A prominent Adventist scholar died on February 15, 2020 at the age of 87.
RRenowned Seventh-day Adventist scholar William Shea died on February 15, 2020 in Manassas, Virginia, United States, at the age of 87. Physician and surgeon as well as a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Michigan, Shea has brought to the world of the Bible studying the acute intelligence of the emergency room diagnostician and the broad information of the historian and linguist mastering several Semitic languages. Shea has published hundreds of articles and several books covering a variety of topics ranging from ancient inscriptions to the meaning of Bible prophecy. In this condensed version of an interview first published in 2015, the retired Director of the Institute for Biblical Research, Ángel Manuel Rodriguez, asked Shea about his career, his contributions and the role the Bible has played. in his life.
As a physician, what prompted you to give up this career, which was your first choice, to focus on Bible studies? Could you share the journey that led you to this interest?
As a child, I grew up with almost no religious influence. Finally, during my senior year in high school or high school, I came to believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible. When I went to college, I studied both religion and science courses, as I had an interest in both. I finally decided to make medicine my vocation and religious studies my vocation. When I finished my medical school, I went to two different countries outside of the United States to practice my profession because I felt I could do more good in areas where medical care was not so. readily available. These two countries were Nicaragua and Trinidad. While working in Trinidad, West Indies, there was a Seventh-day Adventist denominational college a half hour drive from the hospital where I worked. They were short of teachers in the religion department, so I volunteered. My particular interest was history during the Hebrew Bible period and the light that archeology can shed upon it. I taught at this college for over two years.
While doing this teaching internship, I decided that if I had to do more, I would need to become more skilled in the field, so I spent three years at Harvard Divinity School studying the Bible. Hebrew, language and related subjects. . While I was there, I received an invitation to join the faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. I taught there for a total of fourteen years before agreeing to work for the Bible Research Institute. My “pilgrimage” to Bible studies has been slow and gradual, eventually getting to where I am today.
What is your method, or for you, the best method for reading the Bible? Could you give the reader some recommendations on how to read the Bible?
There are two main ways of reading the Bible. One is an intensive university route. For this approach, I use what has been called the historico-grammatical method. This means that the reader should pay special attention to the analysis of words present in the original language. The historical setting and literary structure of the text must also be taken into account. Of course, there are many scholarly tools that can be used for this purpose. These include concordances, dictionaries, commentaries and encyclopedias.
The average reader may not wish to go into such depth. In this case, one can read simply for personal devotional or spiritual benefit. One way to read the Bible for this purpose is to read the passage or book that is bent over several times. Each time it is read, more meaning will appear to the reader. Also, as we read, you have to look for keywords. These are the words that are used most frequently in the passage. The author of the Bible has used these words over and over again because he wants to underline them. We can take each of these occurrences and see how the term is used in each case. This will give the reader an idea of the extent of the meaning of these words. All these different avenues lead to the idea that it is the Word of God, and through it, He speaks to us.
What does the Bible mean to you as a person, as a Christian?
To me, it’s the Word of God; The thought of God has been made audible – or readable – to me individually. It also tells me where I, as an individual and we as a people, as biblical Israel or the church, have been and are going. Thus, the Bible is multifaceted in its application to our lives. He tells us about our past, present and future. Since much of the Bible is history, it has been said that the Bible is the record of the mighty acts of God. Since he has done this on behalf of his people in the past, we can be sure that he can do this in our personal lives as well. In this way, he can show us the way to salvation.
I believe the Bible is the objective revelation of God. It means that the Bible is true whether I have experience of it or not. We can believe the Bible, or we can choose not to believe it; but from an objective point of view, this remains true regardless of the reader’s attitude.
You have written and lectured extensively in the field of Bible studies; in a few words, could you specify the nature of your contribution in this area?
My particular interest, as I mentioned above, has been in the area of history and archeology as it relates to the First and Second Temple periods. I am interested in biblical history, and I am interested in the history of the ancient Near East, particularly in Assyria, Babylon, Egypt and Canaan. I am particularly interested when these two main disciplines converge. To take just one illustration, something like eight kings of Israel and Judah are mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions, and about the same number of Assyrian kings are mentioned in the Bible. It is not only that they are mentioned by name, but the text also tells us what these individuals were doing. Second Kings 18-19, for example, tells us about a meeting of Hezekiah with the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Sennacherib’s inscriptions tell us about Hezekiah and what he also did. So these two pieces of evidence can be put together to complete the whole picture. These are the kinds of things I love to study and write.
What arguments would you like to share that “prove” to you that the Bible is, indeed, the word of God?
There are many answers to this question, but only one that will ultimately tell the story to an individual, that of personal experience. The Bible is consistent from start to finish in terms of the themes it develops. Could it really have happened with 20, 30 or 40 ordinary human writers who have worked and written over a thousand years? I do not think so. I believe in the property of predictive prophecy, and I believe it manifests in the Bible. Why is the Assyrian nation not living among the nations of the world at this time? If it did, it would prove that the predictions regarding his final fall are wrong. Nonetheless, the Bible is still true in what it says about the absolute end of Assyria. Assyria was so completely destroyed that people in modern times did not even know the location of its capital, Nineveh. It was completely lost from the collective memory of mankind until it was found in 1840.
There is also the historical accuracy of the Bible. All of the wonderful inscriptions, reliefs and statuary that have been found from ancient nations have helped tell us more about the world in which the people of the Bible lived. Sometimes they tell us directly about specific events in the Bible. The Chronicle of Nebuchadnezzar, for example, tells us that he conquered Jerusalem in 597 BC. It even tells us the date on which this event occurred, 2 Adar in the Babylonian calendar, or March 16 in our calendar.
But the most important evidence for the Bible is the changes it makes in people’s lives. I think it was the philosopher Pascal who said: “The miracle of God is all believers.
What are some great truths that the Bible has taught you?
Well, that taught me a lot of things, and none of them should be minimized. But I guess two things I would choose to emphasize here are that God is our Creator and He is our Redeemer. Just as God created the world in the beginning, He created us through the processes He set in motion then. The Bible also tells us that mankind is lost. He is lost by the fall. Therefore, we must be redeemed from evil. All of this we can find in God. Also, the Bible teaches us how to live.
What does the Bible bring you in your daily life?
To begin with, it provides answers, like no other human document, to the three great questions of life: where do we come from, what are we doing here and where are we going? This means that the Bible gives the greatest meaning to life. In addition, it can bring inner spiritual peace. The poet speaks of a time when “everything that concerns you loses its head and accuses you of it. Even in such times, the believer of the Bible can have peace. And it seems with the hectic pace of society today that there are more and more such moments. By faith in the Word of God, I have found peace.