In a previous post I introduced an essay I wrote, entitled “The Blessing of Abraham and the Missio Dei: Reframing the Purpose of Israel’s Election in Genesis 12:1–3.”
A Festschrift for Paul Livermore
The essay has been published in a volume of twenty-five essays that I co-edited with Doug Cullum, the Vice President and Dean of Northeastern Seminary. This volume is a Festschrift in honor of our retired colleague Paul Livermore, one of the founding faculty members of the Seminary—indeed, the person who first came up with the vision to start the Seminary.
Paul Livermore retired in 2013, after thirty-three years of faithful service to both Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary. This short video commemorates his life and ministry at both institutions.
The video is interspersed with Livermore’s comments. Three things he says stand out to me.
One is his comment that in a given class lecture, only one-tenth of what a professor knows is visible (often it is students’ questions that uncover some of the hidden nine-tenths). This was very true for Paul, who had an amazing wealth of knowledge about a wide range of subjects.
Another is that hell for a professor would be a huge stack of bad student papers to grade (how honest can you get!). But that heaven would consist in reading some really excellent papers.
The third thing I note about Paul is that there is a recording of his reciting the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4–9), which plays over the opening video scenes; this shows how deeply grounded he has always been in the Old Testament.
The title of the Festschrift is Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis, which suggests something of the range of intellectual and practical interests that have characterized Paul Livermore throughout his career. These interests have spanned theological scholarship (in different academic disciplines) and a commitment to the life of the church.
Here you can read a brief four-page biographical sketch of Paul Livermore’s career, from the Introduction to the Festschrift.
From Biblical Studies to Patristics
Paul Livermore was formally trained in New Testament and Second Temple Judaism (he was a doctoral assistant to Bruce Metzger at Princeton). His doctoral dissertation was called “The Setting and Argument of Romans 1:18–3:20: The Empirical Verification of the Power of Sin” (PhD diss., Princeton University, 1978).
Although he started out teaching Biblical Studies at Roberts Wesleyan College, Livermore eventually became an expert in Patristic theology. As someone in the Wesleyan theological tradition, he was drawn to the Church Fathers (especially the Eastern Fathers, as John Wesley himself had been) and he crafted an influential interdisciplinary course at Northeastern Seminary that addressed the development of doctrine, spirituality, and the church in the centuries after the New Testament.
Originally called “The Formative Era,” the course is now called “Being Christian,” and focuses on the attempt of the early church to clarify what it meant to be Christian in the first few centuries of the Common Era.
Since Livermore retired, the course has been taught by Dr. Rebecca Letterman and (in its current configuration) by Dr. Josef Sykora. The Seminary offers this course as part of six foundational courses, called The Great Conversation.
Contributors and Essays in the Festschrift
Paul Livermore’s impact on a range of faculty colleagues, church leaders, and students is confirmed by the wide variety of essays in the volume, which span Old and New Testament studies, theology, history, pastoral ministry, the Apocrypha, and the ancient Near East.
The essays are grouped into three sections:
- Part 1: Grappling with Scripture in Ancient and Contemporary Contexts (eleven essays).
- Part 2: Insights from the History of the Church (nine essays).
- Part 3: Exploration and Reflections—Theological and Otherwise (five essays).
There are essays by current and former faculty at Northeastern Seminary and Roberts Wesleyan College, including:
- Jeffrey Altman (Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Roberts Wesleyan College)
- David Basinger (Professor of Philosophy at Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary, and Chief Academic Officer, Roberts Wesleyan College)
- Douglas Cullum (Professor of Historical and Pastoral Theology, Vice-President and Dean, Northeastern Seminary)
- Timothy Dwyer (Professor of Bible and Ministry, Chair of the Ministry Department, Warner University)
- Elizabeth Gerhardt (Professor of Theology and Social Ethics, Northeastern Seminary)
- Rebecca Letterman (Professor of Spiritual Formation, Northeastern Seminary)
- Wayne McCown (Provost Emeritus of Roberts Wesleyan College and Founding Dean Emeritus of Northeastern Seminary)
- J. Richard Middleton (Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis, Northeastern Seminary)
There are essays by past students of Paul Livermore, including:
- David Belles (Academic Dean, International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies Bible College, Richmond Heights, OH)
- T. L. Birge (Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Azusa Pacific University)
- Margaret Flowers (Professor Emerita of Biology, Wells College, Aurora, NY)
- Joel H. Hunt (author, Athens, GA)
- Mark McMonagle (Vicar, St Brendan Orthodox Mission, Honeoye Falls, NY)
- John Miller (Professor and Program Chair, Elim Bible Institute and College, Lima, NY)
- Suzzane Pearson (Spiritual Director, Rochester, NY)
- Linda Schwab (Professor Emerita of Chemistry, Wells College, Aurora, NY)
- Louis Stulman (Professor of Religious Studies, University of Findlay)
- Thomas Worth (Pastor, Community Covenant Church, Manlius, NY)
There are also essays by colleagues of Paul Livermore from various academic and church contexts, including:
- Donald Bastian (Bishop Emeritus of the Free Methodist Church)
- Joseph Coleson (Professor of Old Testament, Emeritus, Nazarene Theological Seminary)
- Eugene Lemcio (Professor Emeritus of New Testament, School of Theology, Seattle Pacific University)
- James McNutt (Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History, Thomas More University)
- Frank Anthony Spina (Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Seattle Pacific Seminary and School of Theology, Seattle Pacific University)
- James Sweeney (J. Russell Bucher Professor of New Testament, Director of the Master of Divinity Program, Winebrenner Theological Seminary)
- Karen Winslow (Professor of Biblical Studies, Chair of Biblical and Theological Studies, Director of Master of Arts in Theological Studies, Azusa Pacific Seminary)
You can see the full Table of Contents here.
Paul Livermore, the Old Testament, and Judaism
In the video commemorating Paul Livermore’s retirement, he mentions teaching Hebrew in his first semester at Roberts Wesleyan College and the extremely bright students he had in the class. Two of his brightest students (who went on to do doctoral work in Old Testament and ancient Near Eastern Studies), were Louis Stulman and Joel Hunt. I don’t know if they were in that particular Hebrew class, but Stulman’s essay on the Hebrew Bible as trauma and resistance literature and Hunt’s essay on the meaning of an ancient Mesopotamian prayer are included in the Festschrift.
Livermore’s deep connection to the Old Testament and the Jewish tradition is evident in a 1987 article he wrote for the Wesleyan Theological Journal, where he challenged various Christian stereotypes about “legalism” and Jewish understandings of the Law/Torah. The article title is taken from a comment Rabbi Akiva makes about the Torah as the “precious instrument” (klî ḥemdah, also translated “precious vessel” or “desirable instrument) in Pirkei Avot 3:14 (Pirkei Avot or “Chapters of the Fathers” is a collection of ancient Rabbinical teaching on various ethical subjects).
You can read the full article here: Paul W. Livermore, “The Precious Instrument: A Study of the Concept of Law in Judaism and Evangelicalism,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 22 (1987) 17–37. This essay is cited in James McNutt’s chapter (see below).
Various of Livermore’s colleagues from other academic contexts have also contributed essays in Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and Judaism.
These include Joseph Coleson, who probes beneath the idea of “covenant” to a more foundational relationship between God and his people in the Bible; Eugene Lemcio, who engages in an eschatological reading of “Bel and the Dragon” (in the Apocrypha); James McNutt, who exposes the anti-Judaism in the writings of biblical scholar Adolf Schlatter; Frank Anthony Spina, who addresses the irony of reading Joshua as a Christian text; and Karen Winslow, who explores the understanding of the Akedah (Genesis 22) among Second Temple Jews.
It was Paul Livermore’s interest in the Jewish tradition that encouraged me to complete my own essay exploring a non-supersessionist reading of the call of Abraham, which is included in the Festschrift.
Tolle, Lege (Take Up and Read)
And then there are all the essays on New Testament, church history, spirituality, ethics, and beyond!
These essays pay tribute to the multidisciplinary impact of Paul Livermore, founding faculty member and Professor Emeritus of Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College.
Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis is a book well worth owning, with essays to be mulled over and savored.
Endorsements and Reviews
Brian T. Hartley, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Theology at Greenville University:
“Paul Livermore’s deep influence over three generations of students can be clearly discerned through these twenty-five essays that span key refrains in Scripture, theology, and church history. Dr. Livermore’s character, passion, and vision for bridging the divide between church and academy all receive clear witness through probing pieces that explore central themes which lay at the heart of his own scholarship and teaching.”
David W. Kendall, Bishop Emeritus, Free Methodist Church-USA:
“I have known and worked with Dr. Paul Livermore for nearly forty years. I regard him as both friend and mentor, scholar and learner, accomplished and humble, and a lover of God and people. I am pleased to commend this volume as a fitting tribute to the breadth and depth of Paul’s character and influence for so many of us—his students, colleagues, and friends.”
Deana L. Porterfield, President, Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary:
“This collection weaves together multiple voices to create a beautiful tribute to the deep impact of the life and teaching of Dr. Paul Livermore. It is an accessible but rich compilation focused on his commitment to the cause of Christ through scholarship, teaching, and service to the church. Each author magnifies an aspect of Dr. Livermore’s insights, through their own lens of scholarship, to honor a life and mind dedicated wholly to God.”