T5081 – Chiseling God: History, Culture and Divinity in Ancient Greece

Athens, Chania, Heraklion, Kastraki, Arachova, Olympia, Nafplion
Faculty: Micah Kiel and Nathaniel Nelson
12/27/2018 – 01/17/2019

An unforgettable course to explore the various ways ancient Greeks understood God by close examination of their cultural, archeological, architectural and literary heritage.

Academic Overview
Why do people believe what they do about God?  How does culture and context influence how God is understood?  Close contact with and examination of ancient sites and artifacts bring such questions into profile and press individuals for self-reflection on his or her own beliefs.   This course seeks to explore the diverse ways that God has been understood in a variety of ancient Greek contexts.  Understandings of God can be examined concretely in the archeological, artistic, and architectural legacy of the ancient Greeks.  For example, the Acropolis in Athens contained primarily buildings devoted to different Gods, yet it was thoroughly a civic endeavor, which raises a whole host of questions about how and why humans understand God the way they do.  Food sacrificed to Gods provides part of the backdrop for Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians, but one cannot fully understand the polytheistic culture until one walks the ancient streets, sees the city layout and how Paul approached Christianity in such a cultural milieu. Close examination of early Cycladic figurines portray a close connection between God and fertility. All of this will be wrapped in an experience of modern Greece, with its spectacular scenery, great food, warm hospitality and healthy chaos.  

Program Fee
Program Fee includes:  Transportation and course arrangements as indicated, hotel accommodations in twin, triple, and multi-bedded rooms, continental breakfast daily, one lunch and two dinners (subject to change).

One 100-level theology or religion course is preferred.

Required Readings
Ancient Greece:  A New History by J. McInerny

Excerpts from:

  • The Portable Greek Reader, W. H. Auden, editor (Penguin)
  • The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives (Penguin, 1960)
  • Euripides V: Electra, The Phoenician Women, The Bacchae (University of Chicago Press, 1969)
  • 1 Corinthians (Find a Bible, or read online: http://www.usccb.org/bible)

Adventurousness and flexibility (10%)
Presentation/Report from Independent Museum Exploration (25%)
Group Presentation of Scholarly Article (20%)
Participation (20%)
Final Project (25%)

Faculty Directors
Micah Kiel, St. Ambrose University, (563) 333.6121, email: kielmicahd@sau.edu
Nathaniel Nelson, University of St. Thomas, (651) 962.4671, email: nels0600@stthomas.edu

Description of Faculty Directors

Dr. Kiel is an Associate Professor and Chairperson in Theology at St. Ambrose University. He teaches both lower- and upper-level classes; and his research and specialties include ecological hermeneutics, The Bible and modern culture, intertestamental Judaism, New Testament Theology, and the Gospel of Mark.  He recently published a book on the book of Revelation and Ecology. Dr. Kiel has extensive knowledge with the ancient Greek language and has previous experience leading study-abroad courses to Greece (2012, 2016) as well as experience as a student in Athens, Istanbul and Rome.

Dr. Nelson is an Associate Professor at the University of St. Thomas Graduate School of Professional Psychology. He has practiced as a Clinical Neuropsychologist in the Twin Cities since 2006, and has been a full-time member of the UST faculty since 2011. Dr. Nelson studied in Greece in 1996 and assisted Dr. Kiel in an initial UMAIE J-term course in Greece in 2012 and 2016. He has varied research interests, including the psychology of religion, and neuropsychological aspects of spirituality and mental health.

Application Procedures & Deadline
· Select the How to Apply link to start your online application.
· All applications received by your home institutions priority deadline will be sent to the faculty immediately. Applications will be taken after that deadline for programs with space still remaining until the final application deadline of October 1, 2018.

Final Application Deadline: October 1, 2018

For more information on course content, contact Micah Kiel.
On application procedures or logistical information, contact your study abroad office.


Travel Packet

Travel ePacket (Link)

Click the image at left to access the course Travel Packet. The ePacket contains important information about traveling abroad, including your itinerary, frequently asked questions, participant letter and culturegram.

Preliminary Itinerary will be posted by October 16.
Final Itinerary will be posted by December 7.


The Orientation process includes 3 components:
– an online self-study and quiz on the UMAIE student handbook.
– an online orientation webinar conducted by your faculty director(s)
– an on-site orientation upon arrival.

You are REQUIRED to participate in and complete all 3 steps within the deadlines specified below. Failure to do so may result in your removal from the course.

Student Handbook and Online Quiz

2018 Student Manual (PDF)

We have put together this handbook to provide you with helpful information for planning and spending your time abroad. The handbook is also your primary study guide to pass your online quiz. There are excellent tips in this handbook, and it is organized in a way we hope will be user-friendly and straightforward.

Please carefully read the UMAIE student handbook and complete the quiz on the UMAIE student handbook by October 20, 2018.


quiz_thumbYou can access the online quiz through your online application by logging in to your school’s study abroad website. Complete the 2019 UMAIE Participant Quiz under Assessments on your online application portal.


 Orientation Webinar

The online orientation webinar for this course is on:

Wednesday, October 25, 2018 – 4:00pm-5:30pm

Your participation is required. Please review the sign-in instructions below and make yourself available to participate on this date.

Click the webinar icon below to access the launch and sign-in screen for Zoom.

Instructions (PDF)

Instructions (PDF)

Webinar Link (Zoom)


(Alternate Access to Webinar)

Topic: 5081 – Chiseling God: History, Culture, Divinity in Greece – Kiel/Nelson
Time: Oct 25, 2018 4:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://stthomas.zoom.us/j/565853646
Or Telephone:
    Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
        US: +1 646 876 9923  or +1 669 900 6833  or +1 877 369 0926 (Toll Free) or +1 877 853 5247  (Toll Free)
    Meeting ID: 565 853 646
    International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/eaRdmzLV


Participants are required to bring their Student ID card with them on the course to qualify for reduced student entrances at many sites. Without your ID, you could be responsible to pay any difference in entrance fees.