Today I leave for Turkey today with 27 students, a colleague, and his wife. I hope to post some photos and brief updates from time to time while we are there.
The trip is the second half of a modified Historic Christian Belief class that I taught for the past week and a half on campus. In the class we covered historic theology, with a focus on Western Turkey. A lot has happened in the land that is now know as Turkey:
1) A first wave of Christian ministry was led by the Apostle Paul (and friends – Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos, Timothy), with Ephesus as the hub city for ministry throughout what is known in the Bible as the region of “Asia” (as seen in Acts 16-20). Paul also wrote many letters to Asian churches (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy) later in his ministry.
2) A second wave of ministry was spearheaded by the Apostle John. He probably relocated there in the years leading up to the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. Ephesus was his base of operations as well, according to church tradition. He likely wrote 1,2, and 3 John from there, and maybe the Gospel of John too. Then, from the island of Patmos off of the coast of Asia, he wrote to seven churches in Asia (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea), as seen in Revelation 2-3.
3) In the second century, some notable bishops left their marks in Christian history and in Asia – Papias of Hierapolis, Polycarp of Smyrna (whose inspiring martyrdom is recounted in The Martyrdom of Polycarp), and Melito of Sardis. Also, bishop Ignatius of Antioch (Syria) wrote letters to several churches in Asia, on his way to martyrdom in Rome.
4) The first seven ecumenical councils (not including the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15) were held in Asia, in the cities of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon. Trinitarian and Christological confessions from those councils are still held by churches around the world today (particularly the Nicene Creed, which was written in Nicaea in 325 and revised in Constantinople in 381).
5) In the early 4th century the newly professing Christian emperor Constantine relocated the capital of the empire to what became Constantinople. Christianity now enjoyed favored status in powerful places, which was in stark contrast to Christians’ experience in the first three centuries of the church. Bishop John Chrysostom (the “golden mouth”) warned Christians against becoming too comfortable with wealth, entertainment, and power, but also blessed his flock with sermons such as his famous “Paschal homily,” in which he proclaimed the wide riches of God’s grace to all believers, weak and strong in faith, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
6) As time went on, Constantinople became an impressive city, under Constantine, Justinian the Great, and other powerful emperors, who adorned the city with buildings such as the Hagia Sophia. The city was eventually overtaken by the Ottoman Turks in 1452. Today, Muslims make up as much as 99% of the population of Turkey. Some of these Muslims are devout, while others are considered nominal Muslims.
Our group is excited about the trip. I hope to have some good photos to share in the coming days –