Friday, January 30, 2015

Dr. Wilson Cunha's Contribution to Biblical Interpretation Studies

The Bible. Many read it on a daily basis, but few delve into it with the fervor of Dr. Wilson Cunha, Assistant Professor of Theology at LETU. He’s recently published his first book that he describes as a “contribution to the history of Biblical interpretation studies.”

LXX Isaiah 24: 1-26:6 as Interpretation and Translation: A Methodological Discussion (Septuagint and Cognate Studies) explores different interpretations, considering historical and literary contexts, of this specific Biblical passage.

Cunha’s love for Scripture began at age 15, when he set out to become a pastor. He attended seminary in his home country of Brazil, and while he did pastor a church directly after graduating at age 22, seminary gave him a love for studying Biblical text in Hebrew and Greek. This passion led him to pursue his Th.M. in Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, followed by receiving a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands.

After his time overseas, Cunha decided to bring his expertise to LeTourneau University by joining the Department of Theology as Assistant Professor, where he currently teaches classes such as Hebrew, Old Testament Backgrounds, Pentateuch and Poetic Books.

Cunha has a long-standing interest in the Septuagint – an early translation of original Hebrew texts into Koine Greek  - and interpretation of Biblical text. These became foundation of his book that focuses on long-disputed issues of the interpretation of Isaiah 24:1-26:6.

“It’s a very interesting topic because there are so many debates surrounding it. I went to Septuagint Isaiah to see how a translator living in the second century B.C. would have interpreted this passage,” he said.

Cunha explains that the importance of the Septuagint, often overlooked among today’s church, lies in that it was the Bible that early Christians used to study the Old Testament and serves as the bridge between the Old and New Testaments..

“In these specific chapters in Isaiah, when you compare the Hebrew and the Greek text, the Greek is very different from the Hebrew. Scholars have debated since the early nineteenth century how we can explain the differences in the text,” Cunha said. “Most of the explanations have tended to say that the translator didn’t know the Hebrew very well, or he had another Hebrew text that we no longer have, or he made mechanical errors. I wasn’t very content with that explanation.”

Cunha took his dissatisfaction with the explanations and threw himself into what would become five years worth of research, taking a non-traditional angle.

“I decided to look at this from the perspective of the Greek itself. I took two and a half chapters from this book to see if these chapters had a coherence of their own - and actually, they do have a coherence of their own. All these differences that we see make sense in the context of the Greek text, therefore suggesting that this was not a mistake or from a different Hebrew text, but it was the way the translator read the Hebrew. It happens to be different from the way that scholars today read the same Hebrew text.”

In his book, he discusses such topics as the imagery of God preparing a great banquet for the nations, including the often-quoted Isaiah 25:8: “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.”

Cunha points out the importance of interpretation and translation in personal Biblical study:

“When we go to the biblical text, there are three worlds at play. There’s the biblical text itself, the world behind the text – what was happening historically when the text was being produced? And there is the world in front of the text – your world. It’s very important that you don’t infuse your personal view of the world into the text. Rather, let yourself be transformed by it. The most important thing is to not read into the text, but to read out from it.”

Cunha said the five years of research and writing strengthened him spiritually by relying on God for endurance to finish the massive project. Those disciplines will most likely continue to develop in his life – he’s in the beginning stages of research for another book, this time on chapters two and three of Genesis.

Dr. Cunha’s book is available for purchase on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Online and Entirely Personal

Collegiate experiences usually conjure images of lecture halls and late nights in the library. As we progress further into the 21st century, however, the collegiate landscape is becoming broader.

Thanks to technology, the opportunity to obtain a college degree extends far beyond the traditional live-on-campus-for-four-years model. Many LETU students have families and full-time jobs that shouldn’t suffer at the hands of pursuing their college degree, and with the university’s online degree programs, they don’t have to.

Renee Breaux is one LETU student who experienced this balance firsthand. She’s attending LETU as an online student majoring in teachereducation. She has a husband and two young daughters, works full-time as a teaching assistant and also has a part-time second job. Despite her busy schedule, she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree and chose LETU’s online program. Her reasons for doing so were two-fold.

I chose LETU because of the amount of courses offered online.  The online courses fit into my schedule the best,” Breaux said. “I also took courses at another university, and I was able to transfer those in easily and apply them toward my degree.”

However, Breaux’s decision to attend LeTourneau wasn’t based solely on logistics.

“I was looking for a faith-based education. I loved the idea of being a part of a university that places God first.”

University founder R.G. LeTourneau advocated for work done well for the glory of God. Our faculty and staff carry on that vision in giving an extra measure of support to working, online students so that they succeed in both their jobs and educations.

“I always feel at LETU that I am a person who matters.  I have been in contact on a regular basis with my academic advisor, who always seems genuinely interested in my success,” Breaux said. “I also feel the professors take a genuine interest in their students. I recall having difficulty understanding an assignment, and the professor was on the phone with me until midnight trying to help me understand it.”

Breaux’s degree will allow her to accomplish her ultimate goal of being a special education teacher.

“I love working with children who have special needs and feel that God has called me to teach these children,” Breaux said.

There are many online programs nationwide from which to choose; however, there are few that offer the same personal attention as one would receive from being physically on campus, and even fewer that are authentically Christ-centered. It’s what makes LETU’s online program incredible.