Doug’s Biblical Studies

“Apply yourself wholly to the text; apply the text wholly to yourself”

This aphorism, from the great seventeenth-century theologian Johann Albrecht Bengel, expresses my passion. From the time of my conversion to biblical Christianity as a senior in college, I have devoted myself to understanding the text of the Bible. To equip myself for this calling, I studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in Deerfield, Illinois (M.Div. 1975), and at the University of St. Andrews, in St. Andrews, Scotland (Ph.D. 1980). I then taught New Testament at Trinity for twenty-three years before moving (in 2000) to my present position at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois), where I am Kenneth T. Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies. At Wheaton, I have the privilege of working with bright and motivated graduate students, teaching in the Biblical Exegesis program and mentoring Ph.D. students.

In the early days of my academic career, I focused on the gospels (see my dissertation listed below) and the Epistle of James (see the two commentaries listed below). But most of my work for the last two decades has been on the letters and theology of the Apostle Paul. The Epistle to the Romans has been a special focus, as you can see from the three books on Romans listed below. Certain “friends” have wondered why one person would write three books on the same biblical book. But each has a different purpose and audience. The Eerdmans NICNT commentary is long (almost 1000 pages) and attempts to present and evaluate a lot of the academic work on Romans in a format usable for pastors and students. The Zondervan NIVAC commentary focuses on the application of the message of Romans and is intended for a general audience. And the Baker Encountering Romans is a textbook, suitable for students who need an overview of the book. I have also written 2 Peter and Jude (NIVAC), Colossians and Philemon (Pillar), and Galatians (BECNT).

My passion to understand and teach the Bible has led to my involvement in another significant ministry, that of Bible translation. I have served since 1997 on the Committee on Bible Translation. The Committee, an independent group of 12-15 biblical scholars, produced the New International Version (NIV) in the 1970s and 1980s, the TNIV in 2005, and, most recently, the updated NIV (2011).

I have worked hard, then, to put into practice the first part of my motto: “Apply yourself wholly to the text.” But all the work on understanding the Bible means little if I don’t follow through on the second part as well: “Apply the text wholly to yourself.” I have not been nearly as successful in accomplishing this part of the motto. But I am grateful that God in Christ forgives my failures and that his Spirit is constantly working to overcome those failures.

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