Written by Dr. Charles Zimmerman Tuesday, 03 January 2012 00:00

Where have they gone & where are they now? 

I thought that for my blog entries, I would contact former faculty members and provide an update on what they have been doing since they left Biblical and how they spend their time these days. 

Gary Cohen was the only member of the founding faculty that I never had as a teacher, in fact, I have never met him.  However, I have heard on good authority (Wayne Davidson) that he was not only good in the classroom; he was Wayne’s favorite seminary teacher. 

What years did you teach at Biblical? 

I taught at Biblical Sept 1971 to May 1976.  

What have you been doing since then? 

I spent 1976 -1981 as president of Graham Bible College, then at Clearwater Christian College.  I taught and served as Academic Dean at Miami Christian College, which became Trinity International University-Florida Regional Center, from 1981 to 2011.  There I was privileged to be voted in various years by the students as Most Merciful Professor and Most Humorous Professor.  I had the privilege to write eight books, be one of the translators of the NKJB, be a contributor to the OT Theological Word Book and the Christian Life Bible, as well as the Kirban Bible and the Red Letter Bible, published by R. Turner. I had the joy for about a dozen years to be a speaker for the Moody Prophetic Conferences held in churches around the United States.  The Lord allowed me to be an Army Chaplain (I joined as a private E-1 after college) and retired as CH (Colonel) USAR in 1992, and was also a graduate of the USAF Air War College. 

I have been connected to a zealous Korean work for some 20 years which has some 65 branches today. I have had the joy of speaking at their graduations in Osaka, Japan; Lima, Peru; Sao Paulo, Brazil, and other places as well as to teach in Miskolc, Hungary and Hong Kong.  With my family, we designed and built the prototype of the Jerusalem model which is at the Holy land Experience in Orlando.    I today have the joy of serving on the Boards of South Florida Bible College & Theological Seminary and of Zion's Hope, Clermont, FL. 

My wife Marion and I have been blessed with three fine Christian children and six grandchildren.  We now live in Clermont, FL near Disney World and I speak in churches and annually in Glendale, CA and at the Park of the Pines Bible Conference, between Seattle and Tacoma, WA. There, of course, have been difficulties, but we thank the Lord for His gracious presence through the years. 

Tell a favorite memory from your Biblical days

When I taught Introduction to Greek at Biblical, I would ask students to put an assigned sentence, English to Greek, from Machen's text on the board for the class to examine. We had two major rules: viz., once you put your marking pen down and took your seat, you were not allowed to return to the board again to make any changes, and the sentence had to be your own work. I would often offer some small award to any student who placed a sentence on the board with no mistakes. This was a rare feat as the sentences in Machen could be tricky, and for instructional purposes, we only asked students to put the more difficult ones on the board.  One day one of the students, as he took his seat, boldly declared to the class that he had put a mistake-free sentence on the board.  To that I raised the offered reward, which was an automatic 'A' for the next quiz and you didn't have to take the quiz. With clapping of hands and broad smiles the student glowed with joy and assurance.  I still recall, however, that I had spotted a misspelling, of all places, in the last letter of his last word! As I publicly analyzed the sentence, our confident student, with boastful words, took delight as I commended his work word by word as we progressed. Then as we came to the final word, he gave what sounded like the howl of a wounded wolf!  He saw it at the end of his last word. I still recall the shouts of the entire class at that "learning moment."     

Contact information:  drgarygc42@yahoo.com

Cordial regards to all at Biblical.  May our Lord continue to bless you!  Gary Cohen, Mark 10:45

Please add a funny or serious story that you have that includes Dr. Cohen. 

Charles Zimmerman is the Thomas V. Taylor Professor of Practical Theology.  He also serves as Teaching Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton.  He is married to Kim and they have two daughters, Ashley and Megan.  See alsohttp://biblical.edu/index.php/charles-zimmerman


Written by Professor Steve Taylor Monday, 02 January 2012 00:00

Note to the reader: This is the second in a series of blogs on reading the Bible as a biblical theological unity. I will be arguing, in the series, that the most stable foundation for a biblical- theological use of the Bible is a missional hermeneutic shaped by “Christotelic”vision of God’s ways in revelatory and redemptive history. These and other terms and concepts will be defined, described, and illustrated in subsequent posts; but now some historical context is in order:   

Most Christian who are able to spend extended time in the scriptures sooner or later experience a kind of bafflement. Passages like Psalm 89, discussed in the previous post, throw us for a loop. A careful and honest reading of such passages—and there are many of them—reveals tensions, twists and turns that seem incompatible with a high view of the Bible as God’s perfect word.

An Old Perplexity

You and I aren’t the first to feel such tensions! The issue has actually dogged the Christian community almost from the very beginning. While we will be devoting several later posts to the question of how New Testament writers experienced and dealt with the cognitive dissonance born of this Biblical diversity (whew, that’s a mouth full), suffice it to say now that the earliest “Christians,” who were all Jews or very much aware of being part of a Jewish movement, all assumed that the God who raised Jesus from the dead was the same God who had acted in the story of Israel and spoken through Moses and the prophets. Tensions between biblical (=Old Testament) texts or surprising developments in God’s story with his people (e.g., who would have thought that the Davidic Messiah was to die a cursed death on a Roman cross?) were held together or resolved literally in God’s climactic action in Jesus Christ. In Jesus the Messiah, the disparate plot lines of Israel’s story were seen to converge. Indeed, Jesus was understood to be Israel herself in some eschatological sense. As Paul put it to the Ephesian Christians, God had recently, “in accord with his gracious plan put forth in the Messiah, revealed the mystery of his will as a climactic strategy to gather up all things in heaven and on earth into one head, namely the Messiah!” (Eph 1:9-10). The earliest Christians, then, interpreted their Bibles within a narratival unity underwritten by the breath-taking climax of that narrative, a climax that in one way or another “gathered up” all the loose strings and  mysterious pieces.

Second Century Complications

This interpretive consensus was sorely tested after the first couple of generations, however. During the last decades of the first century, the Christ-movement underwent a massive demographic shift; what had been a primarily a Jewish movement became a Gentile one, and the conviction of one story lost some of its luster. The Psidian stonemason in the house church  in Iconium could hardly relate to Israel’s story and the intellectuals in his culture quested for a more stable and enduring unity than that offered by contingent events of history.

Moreover, the Jews who met in the synagogue down the street weren’t about to give up ownership of their story or of their Bible. They argued, with some persuasiveness (which we will have to feel later), that the Bible was about them and for them not about Jesus the crucified Nazarene or for his pagan acolytes.  When an early second century bishop named Ignatius passed through Asia Minor (the areas reached by Paul’s mission) on his way to an appointment with Roman executioners, he met church members who were confused by Jewish claims. They challenged him with the following argument: “If is not in spelled out in the founding documents (i.e., the Old Testament) , we won’t be believe it as part of the gospel!” Ignatius’s “Well, it is in the founding documents” received the sarcastic retort, “That’s precisely the question, isn’t it?” Baffled by this attitude, Ignatius proclaimed, “For me, the ‘founding documents’ are Jesus Christ!” There is something properly compelling in his answer, but it needed fuller articulation given the pressures of the times.

A Heretical Response

The Christian use of a unified Bible was indeed under intense pressure on all sides. Some within the broader Christian movement simply gave up: they concluded that the scriptures embodied no unity at all, that they actually stemmed from two different gods!  This is the route taken in the second century by a teacher in the church of Rome named Marcion. He was thrown out as a heretic!

Reading according to the Rule of Faith

Most Christians clung to the unity of scripture and of the God who inspired it by formalizing a reading strategy. To begin with, these Christians gradually developed a summary of the highest points of the narrative, a set of non-negotiables within the plot-line: the oneness of the Creator God with the God revealed in Jesus; the major events of Jesus’ life and his second coming at the end of the story; and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the “catholic Church.” Similarities of this summary to the Apostles’ and the Nicene creeds are not accidental! Henceforth, all true interpretations of Scripture had to be consistent with this summary, this “Rule of Faith.”

This arrangement did provide a measure of theological stability and richness for Christian hermeneutics but at some cost: the wonderful but troublesome complexity of the narrative was tamed by the Rule and frequent preemptive appeals to the Rule constituted a tacit but programmatic admission that the reading of scripture could notbe on its own terms but had to be ruled-governed . This “ruled reading” was fine as long as the “Rule of Faith” remained a summary of the narratival highpoints of the scriptures themselves, but what if the Rule developed beyond a narrative summary into a complex system of doctrine or a body of tradition? How could scripture ever correct the tradition?

Figurative Interpretation: Typology and Allegory

And there was another weakness in this arrangement. Since the Rule of Faith was a summary of highpoints, it was always vulnerable to fresh discovery of the more numerous “low points” in the story. There were many particulars within the story that this “ruled reading” simply could not directly process. How were these to be handled, if they could not be ignored? Here second century interpreters turned to the method of figurative interpretation, a method already employed by Greek philosophers seeking to mine the stories of Homer and by Jewish scholars seeking to defend the Bible. The basic idea was that the speech of the deity was by nature irreducibly rich in meaning and therefore highly symbolic. Not an unreasonable assumption! Readers of scripture had to be sensitive to the fact that they were treading through a field of symbols. Thus, in the difficult or the odd particulars of scripture, Christians could see, in symbolic form, the great truths of the faith. But what truths? Well, those already enshrined in the Rule of Faith, of course.

For as long as the Rule of Faith remained simple and narratival, the figurative reading of scripture dealt primarily with pre-figurations or types. The great expositors of scripture during the second century, folks like Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyon, and Melito, the bishop of Sardis, were primarily concerned to layout how players, events, and institutions in the Old Testament pointed forward to the great archetype, Christ. But here and there, there were Christian interpreters who presaged a broader, more static, and at times, more capricious symbolic reading. For example, the unknown author of what is known as The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 120 C.E.) found in the number of Abraham’s servants, given in Genesis 14:14 as precisely 318, clear reference to Jesus and his cross. He explains that the meaning of this and other symbols “are clear to us [Christians], but obscure to them [the Jews], because they did not hear the Lord’s voice.” This writer was less interested with correspondences between earlier and later elements in the biblical story than he was in establishing a Christian meaning for every aspect of the Old Testament. Details were to be taken allegorically, as symbols for Christian spiritual truths.

The Hermeneutical Legacy of the Second Century

Thus the second century bequeathed to the later church three powerful hermeneutical tools to stave off bafflement: a Rule of Faith, the concept of a “ruled reading” constrained by the Rule of Faith, and a method of figurative reading that encompassed both typological and allegorical interpretation. Would the later church find these sufficient or problematic? How about you? 


Written by Justin Gohl Friday, 23 December 2011 00:00

Perhaps it would be fair to say that evangelicals have historically been suspicious of pragmatic and/or consequentialist understandings of truth—that truth is in some significant way determined by “what works” or by the effects of a given thing. Rather, we would say, if something is true, it simply is that, and while certain effects may naturally and appropriately flow from this truth, the effects are materially separate from the “truth-status” of the content of an idea, action, etc., itself.

And this suspicion is for good reason: humans are sinful and broken, quite adept at justifying after the fact that which is in fact sinful and self-serving, with “look, it worked” or “look at the results” reasoning.

Evangelical discussions of Scripture and its interpretation have been an especially poignant expression of this set of convictions about truth. Scripture and its contents are true, it is emphasized, regardless of what we say about it or what we do with it, because of how God relates to Scripture.

And certainly that baseline can and must be affirmed by Christians: Scripture’s truth is a function of God himself, not in any way contingent upon our response.

Yet, why can prominent early church figures make statements such as these?

Tertullian, for example, suggests that, “To know nothing in opposition to the rule [of faith] is to know all things” (Prescription Against Heretics 14 [ANF 3.250]).

Augustine, on the other hand, suggests that, “Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them such that it does not build up the double love of God and of our neighbor does not understand it at all” (On Christian Teaching I.40).

For Tertullian, the truth of Scripture (and all things) is something discerned when the reader comes to Scripture (and reality) with the “hermeneutical glasses” of the Apostles’ Creed (= Rule of Faith). Scripture’s “content” is ultimately nothing more or less than what Christians affirm as they confess the Triune God, the redemption wrought in Jesus, the Church’s calling, the creation of the world and the consummation of all things at the end of time.

For Augustine, the truth of Scripture finds expression when we read it in such a way that we are moved to love God and our neighbors. If our readings of Scripture fail in this ultimate purpose, they are “false,” no matter the truth of the “content” of what we say about or deduce from Scripture.

What these two expressions share is the idea of participation. The truth of Scripture’s “content” is not “objectively accessible,” for if it were, then there would be no need for the Church to distinguish between orthodox and heretical readings of it—exactly what Tertullian is writing to address. Rather, accessing the truth of Scripture requires coming to it in and through what the Church together confesses (on the basis of Scripture itself, of course). So also with Augustine: Scripture’s truth is again not an objective reality but is understood in terms of how God uses Scripture—to make us lovers and seekers of God and of our neighbors. That is, Scripture’s truth must be understood in connection with the purposes for which God gave Scripture to the Church and our participation in this purpose.

Obviously, none of this is based on the assumption that there is no such thing as truth. Rather, the focus is on the fact that how we access truth is through participation in the Truth (Jn 14.6, with John 1.1-5), and that both the goal and the effect of this participation is our transformation. It is such that we can then “do the truth” (1 Jn 1.6). When our lives are shaped by both the content and effects of Scripture, as these participate in the life and work of the Triune God, we become the truth of Scripture/Law, as Origen of Alexandria suggests (Commentary on Romans 3.6.5 [Scheck]):

We have said above that God is about to enter into judgment with men (cf. Rom 3.19-20). Suppose that someone should object to us that we seem to be saying that God himself is under law. Listen to what great caution is found in this connection in the letters of the Apostle [Paul], who relates that Christ is not under the law but is the fulfillment of the law (Rom 10.4). And just as he himself is the righteousness through which all become righteous (cf. 1 Cor 1.30); and he is the truth through which all stand firm in the truth (cf. Jn 14.6); and he himself is the life through which all live (cf. Jn 1.4; 14.6); so also he himself is the law through which all are under the law. He [Christ] comes to the judgment (as Judge), then, not as one who is under the law but as one who is law. But I think that even those who are already perfect and, by being united with the Lord, have become one spirit with him (cf. 1 Cor 6.17) are themselves not under law but are themselves law. This is precisely what this same Apostle says in another place, “The law has not been laid down for the just” (1 Tim 1.9).

Or, reflecting the present season of Advent/Christmas, the famous gospel song-writer Gloria Gaither presents the Incarnation as something in which we are to participate:

My heart would be your Bethlehem
A shelter for your birth
My body be your dwelling place
A sacred temple on this earth
By holy intervention, an act of love divine
In union with mortality, make incarnation mine. 

My heart, my will, my mind, my all
I consecrate to bring
The holy Son of God to earth
O let the angels sing.

 May it be so!

Justin Gohl is an adjunct professor of theology at Biblical. He is married to Kate, his wife of 7 years, and is a full-time stay-at-home dad with two kids, Caleb (2) and Phoebe (1). He is ABD at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia where he is in the latter stages of writing his dissertation on the early church’s use of the Book of Proverbs.



Written by Dr. Bryan Maier Thursday, 22 December 2011 00:00

Growing up I was ambivalent about Christmas morning. My parents did not shower me with gifts but they did get me a few presents and I knew that a few of these would be things I had specifically asked for. I could barely wait to rip open the packages when the anticipation was finally over. When all my gifts were opened, I was able to survey my newfound bounty. And then the strange almost melancholy feeling hit “is this it?” “Is there no more for me to open?”  It was almost anticlimactic and frustrating. Every year I imagined that opening my presents would bring me satisfaction but it never did and it never does. My pastor made this point in a recent sermon when he challenged us to remember what we received for Christmas the previous year.  I, along with most, could not.  So as the years have gone by, I hear the innocent question, “what do you want for Christmas?” as somewhat of a cruel tease. What is wrong with me? Am I just lacking the Christmas spirit?

During a recent Monday worship at Biblical. I was reminded again of that famous quote by C.S. Lewis “If I find a desire within me that cannot be satisfied in this world, the most logical explanation is that I was made for a different world”.  I find great comfort in this quote.  I am not abnormal just because I continue to want more and am never satisfied.  We have a longing within us that will never quite be satisfied on this Earth. Of course the uncomfortable implication of this is that we will feel an insatiable hunger and thirst at some level for the remainder of our lives. Sometimes the ache will be acute; other times it will fade but it will never go away.  Oddly, there is a part of me that is growing to value that hunger and thirst. It means there is more.  What a nightmare if this world and this life is all there is.  This is what Christmas really means to me – the beginning of the end of sin, abuse, cancer and death and the beginning of true life as it was meant to be lived, in Christ.  

So what of the gifts I will give and receive in a few days? Well, as long as I don’t expect them to satisfy my deepest desires, I hope can enjoy them.  At the end of the semester, my students graced me with some Moose Tracks ice cream, my favorite. Along with the creamy treat came the warning, “This will not fill the hole in your soul, but we hope you enjoy it.”  Amen.

Bryan Maier, Psy. D.  is an Associate Professor of Counseling & Psychology in the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates.


Written by Dan LaValla Wednesday, 21 December 2011 00:00

In our society, there is a great amount of emphasis placed on the need for victims to forgive their assailants or abusers. Much of the intention behind this emphasis is out of concern for victims of heinous acts by giving recognition to the fact that forgiveness requires only the action of the victim regardless of whether or not the assailant or abuser is repentant. Therefore, once a victim has been removed from the threat of his or her assailant, forgiveness enables a victim to be released from the resentments that accompany a trespass and empowers him or her to participate in the healing process on multiple levels (e.g., physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.).

On the other hand, reconciliation involves a transaction between the assailant and the victim, requiring both to participate in the restoration process. That is, reconciliation requires an assailant or abuser to recognize his or her trespass, express remorse towards his or her victim(s), voluntarily offer a means of restitution, and truly repent of such action(s). In exchange, the victim offers forgiveness or a full pardon without the requirement of restitution.

Therefore, we need to be careful not to unintentionally place too much of the responsibility for reconciliation on the shoulders of victims, nor minimize the importance of restitution in this process. Jesus teaches and requires trespassers to repent (Luke 13:1-9) and victims to forgive (Luke 17:2-4).  Even in criminal situations where a perpetrator has paid his or her debt to society, there is still a place for the assailant to voluntarily offer personal restitution to his or her victim for the destructive consequences imposed on the victim.

Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.



Written by Dr. David Lamb Tuesday, 20 December 2011 00:00

The package arrived on the right day in the right size box.  But it was addressed to my wife, Shannon.  I hesitated to open it, knowing trouble could ensue from a prematurely opened package.  But she wasn’t going to get back until tomorrow night. It was painful, but I waited.  Eventually, Shannon returned, opened the box and confirmed my suspicions.  My Christmas iPad had arrived and it was only December 2. 

To open or not to open, that is the question.  The arguments for opening it now were strong.  It had arrived.  If God didn’t want it to arrive early, he could have delayed its delivery.  On-time arrival was clearly a sign of divine favor.  God probably wanted me to use it now. 

I could set it up and start getting the apps so that when Christmas arrived I could use it properly.  (This argument was supplied by a colleague at Biblical.)  That sounds good.  After all, it could take several days to figure out this gadget and get it configured the right way. 

Shannon said, “I think you should wait.”  Ouch.  Waiting was painful.  And because it was painful, I knew she was right. 

In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to sacrifice things that were important to them: grain, animals and wine.  Christians today don’t typically engage in OT-type sacrifices, no burned cakes, slaughtered sheep or poured out libations.  While sacrifices seem like a waste, God commands them because they put people in a place of dependence upon him.  And that’s a good thing.

Waiting to open my iPad until Christmas feels like a sacrifice.  (I realize I’m just waiting until I am supposed to open it, so not a big sacrifice, but it feels big.) 

Sacrifices, like waiting to open a highly valued Christmas present, also defame the idol behind the present by saying it’s OK to go without.  And let’s face it, technological gadgetry is a huge idol in 21stcentury American culture.  People love their toys a little too much. 

Here at Biblical Seminary, we emphasize missional engagement with culture, but one of the problems with cultural engagement is that it can border on idolizing culture.  To check this tendency, we need to not only engage popular culture, but also to defame popular idols. 

To make sure my new toy doesn’t become an idol, I’m making a sacrifice and waiting.  (But no guarantees I won’t be waking up early on December 25.) 

What recent examples have you seen of defaming cultural idolatries? 



Written by Dr. Derek Cooper Monday, 19 December 2011 00:00

 When I was in graduate school, I decided that I would not allow my study of theology to become a purely academic exercise. So when it came time for my specialization, I consciously chose the book of James. Although I would argue that all the books in the Bible are “practical” in nature, there is something especially punchy about James’s letter. Just in the first chapter alone, he confronts the reader with a continuous cascade of sayings: “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue…his religion is worthless” (1:26). There is no way to read the book of James and walk away unaffected.

Which is exactly what many of us who teach theology professionally do. We become, as James cautions us, “hearers of the word and not doers” (1:23-24). In order to protect myself from this tendency, I am committed to having a long-life engagement with the book of James. In the midst of this engagement with the book, what I continue to come back to are two separate verses in the first chapter.

  • “Let steadfastness have its full effect [on you] so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:4).
  • “This is a double-minded person, unstable in all his ways” (1:8).

These two verses, like Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly in the book of Proverbs, serve as contrary ways to navigate the world. James’s goal is that, as a follower of Jesus, I will be mature and complete, able to respond to any trial or temptation that comes my way. He contrasts a single-minded and stable person with a double-minded and unstable one. Unlike the latter, a mature and perfect person is able to keep a rein on his tongue, put his faith into action, and love God rather than the world.

Although it may be my inclination to divide theory from practice—where I “work” in the former but am forced to “live” in the latter—my obligation as a single-minded person of God requires that I live my life with the understanding that the two are always related and connected. Theory and practice go together. And that is the way it is supposed to be.

Derek Cooper is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical, where he directs the LEAD MDiv program and co-directs the DMin program. His most recent book is entitled Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor. See his faculty page at: http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/derek-cooper.




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