Fifteen years ago, I met David and Josa Bivin at a seminar in Tulsa, OK, made possible by HaKesher. As an introduction, I would like to share with you the cord that weaves my life with David’s family.
Like many, I was intrigued by the possibility that Jesus’ words could somehow have been corroded during the early years of Christianity by various entities. I read David’s book Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, subscribed to the JP Magazine and ordered all of the JP Magazine back issues. I was embarking on a whole new fascination of my Savior.
During that time, I was a Christian musician signed to the Benson Record label in Nashville. I heard that Natan (David and Josa’s son) wanted to come and spend some time in the states. My wife, Toni Becker, and I offered for him to go on the road with us in 1992. Natan agreed and became a roady and sound man for six months.
In late 1994, David asked me to look into the possibility of creating an interactive CD-Rom for the JP Magazine. As a computer and electrical engineer, I was happy to lend my training to such a task. During my research, people suggested I should make JP a web page on the Internet. But in my rural community in Southeast Missouri there was no way to access the Internet without long distance charges and the cost of putting JP’s info online was expensive.
In late 1995, I started my own local Internet Service in hopes that I would get enough users (around 40) to pay for the expense of putting JPs information online. In under three months, semo.net had over 100 users and by 2003 we had almost 15,000 users in 50 different communities of Southeast Missouri.
In 1996, Toni and I were able to tour Israel with a tour group organized by JP, Bill Bean/CSBR and Dwight Pryor/CJCS that culminated with a Jerusalem School conference at Narkis Street Church. Papers were presented by Steven Notley, David Bivin, Weston Fields, Halvor Ronning, Shmuel Safrai and a video taped presentation from Professor Flusser because he had been sick and couldn’t get to the conference. The trip cemented in my heart that I needed to exhaust all possibilities to aid the Jerusalem School with their work.
During the next few years I got to know many of the members of the Jerusalem School and began working with them on their vision for the organization. In 1999, they asked me to be the director. First course of action was to make sure that the Jerusalem School was focused on being an academic-oriented organization. JS wasn’t cutting off ties with the “Lay Community” but while other organizations like JP, HaKesher, En Gedi, and CSBR were doing a great job at working with the Church, the Jerusalem School needed to focus on the academic community. We encouraged our members to write for publication in academic journals, write academic books, speak at academic conferences and we began talks of creating a series of volumes for print publication that showed the Jerusalem School’s methodology at work. It has now been over four years and it gives me great pride to announce that the articles are completed for our first volume and it will be presented to our publisher in late May.
I do honestly believe that the methodology of the Jerusalem School, when finally made available to the academic community, could change the way New Testament studies are taught for generations to come. It is my goal that the Jerusalem School have one of the most prominent voices of the 21st century in New Testament studies.