Journey of faith, Exodus, pilgrims and sojourners

Journeys feature strongly in the Bible (see Path and Exile). For a person making the journey, or a group making a journey together, these journeys often have deep significance for their relationship with God. (See Big ideas: Path, way)


One of the earliest accounts in the Bible of a major journey is that that made by Abraham in obedience to God's command, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father's homeland and go to the land I will show you' (Genesis 12:1). This resulted in Abraham embarking on a nomadic existence for many years, following the commands of God.

The Exodus

Later, the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham, were enslaved in Egypt, and then led out of captivity by Moses, in a journey known as the Exodus. They then wandered in the desert for forty years before they reached the Promised Land (see Big ideas: Moses).

New Testament journeys

A number of significant journeys are recounted in the New Testament, particularly surrounding the nativity story relating to the birth of Jesus.

  • Joseph (the carpenter) took Mary from their home in Nazareth on a journey to Bethlehem, to be registered for a census. While they were there, Mary's son, Jesus was born.
  • A while later, wise men journeyed from the east, led by a star, to worship the new born king and bring him gifts. They recognised the child Jesus as the king they were seeking. They were warned by God to return home by a different route to avoid danger.
  • Joseph was then warned by God in a dream to take Mary and the child on a journey to Egypt to escape danger.

Later in the New Testament, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, many journeys around the area of the Mediterranean Sea are recorded, describing the journeys taken by the first disciples of Jesus, particularly Paul, as the Christian church grew.

Pilgrims and sojourners

In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jewish pilgrims are seen travelling to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship God there. New Testament writers also began to use the words pilgrim and the term sojourner (someone who was a temporary resident) to indicate the belief that Christians are on a journey through the world towards their true home in heaven and should live by God's standards during their short stay on earth.

Journeys of faith

Physical journeys can thus be symbolic of spiritual journeys, for example, the journey of faith which all believers in God undergo (see Big ideas: Doubt and faith).

Journeys of faith in literature

A famous allegory of such a journey is Pilgrim's Progress, by the seventeenth-century writer John Bunyan, who wrote it while imprisoned for his beliefs. His book describes how the central character ‘Christian' travels from his home town, where he is burdened by sin, through many dangers until he reaches the River of Death and crosses over safely into the Celestial City (Heaven).

Many other literary works, such as Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, or, in more recent times, Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, also take the form of physical journeys which reflect spiritual development and discovery.

Related topics

Big ideas: Doubt and faith; Moses; Path, way

Other cultural references

Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

Brontë's Jane Eyre

Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day

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