki at the Metropolitan Hotel ( 
·         Bible Reading: Acts 16; Philippians

May 10, Saturday Thessalonica - Berea - Vergina
·         After visiting ancient Thessalonica, we will drive to Berea (Acts 17), and then visit the royal tombs of Macedonia at Vergina. Overnight Delphi at the Pythia Art Hotel ( 
·         Bible Reading: Acts 17:1-15; 1-2 Thessalonians

May 11, Sunday Delphi
·         We will spend the day at the beautiful ancient Greek city of Delphi. Overnight Corinth at the Kalamaki Beach Hotel (

May 12, Monday Corinth - Cenchrae
·         We will spend the day in the famous city of Corinth and the port of Cenchrae. Overnight Athens at the Jason Inn Hotel ( 
·         Bible Reading: Acts 18:1-17; 1-2 Corinthians

May 13, Tuesday Athens the acropolis and agora; Mars hill.
·         On our final day, we will visit the acropolis of Athens, the extensive agora, and Mars hill. We will also tour the Parthenon museum. Overnight Athens. 
·         Bible Reading: Acts 17:16-18:1

May 14, Wednesday Transfer to Athens Airport

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Greek & Hebrew Pedagogy: Speaking to Read

As a way of getting mentally prepared to begin the new semester, I went back and re-read a couple blog posts I had highlighted from last year about the importance of a living language approach to learning Greek and Hebrew:

First, Daniel Streett summarizes and reflects on a presentation that Brian Schultz gave at SBL:
All true reading entails this conversion of the written word into virtual sound. Thus, in a sense, reading is hearing. ... [I]f your goal is to fluently read Ancient Greek or Hebrew you have to learn to speak and hear it. There are no shortcuts. We’re not doing this so that we can one day order non-foamy lattes (or orange mocha frappuccinos) in Greek; our ultimate goal is to read these languages fluently, for pleasure, with understanding, and without the intrusion of English. Speaking ancient Greek is a means to an end; the end is authentic reading
Here is an excerpt from Daniel Streett's own SBL presentation on "setting the bar at fluency" (here and here):
My proposal, which I have shared with this group many times over the past several years, is fairly simple: stop treating Greek and Hebrew as dead languages. Aim for nothing less than internalization, fluency, or communicative proficiency. Teach in such a way that students are immersed in the language and begin to connect the language directly to things and experiences, so that they begin to think in Greek or Hebrew....In conclusion, I think that for too long, we have contented ourselves with teaching about Greek, rather than teaching Greek, with translating rather than truly reading, with analyzing rather than understanding and enjoying. 
And here is Robert Holmstedt, co-author of the Biblical Hebrew textbook I use:
Above all, my teaching and learning experiences led me conclude that successfully engaging a higher percentage of students required a more active approach to the ancient language learning process. Traditional outcomes are typically passive in the sense that they stress only the recognition component of language use and minimize, if not omit, the production component. Such outcomes stress parsing, analysis, lexicon, and place a priority on translation, typically a minimal component of modern language learning environments, in which it used decreasingly, which stands in direct contrast to the increasing use of translation in intermediate and advanced levels of ancient language learning. Besides the deadening boredom of the traditional curriculum—both for student and teacher!—it only makes pedagogical sense to engage as many of the physical senses as possible, in the recognition that the more parts of the brain the student is required to activate in class, the more likely comprehension and retention will follow. (Full version here)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I'd rather be in Bethlehem

Last year around this time I wrote about receiving a letter from Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine that had an ironic (to me) Israeli postage stamp (click here for the original post):

This year's letter sports the Palestinian Authority's own Christmas stamps:

No irony here: In 1947, 85% of Bethlehem's population were Christian (wikipedia). That this is no longer the case is part of the tragedy of the modern Middle East.

By the way, I visited Bethlehem Bible College in 2009. It is a fine organization, doing important work in a difficult region--well worthy of your support. It is also significantly warmer than my current place of work.

These photos were taken yesterday after last week's blizzard:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Helen Frances Miller (11 Jan 1935 - 31 Dec 2012)

I flew to Toronto on Christmas Eve to stand vigil at my mom's deathbed. She died the morning of December 31, with my dad and brother by her side. We buried her on January 4, three years to the day after she was first admitted to the hospital. There is an obituary here. This is the tribute I gave at her funeral:

Outside each room in the Long Term Care facility where Mom spent her final year is a memory box. The box usually contains mementos and an old picture, like the one at the right. It lets people know that the resident is not just another elderly patient who requires constant care, but a person of value and dignity. In spite of these efforts I sometimes wondered how much the nursing staff glimpsed of the “real” Helen Miller—the Mom I remembered as a child in Africa and during her early years in Toronto.

Everyone noticed the loving care my dad lavished on Mom. He was there every day, often for 6 to 8 hours.When she could no longer walk, Dad wheeled Mom around in her chair. When she could no longer feed herself, he fed her. When she could no longer speak, he told her about the events of the day, just as he always had. When she could no longer mouth the words to familiar songs, he kept on singing to her.

Did those who only encountered Mom in a nursing home realize she was as devoted a wife as Dad was a husband? Did they know that she would have done the same thing for Dad if their situations were reversed?

It was obvious to everyone that Mom was determined, persistent and courageous. As one of the nurses at Shepherd Lodge put it, she was “a very strong woman.” But those who did not know her story had no way of knowing how these qualities came to expression before she got sick:

For example, I asked Dad how many times they moved during their married life. He said they stopped counting after 25:

Mom went back to college in her 50's and completed a Bachelor's degree:

When she was 72 she published a book about one of the early missionaries to Somalia:

But this quiet determination, this tenaciousness—whatever other character traits come to mind when you think of Helen Miller—is only part of the picture. The center that held her life together, that gave it meaning, was this: Mom was a disciple of Jesus. Jesus said:

  • Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).
  • “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37).
  • “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) 

Mom took these words at face value—as we all should: They are not, after all, mere suggestions for a spiritual elite. Denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus defines what it means to be a Christian, a follower of the Christ.

For Mom, following Jesus meant leaving her family and sailing off as a single missionary to Somalia. Prospects of marriage must have seemed slim. But God had other plans. When a young man by the name of John Miller arrived in Mogadishu a couple years later, Miss Helen Baker was the director of the mission language school. Helen appointed John as an English teacher...and the rest is history.
Their 48th wedding anniversary would have been on January 15. 

As the family gathered around Mom's bedside last week, we spent time crying and laughing and sharing memories. We remembered Mom’s regular pattern of private Bible reading every morning, and the cadences of their joint Bible reading and prayer before they went to bed each night. My sisters, Edith and Karen, say they never heard Mom talk back to Dad or criticize him in their presence. (Apparently, “Now, honey...” doesn't count.) But if Mom modeled for her daughters what it means to be a good wife, I think it is because she and Dad were partners in the same cause and shared a common commitment to the same Lord.

Following Jesus also meant making sacrifices as a wife and mother. As we talked last week, Dad shared about the time in 1977 when SIM sent him overseas six weeks before the rest of the family. Mom was left behind to pack, and then to fly to Africa with four kids between the ages of 3 and 10. (I can hardly imagine what it would be like to fly overseas with one child, let alone four.) This must have been very hard, but she did not grow bitter. I will never forget saying goodbye to Mom at boarding school, seeing the tears in her eyes, and realizing that her sending me off to boarding school for months at a time was harder for her than it was for me.

That we share our mother's faith, and can get together without bitterness as a unified family is a testament to Mom's determination to follow Jesus and to build a vibrant marriage and a healthy family in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Suffering is only to be expected for those who take up their cross to follow the crucified Lord. But Jesus also said:
“No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30) 
I'd like to think that those who have been affected by my mom's life are part of the 100-fold reward in this age.

When viewed as a whole and not just through the prism of her final suffering, Mom’s life shows that the good life is lived with open hands, in total surrender to Jesus. But the good life—the eternal life of the age to come—is only fully realized beyond death in the presence of the living God.

So as we mourn the loss of our mother, we also celebrate because we are confident that she is now present with the Lord, where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.