Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

12/15 2011

Constructing Jesus

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One of the best things about Pittsburgh Seminary is our faculty. One of the best things about our faculty is their accessibility. Everywhere you go you are bumping into one professor or another. Whether engaging by office appointment (or an open door), eating lunch together in the cafeteria, or worshipping in the chapel, PTS students and faculty spend a lot of time with one another. 

However, in the midst of class syllabi and the familiarity of daily encounter, a professor’s scholarly work can sometimes go unnoticed unless they teach a class on that particular topic. This is where Faculty Colloquium comes in.

Several times each year, the Evangelical Student Fellowship (ESF) sponsors a community-wide colloquium where a faculty member is invited to present one of their recent publications. The presenter then chooses a respondent from among his or her colleagues (usually across-discipline) to provide a reaction to the work. The event follows that same sequence and is followed by a Q&A session. The intent of the colloquium is to foster even greater student-faculty relationships, and also to provide faculty members and administrators the opportunity to see what their colleagues are up to. This event involves everyone at PTS!

Wed., Dec. 13 was our most recent colloquium. Professor Dale Allison, Errett M. Grable Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, presented on his latest publication, Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History. Professor Allison spoke briefly on how we remember things and why this is important for properly understanding the reliability of the Jesus traditions as recorded in the Gospels. This work truly has the potential to introduce a major shift in historical Jesus research. But, as amazing as that may be, I believe that I was most impressed with the characteristic humility that Dr. Allison displayed in his lecture. 

These are the qualities that the PTS faculty has to offer: world class scholarship, to be sure, and more importantly, the fruits of the Spirit. I am grateful for the opportunity to be shaped by these teachers.

Michael, Senior M.Div.


12/8 2011

The Love of God through Study of Biblical Languages

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One summer I worked at a Christian summer camp where we would teach our campers the Scripture passage that went with our theme. When we were ready to start practicing the verse out loud we would yell “SCRIPTURE!!!” I loved my experience as a counselor. I especially loved that we stressed God’s Word as a source for knowledge, wisdom, and encouragement.

As I began seminary, I realized that I was required to learn both biblical Greek and Hebrew with the purpose of delving more deeply into the Word. I trusted that my studies would enable me to accurately share the wisdom, hope, and love found within Scripture.

I just wrapped up my third and final term of biblical Hebrew! I took Greek during my first year in seminary and Hebrew this past summer. Once I began memorizing words and learning the nuances of the language, I remembered how much I love learning about another culture through language.

Since high school I have studied the German language. I even minored in German during college. I have always loved the aspects of interpersonal communication through other languages. What I didn’t expect in taking Hebrew was that I would grow to better understand my relationship with God the Creator. Through learning the meaning of different Hebrew words, as well as learning to recognize the intentions of the authors, I have come to understand more deeply the love that God has for me and the rest of humanity.

One purpose of a seminary language course is to help us preach the Word with boldness and accuracy. This alone is a great reason to study the language, but I was surprised to find how much closer I felt to the heart of God when I read Old Testament Scripture in Hebrew.

My interest in communications and language study has been enhanced by the Greek and Hebrew courses I’ve taken at PTS. I am confident that when I am called into a congregation, I will be prepared to analyze, explain, and clarify both Old and New Testament Scripture through the original languages. PTS has helped me to take what was just an interest in languages and turn it into a way to better proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and for that I am grateful.

Donna, Senior M.Div.


12/1 2011

Preach Like a Girl!

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When I arrived at PTS, like many of my peers, I was questioning my call to ministry. After all, I didn’t really have any pastor role models who were female. So what made me think that I could, or should, feel that I was called to pastoral ministry?

Thankfully, I have had some wonderfully affirming experiences at PTS! The homiletics course called Women’s Preaching Traditions as well as my most recent experience helping to lead worship with an all women chapel team, are two of these experiences.

The Women’s Preaching Traditions class gave me the opportunity to realize that women had a history of responding to their call to bring forth the message of Jesus Christ throughout history, not just recently. My classmates and I saw that women were able to speak with authority because their message delivered the Gospel in a way that it could be heard by marginalized groups, by those who needed to hear the message in a different light, or by those who understood that the messenger was not the message. We wrestled through “Texts of Terror” passages from Scripture where women were shown to be victims of terror. We contemplated how these messages could speak to current situations, and we noted important differences that women bring to the delivery of these messages. I particularly loved the camaraderie that was evident in this class. We had a running phrase “Preach like a girl” which captured the heart of what we were learning and also empowered us in owning our pastoral identities as women.

Working with ordained female pastors (the Rev. Cathy Purves ’97 and the Rev. Kimberly van Driel) to plan and lead chapel services for the first week of Advent provided another perspective on women in ministry. One thing that I noted was that these female ministers took specific steps to consider how music and readings would impact the congregation. They were both interested in how the message would be received if the congregation was overwhelmed by the exhaustion of a difficult song for example. They helped us to think theologically as we made decisions about the various parts of worship. I especially appreciated how they took special care that the logistics were in place to ensure that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper would care for all, including those with special dietary needs. The level of thought that went into planning showed a compassion for those they serve in their own congregations.

I know that there are still many places where women are discouraged to participate in ordained pastoral ministry, but I have also seen and participated in opportunities where women’s voices have added a new dimension to proclaiming the Gospel message. Praise be to God for these valuable experiences that encourage me and my female peers! In the words of both the male and female students of the Women’s Preaching Traditions class, it is a good thing to be able to … Preach like a girl!

Kathy Shirey, Senior MDiv student

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