Italy Trip

“Paul’s Roman World”

April 28-May 7, 2016

Ten Days of Exploring the “Missing Piece” of NT Context

Be sure to read Doug’s Overview of the May 2014 Trip

Want to significantly expand your contextual understanding of Paul and his writings? Then come with us to the first-century epicenter of the Roman world – Rome south to the Bay of Naples.  There you can engage Paul’s Roman context more intensely and efficiently than on a Paul’s Journeys trip.


For example, consider the theatre imagery (1 Cor. 13:1) and meat market arguments (1 Cor. 8-10) Paul uses in his letter to the Corinthian church.  Paul knows those images are very familiar to his readers.  You can travel to Corinth today and see the archaeological remains of the theatre and the outline of the meat market, or you can go to southern Italy and see much fuller representations of both.

Likewise, you can visit first-century Colossae and see very little of what’s left of that city (a few rocks on a large mound).  Or you can go to Pompeii and Herculaneum to see first-century cities (that Colossae was modeled on) “petrified in place” by Mt. Vesuvius, leaving hundreds of buildings with their walls, roofs, atriums, triclinium dining rooms, frescos still in place.

All too often we preach and teach the Epistles without a sufficient appreciation of the Roman worldview of the First Century – a complex culture that featured an array of adversarial major, minor and household gods; a multi-level aristocracy, a patronage system, freedmen and slaves; the pleasure principle; ancestor worship; cultic practices; entertainment spectacles; and more.  It was a highly religious world void of faith in anything but the State.

All of Paul’s Epistles and Letters were written in the context of the Roman world and its populace.  Even though the content of his writings is timelessly meant for the world, their perspective is uniquely Roman, and the best place to engage that context is studying the relevant historical relics/remains found from Rome south to Sorrento/Capri.

Because there is much to learn about the context that shaped the issues Paul dealt with in the first-century, Gentile Christian church, our time together will

•           Develop the mosaic that constituted Roman society by examining the lifestyles of a variety of Romans of antiquity.  Special attention will be given to the life of the Roman nobility and celebrities as well as to Roman slaves, poor Romans, Roman women, Roman soldiers and Jews in the Roman world of the diaspora. We will study the unique challenges each faced in becoming a follower of Jesus.

•           Orient ourselves to the entertainment and spectacle world of the time of Paul.  Implications for our own “media” world of today will be plentiful.

•           Explore a thoroughly pagan sexuality, a polytheistic and superstitious cultic tradition, a profoundly sensual culture, and examine the response of Paul in his letters with implications for today.

•           Appreciate Paul’s challenges and approach in creating a common, shared identify in Christ in believers drawn from all levels of Roman society.


On this ground-breaking trip you will experience the spectacular scenery of the Sorrentine peninsula and the Amalfi coast; the immensity of the Pompeii experience; the amazement of strolling through first-century Herculaneum; the wonder of walking on the 2,000 year old Appian Way in Minturno (literally in Paul’s footsteps), of standing in devotional silence where Paul was held in house arrest at San Paulo alla Regola, and of being within 100 feet of where Paul was beheaded at (what is now) the Abbey of Three Fountains; the grandeur of Rome; and more.  Implications for “how shall we then live” as disciples of Jesus will be abundant.

Come join us on our fourth trip to Italy as we explore and experience this fascinating missing piece of Pauline context!

Click here to view an interactive map of the major sites we will be visiting.

Our Study Program:

Day One: Depart the USA for Italy. Overnight: In flight.

Day Two: Stepping Back into the Roman World. Theme: To be a Roman – how goods, services and transport held an Empire together. Rome was both an Empire and an idea. Today we will examine what held the identity of this vast Empire together.  Sites include: Ostia and the coast near the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Overnight: Tyrrhenian Coast.

Day Three: Paul in the World that was Rome. Theme: To be Paul – how God used a man with a Hebrew heart, a Greek tongue and Roman mind. Departing our mansio, we will explore the New Testament record of Saul of Tarsus, stopping to visit the excavations at Minturno, a Roman town known to Paul and his companions. We will travel on to Pozzuoli, the harbor city where Paul first stepped onto the Italian Peninsula (Acts 28:13). Overnight: Pozzuoli.

Day Four: Theme: Daily Life at the time of Paul. Paul used motifs in his Epistles that sprung from the daily images of Roman life. By examining an expansive site frozen in time from 79 CE, we will uncover these images and see them much more clearly. (Puteoli harbor area, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Sorrento). Overnight: Sorrento.

Day Five: Emperors and Empire. This is a “decompression ” day offering three options: 1) To understand the political world of Rome and its impact on the New Testament story, some may elect to take a small vessel from Sorrento to the island of Capri where Emperor Tiberius ran the entire Empire for a time during the ministry of Jesus. You can elect to see the palace remains of Villa Jovis or explore and shop in one of Europe’s most exclusive and fun destinations! 2) Some may elect to explore the Amalfi Coast with its spectacular scenery and delightful shopping. 2) Others may elect to stay in Sorrento and soak in the ambiance of this stunning city on the Bay of Naples. Overnight: Sorrento.

Day Six: Playboys, Pagans and Philosophers. Theme: Today we will touch Paul’s life by examining artifacts taken from homes at his time, as well as visiting villas of people who were his contemporaries! At impressive sites we will discuss the popular philosophers of the time and become familiar with some of the more attractive pagan rites of his contemporary culture. Tonight we will have a special “ancient Roman style” meal.  Sites include: Oplontis (Villa Poppea), Naples National Museum, Ercolano. Overnight: Mansio Foro Appio.

Day Seven: A Spectacular Civilization. Theme: Rome was held together as much by spectacle and entertainment as by anything else. After a panorama of Rome by bus, we will visit the Forum Romana and the Colosseum in search of the spectacles familiar to all Romans. Sites include: Foro Romana, Circus Maximus, Colosseo. Overnight: Rome.

Day Eight: Paul’s Visits in Rome. Theme: Paul came to Rome the first time under guard and house arrest. During this two year period he wrote the so-called “Prison Epistles.” Today we visit the Rome most never see. In the morning we will experience the setting where Paul was likely writing from. Later, we will follow Paul’s second visit from his arrival to his beheading and burial. Sites include: Pantheon, St. Paul alla Regola and Jewish Ghetto, Three Fountains Abbey, Catacombs. Special lunch in Trastevere. Overnight: Rome.

Day Nine: From Empire to World Faith. Theme: the Gospel did not stop with Paul, but was transmitted through the centuries to the ordinary people by means of the arts. One cannot spend time in Rome and miss a visit to the incredible Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. So today we will shift our focus away from Paul’s life and break some new ground in our understanding of Bible art. (Vatican and St. Peter’s Church.) Overnight: Rome.

Day Ten: Depart for US, arrive later same day. **Those who desire to leave after the study of Paul will go to the airport. Others who wish to take optional extensions to see more of the wonders of Italy will begin their segment today!

Program Costs. The all inclusive trip (airfare, all breakfasts and most dinners, all transfers, tips, gratuities, etc.) is $4595 (depending on currency exchange and double occupancy from an East Coast gateway). A Single Room Supplement is available for $395. The “Land Only” price is $3295 per person (depending on currency exchange), double occupancy, for those who can get to Rome on their own, e.g. frequent flyer points. The only exceptions would be for lunches and a some dinners on your own. As you probably know, Italy is more expensive than Israel because of the Euro and forecasting the Euro/Dollar relationship more than a year in advance is a guess. The same is true for airline fares due to aviation gas prices. Thus the final price may have to be adjusted depending on the Euro/Dollar exchange rate and any airline fuel surcharge adjustments. All things considered, when it comes to European pricing we feel it is an extraordinary value for the price.

Extensions. All costs for extended travel in Italy would be borne by the travelers. These trips would be self-guided. Hotel, rail and rental car reservations for you if enough travelers elect the same extension, e.g., Florence and Venice.

Team Teaching. Since Italian law requires a licensed Italian guide to be with all groups, the teaching team will be Dr. Randall Smith, Doug Greenwold, and Theresa, and Stefano, our Italian guides in Naples and Rome.

Some of the distinctive aspects of our PBT/CTSP study trip include:

An integrated, thematic, contextual focus.

It is a true learning experience, not a tourist trip.

Three and four star hotels (I’m too old for the dormitory approach!)

Visiting Italy in the “shoulder” seasons of April/May often offers ideal conditions in the Mediterranean without crowds.

An ideal trip to “Paul’s Roman World” in Italy is 15% visiting the sites and 85% learning about the sites together with the motifs and themes that “connect the dots” of the sites with early church history.  We teach with an integrated focus on the historical, cultural, and literary context in such a way that deals not only with the facts, but with their purpose, meaning and implications.

Other Items of Interest

The all-inclusive cost of the 2015 Study Program is $4595 per person (double occupancy). A “Land Only” option is available for $3295 (you provide your own air transportation). Each “Land Only” participant is responsible for getting themselves to and from Rome from your departure city. Our Travel Coordinator is available to assist you in making your travel arrangements so that your arrival in Italy is coordinated with the others flying in from the States.

There is a single supplement of $395 for those who desire a (it’s small) single room. We will do our best to match you up with a roommate, but cannot guarantee that we will always be able to make that work.

Registration opens on October 1, 2015 and fees received after February 27, 2015 will be subject to a $100 late fee.

You will be offered the opportunity to 4buy trip insurance, the price of which will depend on the age of each person/couple. For your information, most people decide to buy it as it provides coverage 1) if you need to cancel for family or personal medical reasons, 2) your flights get delayed or cancelled and you need to rebook at a much higher price, 3) if you need medical attention while in Israel, and 4) if you need to fly back home early for medical reasons. You will be contacted after the receipt of your deposit to explain that program to you. The underwriter of the insurance provides the best coverage is you purchase travel insurance within two weeks of receipt of your payment.

Full payment of the cost of the trip (including any extra hotel days desired either before or after the trip) will need to be paid by April 15, 20154 full payment deadline. Credit cards can be used subject to adding the VISA/MC processing fee.

This trip will be limited to 40 people, the capacity of our bus (we want it to be personal). Reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

While the trip price covers just about everything, it does not include the costs for lunches.

Where possible we encourage people to come to Italy with someone (others) you can share the trip with, e.g., a friend, another couple, others from your small group or church.

Photos for our  Italy trips are available in our Galleries section for viewing.