One of the advantages of studying the New Testament in Rome is being able to have an “up close and personal” experience of the ancient Roman Empire through the architectural and artistic remains of it that can be found throughout the city. Walking into the Pantheon, climbing the stairs inside the Colosseum, or trekking through the Roman Forum are all ways to experience the Roman context of early Christianity.
Recently we visited the famous Roman Forum. The format of our course, The New Testament in the Eternal City, includes not only classroom lectures but also site visits each week. More than simply “fun field trips”, these site visits are an integral part of the academic component of our study abroad program. Each week the site is to be integrated with the content of the classroom lecture. And while we’re on site, there is even more academic input from me and the occasional guide who leads us. So, pens, notebooks and course texts are not left behind! Instead, the site itself becomes both our classroom and the focus of our study – our “text”.
Our lecture was on the Roman context of early Christianity and our trip to the Roman Forum gave us a feel for what it was like to live, work, shop, participate in politics, and pray in ancient Rome. The basilicas, government buildings, temples, and areas of commerce included in the Forum helped us to understand how it functioned as the political, religious, and social center of ancient Rome.
“Just as the Bible, specifically the 4 gospels, gives us the most insight into Jesus’ life, the Roman Forum also gives us the most insight into the life of the Ancient Romans, revealing not only their political and social life, but also their religious values and ideals.” – Danielle Cady
“It is interesting to see the archaeological remains of the Roman Forum, an example of the Roman Empire’s strength and organization. This society had no room for Christianity; a belief system that directly contradicted their pagan worship.” -Carly Lockyer
“… one of the most interesting arches in the Forum is the “Arch of Constantine”. Although this arch represents victory for Constantine, it is also a tangible object that marks one of the most important moments in Christianity, as Constantine declared Christianity as the religion throughout all of Rome at this time and fought his battle with “divine inspiration” – Devin Flood
“Comparable to the literary sources used to write the Gospels, the Arch of Constantine was built using “sources” from other pieces of Roman history while still incorporating new and innovative procedures to make this one of the most well preserved ruins in the Forum”. – Caroline Carew
“…the Arch of Titus… was constructed in honor of the victories of Titus and Vespasian in the Judean War, which ended in the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Interestingly enough, Jesus predicts this destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in the synoptic Gospel of Mark.” – Lauren Politi
“The Arch of Titus located at the entrance of the forum depicts the attack of Jerusalem. The imagery on this arch shows a triumphal procession bringing the war booty from Jerusalem, which includes the altar of Solomon’s Temple decorated with trumpets, and the seven-branched golden candlestick or menorah.” – Taylor Morley
Friends, Romans, Countrymen – Friars!