Jerusalem Seminary offers new kind of biblical training

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Biblical Training in a New Era

Distance education is a burgeoning phenomenon over the years. However, 2020 accelerated all things remote. Undoubtedly, the past few years presented an array of challenges to the world. Yet, for those who adapted, the “Corona blip” was a timely paradigm shift of change and growth. This proved to be true for Baruch Kvasnica and his growing team of scholars and staff at Jerusalem Seminary, a nascent theological training initiative in the heart of the Holy Land.

With the world more or less shut down, people grew accustomed to life and work online. Commerce and industry implemented new systems and structures of operation. Online education became broadly accessible, even to those who might not have considered it previously.

For Jerusalem Seminary, the rapid shift to all things online created the optimal conditions for growth. It allowed them to expand their global reach and credibility, to further develop course offerings, and build at the pace of the faculty and structure. And the efforts of the seminary are bearing fruit.

The Birth of Jerusalem Seminary  

The vision of Jerusalem Seminary is to make biblical training and ministry education in Israel essential and transformative. They exist to equip and empower the global community of believers to understand their faith in and through the Land of the Bible.

The genesis of this simple yet profound vision arose from a deep and ongoing need for cutting-edge theological training in Israel.

Baruch Kvasnica, Founder and President of Jerusalem Seminary, was a local church pastor in upstate New York when he first discovered his family’s Jewish heritage. From that point on, he dreamed of pursuing an advanced theological degree while studying the Bible in its original context in Israel.

Yet, there was a problem. He quickly discovered a paucity of theological training options in Israel, especially for English-speaking seminarians. And thus, the vision of Jerusalem Seminary was born.

Small Beginnings, Big Vision

Pioneering new initiatives and big vision takes grit, innovation, and determination. Along with perseverance, hard work, and generally, ample financial investment. These qualities are part and parcel of the soil and soul of Israel. Except for, perhaps, the finances. Even in this need, the Lord graciously provided.

The principle of passing down truth to the next generation has been a hallmark of the people of faith – even a command – from the beginning.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

From Moses to Ezra, Jesus to John, and monastery to seminary, the priority of intentional discipleship remains. Every minister of the gospel ponders the imperative of spiritual formation and biblical literacy.

The commission to disciple nations requires equipping with a solid foundation in the Word of God. That all might know His redeeming love.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? How are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.’” Romans 10:14-15

Out of Jerusalem Seminary

Context is a key hermeneutical principle of interpretation. Seeing the Bible through its original lens makes it come alive and facilitates proper understanding. The Hebrew language is essential to this.

Jerusalem Seminary is committed to studying ancient biblical texts in light of their original context, engaging modern questions with relevant biblical applications. Their team is motivated by the promise that God’s Word will go forth from Jerusalem as a blessing to the nations.

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills and people shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Micah 4:1-2

Ariel Rudolph is an unassuming and astute South African transplant to Israel, along with his family. With a laudable background in high tech, he now serves as Director of Operations at Jerusalem Seminary. In a recent interview, Ariel aptly stated that “Every seminarian is incomplete until they come study the Jewish roots of their faith in Israel.” 

We couldn’t agree more.

Hebrew for the Nations

The Word of God is still changing lives throughout the world. It’s the greatest love story ever written. And it doesn’t begin with Matthew chapter 1, in English.

More than 1.5 billion people do not have a complete Bible in their own language. Of some 1,600 Bible translations available, only around 700 have a complete translation. With more than 7,000 languages worldwide, at least 1,800 of these still need a Bible translation started (The Worldwide Status of Bible TranslationWycliffe Bible Translators).

Every person should have access to the whole Bible in their heart language. But many are still waiting. Bible translation makes this possible. This arduous work would be incomplete without the help of Hebrew-language consultants.

In 2018, after years of planning and praying, Jerusalem Seminary launched the first semester of Hebrew for the Nations with 15 local students. The vision was to train native Hebrew-speakers to be language consultants for Bible translation.

The seminary partners closely with top Bible translation organizations globally (such as Wycliffe Global Alliance, The Seed Company, and SIL). They aim to see every people group and language block have a complete Bible in their own language.

Clearly, the remaining need is great.

Gaining Momentum

Jerusalem Seminary launched inaugural classes through the School of the Bible in the Fall of 2021. And the student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Now one seminary with two of the three schools already functioning, Jerusalem Seminary offers traditional, modular, and online course models. All aspects of study are designed with the conviction that the Story of the Bible must never be separated from the Land of the Bible.

“The land is our classroom, the Bible is our guide. Let’s study together.”

In addition to local Bible courses, Hebrew training intensives have gone forth from Jerusalem to the nations. Hebrew for the Nations conducted a four-week Biblical Hebrew intensive in Nigeria for local translators and consultants. The results were astounding. And there are more such initiatives to come.

Recently, a local Israeli believer completed the Hebrew teacher training course along with a month-long intensive in Togo, Africa. She then joined Wycliffe as a training consultant in the Philippines and is fulfilling her call to be a “light to the nations”.  This is the goal.

What started as a dream is gaining momentum.

The Future of Jerusalem Seminary

So, how can people come alongside this vision? The greatest need is consistent prayer. And funding to advance strategy and influence, acquire qualified staff, and develop more course options. With these in place, more and more students will surely come.

Jerusalem Seminary is steadily marching toward a major milestone and part of Baruch’s original vision. The hope is to launch complete MDiv and DMin tracks by 2024. They also plan to forge study abroad partnerships and articulation agreements with other theological universities.

This article originally appeared on FIRM and is reposted with permission.