Dr. Gilbert Lozano is orignially from Columbia and has lived and taught in Brazil. He received his bachelor’s from Warner Pacific College and his Master’s of Divinity and Ph.D from the University of Denver at the Iliff School of Theology.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I was born in Columbia in the previous century. I am so old. In comparison to this incoming class, I am prehistoric.
I became a Christian when I was 13 or 14 years old. I sensed very strongly very early on that I needed to be in the ministry. I belonged to the Church of God, and we don’t have a Church of God school in Columbia, so I ended up going to Brazil for my education. I was there for five years. And there I met this red-headed woman, and we married and went back to Columbia where I pastored for the youth for some time.
I began developing a sense that I needed to further my own education, so we came to the United States in 1989. I attended Warner Pacific College, which is the sister school to AU, in Portland, Oregon. Now they have changed the name to Warner Pacific University. We were there for a couple of years, and then we went back to Columbia, and I was a pastor for three years.
But then, once again, I desired to further my education. At this point, I needed to get my master’s degree, so we came back to the States in 1994, and I got my master’s and then my Ph.D at the University of Denver at the Iliff School of Theology.
Then in 2000, I took my first teaching job at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. It was very similar to AU in many ways. I was there for seven years, and then we moved back to Brazil, and I taught there for four years. In 2010 I learned that there was an Old Testament professor opening here at AU, so I came from Brazil to interview. I got it, and we came here the following year. This is my seventh year here at the university.
What do you teach here at AU?
My official position is professor of Biblical studies and Hebrew. I teach mostly Old Testament. I would love to teach Bible 2000, but my load is full right now. I teach the on-site and the online classes.
The School of Theology and Christian Ministry seems to be getting stronger in the online offerings. I have had students as far away as Korea and Vietnam, and I have a student this semester in Sri Lanka. I teach Hebrew, too. We have a combination of undergrad and graduate students. I teach first-year Hebrew and introduce grammar to students.
Hebrew is a hard language to learn. What made you pursue it?
I wanted to learn Hebrew because when I first became a Christian, for some reason, I was really attracted to the Old Testament. Okay, confession: I am a nerd. I am fascinated by the stories of Jesus, but the Old Testament has attracted me so much from the very beginning.
I love to study the prophets. To this day, I can’t get enough of those guys. It’s incredibly fascinating to me. When I learned that these books had been written in other languages, I studied Greek before I studied Hebrew.
In Columbia, I found a priest who taught Hebrew, and I went to him, and I begged him to teach me. So, my first teacher was a Jesuit priest. He had studied in Rome and in Jerusalem. I studied with him for a few months, and afterwards, when I did my master’s in Denver, I studied it there. I continued reading, and just about every day I read one or two chapters from the Hebrew Bible, and I just love it.
Being so passionate about languages, how many do you speak?
I only speak four: Spanish, Portuguese, English and German, and I read seven others. In Biblical studies, you just have to know languages. It comes with the territory. I joke with my colleagues and say, “If you’re not willing to pay the price, then you just need to study theology.”
The Old testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and then I studied Greek and Latin. When I did my doctorate, I had to pass exams in two other languages, so I had to do French and German. And then I read Italian and have studied Sumerian and ancient Egyptian.
Where have you traveled?
I had my first sabbatical ever in Germany this past year. I was there for four months studying to write a new book. I wrote a commentary that was submitted for publication a year ago, and now I am working on a new thing.
I was in Marburg, Germany, and I studied at the oldest Protestant university in the world. They will be celebrating 500 years next year I think. It is a university that has traditionally big names in philosophy and theology. It is one of the great German universities, and I wanted to be there and had the chance to go. I even presented my work before my German colleagues.
Do you think traveling impacts lives?
I think that it changes your view of things when you have these experiences. You are more embracing, more open minded. You see that the world is actually larger than the little world in which you grew up or lived. I have now lived in many different places and countries, and I have experienced and interacted with all types of people. I think that has helped me have a certain view of the world.
People tend to read more New Testament than Old. What draws you to the Old Testament?
Okay, as an illustration, I like to eat. Just imagine that you have a refrigerator in the house, but there is a big refrigerator packed with all kind of goods in the basement. But you know, the basement is so far. You have to go down the stairs and all the way to the cold and dark corner to reach the fridge, and not too many people go there.
If you went there, there would be all kinds of goodies for you, but you don’t go because you’re lazy, or you just don’t want to go, or it feels more like work. But of course, you would have all of these possibilities if you just went down there and went to the corner and opened the fridge.
When it comes to the Old Testament, many people say they will just take from the fridge on the main floor because it’s too much work to go downstairs. That is part of what attracted me to the Old Testament. I find it so rich.
The Psalms are never-ending. My favorite books are in the Old Testament—the book of Job is a masterpiece. I wrote my dissertation and commentary on the book of Isaiah, so for me the Old Testament is this refrigerator in the basement just full of stuff. You go there, and open it and are just wowed.
Why do you think it’s crucial for people to dive into the Word, especially the Old Testament?
This is important stuff. In the world in which we are living, especially Christians, talk about the Bible all the time, but most people don’t really have any idea. It seems to me that even church people have a very superficial view of things and what the Bible is and what is in there.
How many people have taken the time to read the Bible and dive into the reservoir that is there? There is a great deal of ignorance that is there. I think that can be seen in how people keep shifting churches, and there is not loyalty. Folks don’t really understand the diversity that is out there.
People sometimes don’t understand the theological differences in churches. It was interesting in Europe to see that in the theological faculty, many who study philosophy and theology, are not folks who are going to go into ministry. If you are going to get a well-rounded education, many people study philosophy independently of their ultimate goal. It is very common in Europe, especially Germany, to find that because they are very grounded in the humanistic disciplines. They provide a good foundation for life.