Thursday, January 3, 2008

Getting to Know Daniel M. Gurtner Part I

The "Getting to Know" series will feature New Testament scholars in various disciplines who are making significant contributions in their respective fields of research.

I am pleased to present an interview conducted with Daniel M. Gurtner, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, MN.

Tell me a bit about your family, background, etc.
I was raised in Pittsburgh in a nominally Christian family. I gave a verbal profession of faith at the age of 16, but soon grew to ignore it. On 13 August 2001, however, I was starkly reminded of my verbal profession when I sustained a severe head injury playing high school football that would change the course of my life. With athletics now out of my life due to the severity of the injury, I went to a small Christian college not far from home. It was there that I realized that my verbal profession needed substance, and finally surrendered to the Lordship of Christ the spring of my freshman year of college (1993). I am married to Beth (2001), and we have two children: Matthew (2005) and Kyra Lynn (2007).

How did you get involved in biblical scholarship and who were your influences?
As a young Christian, I was discipled in the classroom. This was especially the case because I had never read the Bible before worth speaking of and was now required to take Bible classes at my college. I loved it. I took all the classes I could in Bible and most from the same professor, Dr. Jim Bibza of Grove City College, who remains a friend and mentor to this day. From those classes and a further passion for rigorous, worshipful exegesis under Dr. Greg Beale at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, I sensed a firm calling very early on in my faith to an academic ministry.

It says in your bio, that you took two years off to be a pastor in Pittsburgh before returning to academics. Was that a difficult decision to make?
No. I was burned out from school and was unsure of my next academic step. I desperately needed some practical experience, so going into pastoral ministry was an essential step for my preparation for teaching in a seminary, as I am now.

How has experience in the pastorate helped in your scholarship?
Primarily the pastorate helps my teaching. Having been a full-time pastor I not only gain some credibility with students, but am able to give some advice as to how to handle texts in highly practical pastoral circumstances. I cannot say that it has necessarily helped my scholarship, but it has greatly enhanced my own faith and ability to teach seminary students effectively.

How did you end up at St. Andrews for your PhD?
For several years I was inquiring of a number of leading Matthean scholars about doctoral programs. I knew my subject of study, and so it was just a matter of finding the right place to go. I was advised to determine my subject, and then find the best person in the world to work under for that subject. The feedback I got was unanimously Prof. Richard Bauckham at the University of St Andrews.

Who is your doktorvater?
Primarily Richard Bauckham, though I also worked for a time under Prof. Ron Piper during a time of Prof. Bauckham’s illness.

Explain the process that helped you choose your dissertation topic and why you chose it.
The process was entirely devotional and related to my own spiritual pilgrimage. Reading the tearing of the veil text in light of what Hebrews does with the same imagery, I sought to study the text from an OT and Second Temple Jewish background to grasp the significance and magnitude of what is accomplished in Christ. Ultimately, I came down with a very different reading of the text, but that is how my interest originated.

This concludes part I of the interview. Part II will be found in a separate post.

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