Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Exploring Ephesus

I have had the very good fortune to do some traveling in my younger days, including two weeks in the Holy Land, but that chapter of my life is past and now I visit the world vicariously.  Recently I had the chance to see the sites of Turkey while watching the DVD Exploring Ephesus.  It’s just one of the many Christian titles available from  I watched the DVD by myself on a Sunday afternoon, but it would be great to show in a Sunday School class or Bible study.  I’m planning on having my son watch when we study history next year.

Ironically, I had a very good chance to be an exchange student to Turkey in my high school years but I had my heart set on going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and selected France instead (and only got to walk beneath, not ascend the monument).  Had I known more about the country sometimes known as the Second Holy Land I may have chosen differently.

Did you know for example that two thirds of the New Testament was written to or in the land of Turkey?  All seven of the churches mentioned in Revelation  are within its borders.  As far as the title city, Ephesus, the Apostle Paul visited  on two of his three missionary journeys.  The Disciple John lived there for 40 years or so, wrote his Epistles there, and is buried there.

Our tour guides on this hour long excursion are Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Andy Jackson.  The former is the director of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey and the latter has been traveling and leading tours in Turkey for twenty years.  Although the DVD is called Exploring Ephesus (and it is featured for the majority of the film), they begin their journey in Smyrna and also visit the Island of Patmos and the city of Laodicea. 

Our tour begins when the two men pull over to the side of the road for a scenic overview of the city (which has moved several times over the centuries but focuses on three hills).  A great special effects shot takes us from the sweeping panorama to what I assume is a satellite image with the ancient sites overlaid in red.

The two men then walk through the city, passing by and commenting on sites like the Magnesium Gate, the Library of Celsus, the Roman amphitheater, and the ruins of the Temple of Artemis.  If you a truly interested in the architecture or art of the site, you may be disappointed in the brief glimpses because the focus is more on the spiritual and Biblical aspects of the city.  They did take a moment to highlight a menorah etched as graffiti on the steps of the Library of Celsus—proof that Jews lived in the city, and small enough that you might not be able to find it on your own if you were there in person.

At about the halfway point of the film the two men board a boat to travel to Patmos where we can see the Church of the Apocalypse.   Then we visit the city of Laodicea and see the water delivery system and learn the role it plays in the letter to its church in Revelations.  Finally we return to Ephesus to finish at St. John’s Basilica and the supposed tomb of the beloved disciple.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I have done my share of traveling in the past and sometimes things just don’t meet up to our expectations.  For example, when I was visiting the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem and looking at what appears to be the face of the skull of Calvary there was the noise and stink of a bus depot right below it.  By watching a DVD, I don’t have to worry about not the crowds, entrance fees, or other things to detract from the experience (there’s no telling what was just out of camera range). Better still,  I didn’t have to endure a 4 hour boat ride but was instantly transported to the next location (for which my stomach was very grateful). 

As for the DVD itself, it is coded to be played in all regions.  The audio is only available in English but there is closed captioning.  Occasionally there will be additional text on the screen (as in the picture above) but they timed it and placed it in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the captions. Review

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