Bible professor comes to terms with an 'Apostle on the Edge'
|Michael Cosby, professor of New Testament and Greek, rides a camel in Cairo, Egypt, during a study tour. Cosby incorporates perspectives gained through his studies in the Mediterranean region into his scholarship and teaching at Messiah College.
Controversies in the Church have existed since the days of the Apostle Paul. In the past century alone, debates have flared over women in pastoral leadership, infant baptism, gay marriage, and the justification for war, to name a few. Well-meaning members of various Church denominations—all holding to the same core beliefs of Christianity—struggle to apply Scriptures written millennia ago to current situations.
Michael Cosby, professor of New Testament and Greek, believes that our ability to apply biblical passages to modern-day contexts depends on our understanding of the world from which these texts emerged and the authors who penned them. In his new book, Apostle on the Edge: An Inductive Guide to Paul,
which will be published this fall, Cosby particularly highlights the need to better understand the influential Apostle Paul.
“When Christians debate issues such as the role of women in the Church, or divorce, or spiritual gifts, they appeal to Paul’s letters,” Cosby says. “Paul is a major figure in the history of the Church, and Christians must come to terms with his letters.”
Cosby found that students in his class, entitled Paul and His Letters, often lacked the necessary background to effectively study his epistles. After experimenting with various textbooks, he realized that the authors of these works were answering questions that students were not yet asking. Cosby concluded that students first need to be involved in a careful, inductive analysis of Paul’s letters before they are ready to interact with critical issues raised by biblical scholars. Seeing the need to help students personally grapple with such issues in Paul’s letters, Cosby began writing Apostle on the Edge
The book pairs the necessary historical framework to understand Paul and his letters with a student-centered guide that uses a question format to encourage students to develop their own conclusions, rather than to memorize what particular scholars think. The idea, Cosby explains, is not to tell students what to think, but to facilitate their own exploration of Paul’s letters and to help them develop the ability to think for themselves.
Though he created the text specifically for use in the classroom, any student of Paul’s letters can benefit from using it—whether for personal enrichment or in ministry settings. “I regularly receive e-mails,” Cosby says, “from former students telling me how helpful my inductive guides are for their own work with youth groups and Sunday school classes.” In fact, he incorporated feedback from students who took his courses on Paul over the years to modify the manuscript, making it more user-friendly.
Cosby says Messiah has been very supportive of his scholarly writing pursuits. He was awarded the C. N. Hostetter, Jr. Chair of Religious Studies for 2001–2003 and a Scholar Chair for the years 2004–2006. These awards grant a course load reduction that provides additional time for scholarship, which helped Cosby to complete his book.
—Jonathan Vaitl ’06