Biblical-Theological Hermeneutics

January 03, 2013

Dr. August (Gus) Konkel is currently professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, along with fellow Westminster graduate Dr. Mark Boda (M.Div. ’91).  He received his Ph.D. in hermeneutics from Westminster in 1987. Recently, we talked to him to discuss his education and its impact on his ministry.  He commented on his degree at Westminster, “the aspect of hermeneutics that I researched was entirely biblical-theological. It had everything to do with history and theology and ancient near-Eastern texts.”

Westminster helped him immensely in several areas: “One was my knowledge of the Bible and its world and what we need to know to understand the Bible in relation to our world. Another thing that I learned through my time at Westminster was linguistics, because I did so much work in numerous ancient near-Eastern languages. That has been one of the things I’ve really cultivated and learned over the years.”

Before coming to McMaster, from 1984 to 2001,  Dr. Konkel was a professor at Providence University College and Theological Seminary in Otterburne Manitoba. In 2001, he became president of the university and seminary.  In June of 2012, Dr. Konkel resigned from his position as president. “I felt that it would be good for the institution to have a change of presidency.  That was a personal feeling. It certainly was not one that the board felt needed to be sold, but I felt after 11 years that it would be good for somebody else to begin to contribute what they could to the institution.”

Upon resignation, Dr. Konkel and his wife moved to Ontario to be closer to family. “We have two daughters and between them five grandchildren, and, of course, their husbands who live right here in the area, Hamilton. So we had decided 4-5 years ago that the time would come when we would move here. The immediate impetus [to move] was that the grandchildren were 3, 5, and 7, and we knew that if we didn’t do it this year, we would miss out on a big part of the joy in sharing in their lives.”

When he moved to Ontario, he contacted the president of McMaster, Dr. Stan Porter, about possibly teaching a few classes as an adjunct professor.  As Dr. Konkel tells it, becoming an adjunct professor “was the best that I could hope for, and then he turned that into a presidential appointment to faculty! I’m now a faculty member here, and my duties here are classroom, research, and the supervision of Ph.D. students. That’s the new part of my job that I’m really pleased about, the first time in my life I’m actually on the committee of Ph.D. students.”

A project Dr. Konkel is currently working on is finishing a commentary for 1 and 2 Chronicles, which comes in large part from his time studying at Westminster under Dr. Raymond Dillard. Since graduation, he has completed commentaries on Job and 1 and 2 Kings. “All of those are hermeneutical exercises, so I bring all of that to bear on the text of Chronicles itself, understanding how that text was significant in its time and how it is significant in our time.”

Looking back at his time at Westminster, he now realizes how formative those years were for him. “Westminster was a crucial turning-point in my life, both in terms of my academic development and in terms of my personal development, and in terms of everything that I was eventually able to do.” He fondly remembers men like Raymond Dillard and Tremper Longman, but he especially remembers what former president Dr. Sam Logan meant to him: “Sam Logan believed in me; he was influential in a scholarship to go to England to spend a sabbatical there; I will never be able to repay him for what that meant to my life. So, Westminster has had a huge impact, I can’t even conceive of my life apart from Westminster on account of those three individuals.”

Please pray for Dr. Konkel as he continues his work as professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College.