I have had the privilege of teaching Philippians for two weeks (13-24 May 2013) at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa. This is my fifth teaching trip to South Africa (2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) and funding this venture has always been a challenge. However, after Bishop Wilhelm Weber expressed his desire for me to teach again last February, I was in touch with the pastors of two LCMS congregations in the US who kindly picked up my airfare and some additional living expenses during the 2.5 weeks I lived and worked in South Africa. The two congregations that sponsored me were Elm Grove Lutheran Church, Elm Grove, WI (Rev. Eric Skovgaard) and Immanuel Lutheran Church, Frankentrost, MI (Rev. Mark Loest). Another congregation had previously dedicated approximately $400 for books (Faith Lutheran Church, Merrill, WI; Rev. Kevin Hoogland). Since the students already had the books I used to teach the course, Bishop Weber requested that the book money be used this year to purchase books for the seminary’s library. Thus, my two 50-pound suitcases were filled with up-to-date New Testament books for the library, 16 Small Catechisms, 4 Lutheran Study Bibles, devotional materials for the deaconess students, and a number of other materials needed in the educational objectives at the seminary.
Instruction for the Philippians class took place 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon and 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (3 hours of instruction per day). I projected the Greek text of Philippians onto a screen and worked through selections of the letter exegetically and theologically. Here are the assignments I expected from each student:
8 daily quizzes (1 quiz per day) 50 %
Assignment Sheet on Kuschel (due over the weekend) 20%
In-class Translation and Text Explication (assigned) 10%
Final Exam 20%
Total 100 pts possible
The assignment sheet consisted of some questions that were drawn from Harlyn J. Kuschel (Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. People’s Bible Commentary. Revised edition [Concordia, 2005]), designed to get the students to think about various isagogical issues that attend the letter (author, date, likely place of Paul’s imprisonment, theological accents, etc). The In-class Translation and Text Explication gave each student opportunity to work through the text in Greek (parsing, insights), and the Final Exam provided an overview. The daily Greek quizzes were an effective way to get students into the habit of parsing Greek words and requiring them to translate the Greek text into suitable English—no mean feat, given the fact that English is not the students’ first language. All in all, I believe the students worked very hard and derived the full benefit of my coming to them from America. The daily quizzes also allowed each student to work with the text every day and so improve—usually quite dramatically—from the first few days until my final time with them.
My colleague, Prof. John Pless, had informed me that the numbers of students I could potentially teach Philippians to (the seniors) was “dramatically down” from previous years when I’ve taught as many as 27 students in a combined class (deaconesses, first years, seniors). Thus, I was surprised when Bishop Weber contacted me in early February, sincerely requesting me to come again this year and serve as I could. He said it would be a “different year,” with only three seniors who were suitably trained in Greek to profit from the Philippians course. Nevertheless, he wanted me also to mentor three additional graduate students who are working on master’s degrees at the University of Pretoria and are at the dissertation stage:
Peter Abia text-critical treatment of John 4
Enoch MacBen Pauline “New Perspective” in Galatians
Frank Kainerugaba service of women in the Africa Lutheran churches
I met with each student for an hour, to hear how their work was progressing and to see if I could help. I am satisfied that these three students are “on track” theologically and should complete their work at the university on time.
In addition to the teaching and mentoring Bishop Weber requested that I preach twice in Chapel (15 and 22 May) and accompany him on a weekend trip to TseTse in the Northwest Province to deal with a pastor who was caught in an extra-marital affair. After consulting with the Dean of the Northwest Diocese (the Rev. Tebelo Johannes Mafereka), his staff, the church council of the TseTse congregation, and Bishop Weber, the pastor was asked to resign; he did resign, so the next day (Pentecost) Bishop Weber preached to a full house and had to deal with several congregational members who felt that the pastor had been unfairly treated. I’m pleased to say that Bishop Weber patiently listed to all sides but firmly and consistently supported the scriptural requirements for pastors to lead chaste and holy lives.
On Thursday 23 May I presented “Does Ephesians 5:21 Support Mutual Submission?” before perhaps 25 undergraduate students at the University of Pretoria, and another 12-15 students and colleagues from LTS. This is the fourth time I’ve presented such a paper at the university: it is good for me professionally and helps LTS to maintain its partnership with the University of Pretoria in the education of LTS’s master’s students. I am grateful to Professor Kobus Kok (Department of New Testament, University of Pretoria) for the opportunity to present this paper.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Rev. Dr. Carl Rockrohr and Deaconess Deborah Rockrohr who hospitably hosted me in their home throughout the 2.5 week period. Also, I must thank Bishop Weber and Angelika who also kindly welcomed me into their home for several meals and overnights, and treated me as part of their family. Bishop Weber has been to me a great host over the years and a real brother in Christ. In many ways I’ve felt that the extended Weber family has been the backbone of both confessional Lutheran churches in South Africa, and their personal faithfulness and piety have mentored many Lutheran pastors throughout the entire continent of Africa. It is vital that the LCMS continue to support LTS with our offerings and prayers, even as we respond to dramatic requests for assistance in Ethiopia and elsewhere. I welcome this opportunity to have served the Lord and his church by teaching at LTS in May 2013 and hope that the seminary can continue to influence confessional Lutheranism throughout Africa for many years to come, even as it has so faithfully in the past. I hope, by God’s grace, to return to teach at LTS next year.
Dr. John G. Nordling
Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary
6600 N. Clinton Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46815