THEOLOGY at LUTHER SEMINARY

(Investigator Magazine 187, 2019 July)




The clock-tower building was built in 1882.
It is the location of the Seminary's administration and lecture rooms.

 


LUTHER SEMINARY

What can the study of theology do for you? Are critics on the Internet correct when they claim theology has never produced anything useful?

Ralph Gilbert obtained a Bachelor of Theology degree after studying at Luther Seminary in North Adelaide from 1991 to 1994.

He said the theology course had about 50 students i.e. about a dozen in each of the four years of the course. There was only one female student and the seven lecturers were also all males.

Luther Seminary is Lutheran and used to accept only Lutheran students. Ralph was the third non-Lutheran.


THE SUBJECTS

Ralph said, "We studied forty subjects toward our degree, ten per year, five per semester."

The subjects included Bible Introduction, Biblical Hebrew, Old Testament Worship, Old Testament Exegesis, New Testament Greek, New Testament Exegesis, Philosophy, Theological Latin, Early Church History, Medieval Church History, Reformation History, and Modern Church History.

"Exegesis" basically means "leading out" or "bringing out". It refers to examining the text to reveal its historical setting, its context, its meaning, and what it says or implies for today.

Ralph most liked the subject "Bible Introduction". The students went through each book of the Bible to determine its themes, structure and purpose.

Ralph scored 100% in Hebrew — a "Distinction" — which made him one of the two top students in that subject. Students learned to translate Hebrew into English but not the reverse; similarly with Greek.

Students did not learn to speak Hebrew or Greek, but learned to only read and translate. Modern Hebrew and Greek differ from the ancient languages. If Ralph were to go to Israel he would not understand the spoken Hebrew except for a few words. He does however understand some of the Greek that people from Greece speak since Greek has changed to a lesser extent.

Latin was studied at Seminary to make medieval writers and scholars more accessible since they all wrote in Latin and much of it has not been translated.

In the subject "Philosophy" students studied the writings of philosophers from Aristotle and Plato of ancient Greece to Hegel and Kant of modern Germany. [Philosophy since the Reformation has been dominated by Germans.]

An alternative philosophy program, which is done at the University of Adelaide, would be to study issues or topics such as Causation, God, Ethics, the Justification of Induction, and Free Will versus Determinism, and compare the arguments of different philosophers who specialize in these topics.

Church history subjects at the Seminary had a "theological slant" and barely touched on matters such as the Inquisition, witchcraft trials and missionary work.

The Bachelor of Theology is not an easy course but required steady effort throughout each academic year. There were up to four lectures per day, in addition to which Ralph studied in the evenings and on weekends. 


Ralph Gilbert


WHAT GOT RALPH INTERESTED IN THEOLOGY?

Ralph's mother was a church-going Baptist and gave him a Bible when he turned six. "From a young age I was always soaked in the Scriptures," said Ralph.

At Sunday-School he was the regular winner at "Sword Drill" which involved being the first to find Bible verses. The phrase "Sword Drill" comes from Ephesians 6:17 where the "word of God" is called the "sword of the Spirit". Ralph also won the State Championship held at the Flinders Street Baptist Church.


IS THEOLOGY USEFUL?

Theology, by teaching "Exegesis", provides an understanding of the Bible in its ancient context and therefore enables one to make a more careful application of its teachings to life today than is done by the untrained.

Ralph added, "Theology is good for understanding life and the world and also how to relate well to people. The Bible has lots of good advice — read the book of Proverbs!"

Students at Seminary did not undergo indoctrination by continuous repetition of narrow viewpoints, as might occur in some churches, but considered alternative interpretations, and consulted a variety of Bible commentaries, and came to their own conclusions.


RALPH TESTED

The time came in the interview to test Ralph's theological expertise by means of two tough questions.

The first question was about the Old Testament:

Esther 2:5-7 in the King James Bible says:

5 Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite;

6 Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah [in 597 BC], whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.

7 And he brought up ... Esther, his uncle's daughter...
 
The question asked of Ralph was, "Who does 'Who' refer to — Kish or Mordecai?" An article titled "Esther Ahasuerus and Mordecai" (in Investigator Magazine #177) argued that "Who" and "he" (verse 7) refer to the same person and therefore mean Mordecai.

Ralph checked the New Revised Standard Version and found "Who" replaced with "Kish". Ralph said that Bible translators sometimes translate or paraphrase difficult or ambiguous passages to agree with their own viewpoint. Ralph noted that Kish is mentioned once, and only in the genealogy, and that the chapter otherwise deals with Mordecai. Ralph concluded that "Who" refers to Mordecai.

Ralph later reconsidered and wrote:

It could not be Mordecai for the following reason. The Babylonian exile occurred 587 BC, while the book of Esther describes events that occurred during the reign of King Ahaseurus (Esther 1:1), whose Greek name was Xerxes. His reign was 486–465, i.e. 100 years later.

[Comment: Ralph's revised conclusion implies that if Mordecai is the "Who" who went into exile, then he and Esther would be too old a hundred years later for the events described in the book of Esther.
However, there is a minority viewpoint that equates Ahasuerus with King Darius who reigned prior to Xerxes. In other words Ralph could be right either way, Kish or Mordecai, because it's debatable.]

The second question involved Greek:

Revelation 5:10 in the King James Bible says: "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth."

There is a sect which believes that the "saints" will live in Jerusalem, literal Jerusalem, in Israel, and from there rule the world. Revelation 5:10 is for them a key text. They say that the Greek word "epi" means "on" and confirms that the saints will live "on the earth".

Another sect believes the "saints" will dwell in heaven, not on Earth, but will rule Earth from heaven. Their response to the first sect is that when "epi" is linked to reigning or ruling it should be translated "over". They claim Revelation 5:10 is translated wrongly in the King James Bible and should read "over the earth". The verse, therefore, says nothing about where the saints will live but what they will rule "over". The second sect cites Luke 1:33 — "He will reign over [Greek "epi"] the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." (NRSV)

Which sect is right? The question is not which doctrine is right, but which sect is correct regarding the translation of this one verse, Revelation 5:10.

Ralph later gave a written answer:

1. Rev. 20:6 also tells us of the reign of the saints. Here they "will reign for a thousand years." Note the future tense again, pointing to the renewed kingdom. Yet Romans 6:23 and 5:21 indicate that we have eternal life now, it's already started.

2. Rev. 20:1 is an important verse here: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." The whole creation is renewed, both heaven and earth. Sin existed in both—fallen angels in the former, fallen man in the latter—so they need renewing and purification.

3. Man was given the mandate to rule on the earth (Gen. 1:26–30). The future reign is the fulfillment of this. Sin has been dealt with, it is no more, so it will be a glorious reign under God’s reign.

4. They will be "kings and priests." Kings rule, but what of priests? Priests in the OT made sacrifices to appease God, give him thanks, and for cleansing and sanctification. All this was done on behalf of the people (see esp. the Day of Atonement, Lev. ch 16). Now the Aaronic ministry was a foreshadow of the ministry of Jesus Christ. He was at the same time the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice (see Heb. 9:26; 10:5, 12, 26). We are now, as was Israel, priests unto our God on behalf of the nations (Exodus 19:5, 6; 1 Peter 2:9–12), the nations that will bring their glory into God’s presence (Rev.21:24). Thus in eternity the saints will be priests in the Priest, worshiping the Father in the Son via his eternal sacrifice on the cross.

5. This, I think, is the key:
a) Christ reigns in heaven and earth (Philippians 2:10), this is the reward for his being fully obedient to the will of his Father;
b) The saints are in Christ; all that is his is theirs. Thus as he reigns, we reign, over earth and heaven.

So in answer to your question, the locus of our reign is not important, it's a moot point. What is important is that we will reign over all God has made, i.e. the whole creation. Geoffrey Bingham sums it up: "We are apt to think the saints will reign only in heaven, and be only in heaven, but here is Divine nationhood operating on earth, even if its seat and throne is in heaven." (Geoffrey C. Bingham, The Revelation of St John the Divine, (NCPI: Blackwood, SA, 1993), p. 63)

[Comment: Ralph, here, scores top marks. The Englishman's Greek New Testament gives us both the original Greek and the English, and translates Revelation 5:10 "over the earth" not "on the earth".]


THE SEMINARY

Ralph said, "The Seminary Library is named the 'Löhe Memorial Library'. It has 120,000 books on theology, philosophy, history, etc., and a wide range of journals."

The Catholic seminary in Adelaide closed long ago, which according to Ralph left Luther Seminary as "the best location in Adelaide to study theology" and "with some of the best lecturers."

Ralph had special praise for lecturer John Kleinig, who obtained a Ph.D. at Cambridge University (England) in Old Testament. He then taught Hebrew and Old Testament at the Seminary. He is now retired and is Lecturer Emeritus.


        For further information about Luther Seminary see the following:

https://www.luthersem.edu/about/our_mission.aspx?m=5956

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Lutheran_College

https://www.lca.org.au/stepping-stones/
(BS)


http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/