Nijay Gupta - Good Scholar, Passionate Teacher
Loren: Today we are welcoming one of our newest faculty members, who joined us this fall, Nijay Gupta. Here at George Fox we want to be a seminary where faculty are not only good scholars but also passionate teachers. With that in mind, Nijay, tell us a little bit about your approach to the classroom and what you teach.
Nijay: Thank you, Loren. I became interested in teaching mostly because I love learning. I love that kind of excitement I get from exploring a new book, or making personal discovering in Scripture. In the classroom, I try to make it a multi-media, multi-experience environment. I like to have times where the students are simply exploring things in the text, and we talk about academic approaches and I let the students go after it and see what they encounter. They often come back with insights even from just ten minutes exploring the text, and they get excited -- I mean, this is life giving stuff! I love to talk in the classroom about how the text relates to real life -- what the text has to say about friendships, conflict, suffering, family, vocation. And I love learning from seminary students who come with lots of ministry experiences and wisdom from life -- I learn a lot from them. It's such a rich experience for me.
Loren: Do you have a favorite teacher or a writer or scholar?
Nijay: Given the amount of reading I do on a daily basis -- there are so many people that I have come to admire! Probably at the top of the list -- my students easily recognize this -- is N.T. Wright. Nicholas Tom Wright, professor of Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. I got to know Professor Wright when he was bishop of Durham -- I went to the University of Durham for my PhD -- and Wright impresses me as someone who is an excellent historian and interpreter of scripture, but he's also a passionate leader in the Christian world. Someone that cares about the church. Someone that wants to help every day Christians grow in their faith. So he writes both for the academy and for the church. He actually left academia for a period to do various church roles, and I value that deeply.
Second person that quickly comes to mind is Deitrich Boenhoffer, a great German pastor and theologian of the 20th century who lived during Hitler's reign. I like introducing students to Bonhoeffer because he's one of these theologians that, while he was brilliant, he was a man that really lived out his convictions even to the point of death. He was hanged for treason because he was conspiring against Hitler to save Jewish lives. Students, when they read about his life and about his works, can easily sense that Bonhoeffer was a man that gave everything to Jesus, and was not willing to compromise.
Loren: So it sounds like, in a sense, both serve as models for you in some way?
Nijay: Absolutely. A lot of the people that I admire are men and women of integrity who want to live out what they believe. I want to do that as well. You know, I see my role in the seminary not just as a teacher but also as a pastor -- a pastor for students. I want to pray with them. I want to pray for them. I want to be a person they consider to be a man of integrity. I want to be a person thinking about the life of the Church, and everyday life. I like to tell students that you can tell a lot about a person by where they shop, who they spend time with, how they spend their "free time.” I feel that people who are serious about their faith need to be living it out in all areas of their life.
Loren: On the scholarly side, you have some projects you are working on. Tell us about them.
Nijay: Yeah, I enjoy writing very much. I have a blog and I try to blog weekly. Currently, I'm working on a commentary for 1 and 2 Thessalonians. A friend of mine asked me to write this commentary for a series. Even though I hadn't previously worked on 1st and 2nd Thessalonians much, I said yes because I thought it would be a fun challenge to tackle. As I was translating the text of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, as I was reading through exegetical issues -- engaging with the scholarship -- something that really struck me was who Paul was as a leader and as a pastor. He doesn't call himself a pastor, but he comes across as what we think a pastor ought to be. This made me think a lot about who pastors are in our minds today. We spend a lot of time thinking about management, administrative issues with pastors, money issues, conflict resolution, things like that -- they are definitely things we need to talk about and teach people how to understand-- But i'm starting to think about how Paul captures and characterized the pastoral spirit. What drives a pastor? That really motivated me to write a separate book that will be a more popular-level topical project on a pastoral theology of 1st Thessalonians. What I came to see coming out of this text in 1st Thessalonians is intimacy. A kind of parental spirit behind the pastoral task. The text that jumped out to me in 1st Thessalonians 1 was this: "we thought it best not only to share with you the gospel (to convert you, to teach you the gospel), but our own deepest selves -- our lives, our souls -- because you became dear to us." The greek language there for "dear" is literally "the beloved." They became beloved to him. And I've thought -- do pastors have that relationship of belovedness? Of intimate giving and receiving. So this book that I'm working on is tentatively called The Life Giving Pastor. Because I see the role of the pastor not to just to give life (to be life giving because they give life like a parent does), but also they receive life. And I feel that if we can tap into that and better understand what Paul is talking about when he does that, and how he models that -- I feel like we can help pastors, we can prevent pastors from getting discouraged so much and help them overcome the challenges they have faced by receiving life from their ministry as well.
Loren: Thank you Nijay for sharing.
Nijay: My pleasure.
Nijay Gupta is the Assistant Professor of New Testament. He holds degrees from the University of Durham (Ph.D.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Th. and M.Div.) His primary teaching areas are New Testament, Greek and English translation, exegesis, and biblical theology. His research interests are biblical theology, biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, Pauline literature, the Gospel of John, and New Testament ethics.