Over Spring Break, a group of 26 Truett students, faculty, and friends journeyed to Israel for a 10-day Holy Land tour, beginning in Tel Aviv on the outskirts of Jaffa and traveling by way of Magdala, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and other biblical and historical locations, concluding with the Mount of Olives and the Garden Tomb.
"As a scholar focused on Old Testament study, this trip is one of the highlights of my seminary experience," said Truett student Val Fisk. "I have studied the Bible and theology for the last decade, and this is the experience that brought all my study to life. Seeing the locations and terrain, viewing ancient ruins, and standing on top of a mountain reading about Deborah and Barak leading a battle in the Jezreel Valley while looking into that valley-everything became real. I could see it happening in front of me."
The trip was led by Dr. Joel Weaver, senior lecturer in Christian Scriptures, and Dr. Deirdre Fulton, assistant professor of religion. Dr. Fulton, a member of the Baylor Department of Religion faculty, is involved in several ongoing excavations in Israel and thus was able to provide additional insights about the sites visited by the group.
For many of the Truett students who traveled to Israel, the trip was a culmination of a course they were taking with Dr. Weaver-Biblical Heritage and Contemporary Society in the Holy Land. Since the beginning of the semester, the students and Dr. Weaver had been discussing the importance and relevance of the sites they were to visit in Israel and reading books that examined and shared perspectives on biblical heritage and its impact.
"As a student of the Scriptures, it is one thing to read about a place and imagine what it is like. It is something quite different to see it with your own eyes," said Truett student Scott Dalton. "There is a depth of understanding that I received as a result of this trip such that I will never read the Scriptures the same way again. Having seen so much of the Bible come to life before our eyes was a life-changing experience that left us all better students of Scripture."
In Israel, the group stood on top of Mount Carmel, looking over the Jezreel Valley to see the place where David defeated Goliath. They took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and visited the village of Magdala nearby, the site of a recently excavated first century synagogue dating to the time of the ministry of Jesus. They hiked up Masada and floated in the Dead Sea. They visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the crucifixion since the fourth century, and the Garden Tomb, associated with the burial of Christ since 1867. Together, they stood in the tomb and imagined what it would have been like for Mary Magdalene to stand in that very same place and be greeted by the risen Jesus.
"Learning outside the classroom is simply a must for the serious seminary student," said Dalton. "I would place Israel on the top of the list of 'places to travel' for any Christian, but especially for seminary students. The ability to see, smell, and have tactile experiences with the places that you spend years reading about is simply unbeatable. Not only are trips like these an opportunity to learn outside the normal style of lecture and note-taking, but also it is an opportunity to truly internalize and understand what you study on a deeper level."