For Beth Hoffman, Jesus’ words about keeping your lamp on a stand are easy to picture. In fact, she can picture them six hundred ways. As a volunteer assistant with the Flora Archaeological Center (also known as the Arch Center), Beth has had the opportunity to spend time with the close to six hundred lamps, along with hundreds of other biblical artifacts, from well before the time of Abraham to the third or fourth century AD.
“To touch or hold onto something like what your Lord and Savior used,” Beth says with excitement, ”or a piece from the time of David and Solomon, really helps you to understand Scripture better.”
Beth believes that encountering tangible items in person can make a big impact on one’s spiritual life, underscoring the reality of Jesus and the people in the Bible. “Jesus is a Jew who followed the Old Testament,” she explains. “It’s what he knew. As a rabbi, he taught from that context and culture.” She goes on to describe a fourth-century replica of a first-century foot-washing basin, which would have been just like the item Jesus used to wash his disciples’ feet. “To touch or hold onto something like what your Lord and Savior used,” Beth says with excitement, ”or a piece from the time of David and Solomon, really helps you to understand Scripture better.”
Beth’s fascinating experience with these artifacts began to take root in the 1980s, when she earned a degree in anthropology from Kent State University. Is wasn’t until she took a class at the seminary in 2009 that she decided to pursue a seminary degree, enrolling in the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies program. Soon she became a graduate assistant to Dr. John Byron, who organized tours for a special collection commemorating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. In 2011, she joined other seminary students on a five-week archaeological dig at Tel Gezer, Israel. After taking an archaeological class with Dr. O. Kenneth Walther, she was offered a volunteer position at the Arch Center. “I was over the moon,” Beth said, “and I’ve been helping with the collections ever since.”
As much as Beth recognizes and celebrates God’s work in the archeological background of her life, she finds her seminary experience even more influential. “Immersing yourself in a community of like-minded individuals who are also on a journey on their spiritual walk is life changing. When you embrace the experience, the campus becomes holy ground that touches you deeply on a spiritual level.”
Beth graduated in 2014 with a focus on the Old Testament. Today, she continues to pursue her passion for biblical archaeology's connection to spiritual formation. In fact, she has written devotions pairing pictures of artifacts with corresponding Scripture and reflections. One missionary friend used these devotions during her journeys overseas.
As for future plans, Beth understands the power of waiting on God: “I’ve learned to breathe, take a pause, listen to the Spirit, and go where God wants me to go next,” she says. “Wherever he leads me, I pray I have the ears to listen and the heart to follow.”