Getting to Know Knox Faculty – Bradley McLean
In February 2009, ConneXions began a series tohelp the broaderKnox College community better know ourFaculty. In this issue, The Rev.Dr. Bradley McLean, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature & Director of Distance Education, agreed to answer a few of our questions.
One of the most talked about courses by students at Knox is your Greek class. How did your interest in thesubject develop?
Of course, the New Testament was written in Greek. It follows that those who desire a deeper understanding of its message must strive to attain knowledge of this language. I have just written an introduction to biblical Greek entitled New Testament Greek Odyssey. It will be published by Cambridge University Press later this year. My approach is somewhat unique in that it gives learners the opportunity to use the historical Greek system of pronunciation. In contrast to the artificial pronunciation system used by all other grammars, the historical Greek pronunciation system is a real, pronunciation system, which is veryclose to the pronunciation employed by the first Greek-speaking Christians. Those who adopt this pronunciation system will experience the joy of hearing the sound of the living language of early Christian prayer and preaching.
Why is Greek such an important language for those pursuing ministry today?
There can be no doubt that the abilityto interpret the New Testament in Greek is a central component of the Reformed tradition. All theologians ofthe Reformation, including Calvin and Luther, emphasized the importance of studying the Bible in its original languages. In our own age, mastering Hellenistic Greek may not be a realistic goal for everyone but, in my view, total unfamiliarity with the original language of the New Testament is indefensible for theologians and theological students. After all, there is no rabbi who can’t read the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, nor an imam who can’t read the Qur’an in the original Arabic language. In any case, learning Greek is a blessing. It is my experience that those who commit themselves to the regular, lifelong study of the Greek New Testament will know the joy of being led through, and beyond, its words to a lived, faithful,transformative, relationship with the living God.
What are you currently researching?How will your current research helpthe College (and the Church) moveinto the future?
I have just completed a second book entitled Post-Historical Hermeneutics:Reclaiming the Significance of the Bible. Over the last century, the discipline of biblical studies has almost exclusively concerned itself with the historical meaning of biblical texts. But by drawing attention to the ‘rootedness’ of the biblical texts in their respective historical contexts, historical analysis has inadvertently severed the connections between biblical texts and our own world. My book argues that only by moving beyond historicalinterpretation to what I have called‘post-historical’ hermeneutics canthe interpretive act be completed, bygrasping the ‘significance’ of biblicaltexts from within our own historical lives. According to this new model, the very act of interpretation both reveals and creates ways in which we are implicated in, and dependent upon, a wider ‘ecology,’ which includes the church, people of other faiths, the poor,and victims of injustice, and, indeed, all humanity. By connecting ourlives with the lives of others, biblical texts have the potential to transform everything with which they come into contact, including biblical interpreters and the wider world.
You’re currently working as editorfor the College’s self-study tobe submitted as a part of its reaccreditation process with the Association of Theological Schools (AT S). What has your involvement taught you about Knox College and the current landscape of theological education in North America?
Knox College is a very exciting placeto serve God. It is located at the centre of Canada’s largest university, located in what is probably the most culturally and religiously diverse country in theworld. Knox is also faced with a new generation of young people, many of whom question the continuing relevance of religious faith in modern society. It would be difficult to imagine a context that would be more challenging than this. In whatever ways God will call us in the future, faithfulness will certainlyrequire us to find new ways to dialogue with those who are different from us, and to capture the imagination of youth.