December 5, 2022

Wilson’s Insight on Christianity and Liberal Arts

Marv Wilson. Photo by Taylor Bradford

By: Spencer Hess ‘20


Marv Wilson: Translator, renowned biblical scholar and faithful servant to the Gordon community for forty-six years.

Born into a Christian household in Winchester, Massachusetts, Wilson was immersed in the Word from an early age. He attended a private Christian academy as a child and on weekends would go out with his church to evangelize and share testimonies. Wilson accepted Christ at the age of ten during a Bible class. Out of all his biblical studies, though, what really interested Wilson was the Bible’s relationship to linguistics, and the languages in which the Bible was originally written. He did his undergrad at Wheaton College and later enrolled in Gordon Divinity School where he was able to study the Bible in the light of the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic writings. Wilson paid his way through seminary by teaching Greek in Frost Hall.

Wilson’s fascination with ancient languages would eventually lead him to another interest; one that he continues to pursue as a scholar and a professor. Wilson has spent years studying the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, especially as it relates to our interpretation of the Old Testament and the church’s Jewish roots. He has written two textbooks on this subject, co-authored a four-volume reference work on daily life in biblical and post-biblical antiquity and served as the primary scholar for a two-hour national TV documentary called Jews and Christians: A Journey of Faith.

Through his studies, Wilson has concluded that our understanding of the Bible was Hellenized and Latinized once in departed from the “Jewish womb that gave it birth,” said Wilson. Christian philosophy began to embrace concepts like asceticism, that flew directly in the face of Judaism’s very earth-centric philosophy, by placing the focus primarily on the world above. As for the Old Testament, Wilson also believes that many Christians take a well-meaning but flawed approach. Wilson commented that often we seek out only the parts of the Old Testament that we deem “salvageable” or prophetic passages that point directly to Jesus. We need to start meeting the Old Testament where it is and approach the New Testament, not as the Superior Testament but as the “fullest flowering of Scripture,” said Wilson.

Wilson has shared his ideas through lectures, sermons, books and interviews. On March 8, the Gordon community had the privilege of hearing Wilson share some of these ideas in chapel.

In his sermon, Wilson addressed the relevance of the liberal arts to a Christian walk because, he says, “There’s something profoundly spiritual in the study of the liberal arts.” To underscore his point, he invoked the Hebrew word, “avodah”, which roughly translates to labor but also worship, because we ought not think of study and spirituality as separate concepts, especially in a liberal arts context. Wilson went on to explain that “there are no non-spiritual majors or vocations,” that the very phrase “liberal arts” points towards freedom. Christians ought to use their specialties to bring freedom to the wider world. Whether you “study sociology to free people from the blights of racism…or [are] a psychology major, working towards freeing others from illness and despair,” the liberal arts is highly relevant to Christian service. He said that indeed “Because we were created in God’s image, every interaction with another person is a face-to-face encounter with God.” To live a truly Christian life, we must see the whole world as God’s world and every single second as an opportunity to glorify God.

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