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.
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.
Ralph said, "We studied forty subjects toward our degree, ten per year, five per semester."
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.
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.
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.
studied at Seminary to make medieval writers and scholars more
accessible since they all wrote in Latin and much of it has not been
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
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
subjects at the Seminary had a "theological slant" and barely touched
on matters such as the Inquisition, witchcraft trials and missionary
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.
WHAT GOT RALPH INTERESTED IN THEOLOGY?
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.
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?
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
"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!"
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.
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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".
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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".]
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
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."
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
For further information about Luther Seminary see the following: