Peace family, have you ever found certain passages of the Bible to be dry and difficult to interpret?
For years, I’ve had trouble getting into Paul’s letters, but a recent trip to Greece has changed everything. I wish that everyone I care about could go on the same trip! We followed the journeys of Paul, plus saw some other historically important areas, and it was spectacular. With an archaeologist and a seminary professor as our guides, we drove cross-country, visited ruins and archaeological museums, and learned not just about produce, food, architecture, and the climate of areas like Thessaloniki, Philippi, Corinth and Ephesus (now Efes, Turkey), but also about the struggles and spiritual cultures of these specific churches and cities. Each city was associated with a Greek god, and that gave us clues about the value systems and prevalent sins in each area (for example, did this town value Athena, the goddess of wisdom, courage and victory, or Poseidon, the god of the sea, or Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility?)
Everything I’ve learned about the culture and history of Greece has made an enormous difference in how I interpret Paul’s letters, and remembering that these were letters written by a real person to real people, in a real place, in a specific time in history, has breathed new life into my reading!
I also gained new respect for Paul’s toughness. It took us multiple hours to drive journeys that would have taken Paul a very long time to complete on foot, crossing through mountain crags and across seas; Paul was a very determined person! Not only that, but besides the legal trouble that he got into in most cities, many of the cities where he shared had lots of malaria.
Peace family, if you have trouble getting into the scriptures, I want to encourage you to really dig into the history and cultural context. Don’t be afraid to take time to look up Corinth or Thessaloniki or Rome and see why Paul might have needed to address the specific issues that he did in their specific letters. Be willing to look at archaeological finds and engage with these people who first accepted Christ and had their lives transformed. I promise you, it is worth it! Also, if you ever have the chance to go to Greece, take it! It will change your life.
Anyway, just a few thoughts from your friendly, neighborhood Kat.