The Importance of a Seminary Education

It has been more than one year since my retirement from teaching Old Testament at Northern Seminary. My twenty-eight years of teaching at Northern was one of the greatest joys in my life. The most gratifying thing about teaching the Old Testament was to see the joy and the enthusiasm of students when they discovered new and exciting facts about the life, culture, and religion of Ancient Israel.

At my retirement, President Bill Shiell said that I taught more than one thousand students in those twenty-eight years. If I would add the students I taught at Southern Seminary and Southwest Baptist University, the numbers of students I have taught in my academic career would easily reach more than two thousand students. I am honored to have had an opportunity to be a part of the academic pilgrimage of these students.

When students come to seminary, students begin their theological pilgrimage. This pilgrimage will lead them to discover the rich treasures hidden within the pages of the Bible. Christians everywhere love the Bible because it is God’s Word, and yet, most Christians’ knowledge of the Bible is limited and fragmentary.

A good seminary education will allow those who are preparing themselves to become pastors, missionaries, and workers in the many ministries of the church to gain a better knowledge of the Book that will become the focus of their ministry. Within the last fifty years or so, biblical scholars have developed new methods designed to help eager students to gain a better knowledge of the religious, political, economic, and social worlds of the Bible.

Students come to seminary eager to study theology, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and other subjects that will prepare them for the work of the ministry. My task as a professor of Old Testament was to provide students with guidelines for the interpretation of the biblical material in its literary, historical, cultural, and social contexts. My ultimate goal as a professor was to help students develop an appreciation for the Old Testament as an integral part of the Bible.

The Old Testament deals primarily with the history of the people of Israel. Other nations are also mentioned within its pages but only as they relate to Israel. The main concern of the Hebrew Scriptures is to provide the most important facts about Israel’s relationship with God.

The writers of the Old Testament were not concerned with providing neither plain facts of history nor a chronological account of the political and military events that affected the history of their nation. Rather, those who wrote the books of the Old Testament were concerned with the religious life of Israel, that is, they were attempting to understand the mighty acts of God and how Israel responded or failed to respond to God’s revelation of himself.

To study the Old Testament and to properly understand its message takes time and effort. Although I am now retired, I still hope to blog as long as the Lord gives me life. My task continues to be the same: to provide material that will help you gain a better appreciation for the Old Testament. All along, I invite you to join me in this pilgrimage of faith. Since a better understanding of the Old Testament will come through diligent study of its content, may your effort to know the Old Testament pay rich dividends. I hope you will allow me to help you in this journey of faith.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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