At the Office with Dr. Chuck Quarles

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With a missionary’s heart and a lifetime of research in biblical studies, Chuck Quarles believes interpreting and applying God’s word is essential to the task of fulfilling the Great Commission. That is why he is committed to training future missionaries and church leaders to be faithful interpreters of God’s word wherever God sends them.

In the following Q&A, Quarles, research professor of New Testament and biblical theology and Charles Page chair of biblical theology, shares about his life, ministry, and passion for New Testament and Greek.

What first drew you to study Greek and devote your research, writing, and teaching to New Testament studies?

It was divine providence. I was already preparing for ministry when I started at Ole Miss. Over the next couple years, I switched my major from music to sociology and eventually added a second major in Greek after someone explained to me that the New Testament was written in Greek. With a strong foundation in Greek from Ole Miss’s classics department, I went to seminary and was able to take every Greek class they offered. When I decided to pursue a PhD, I wrestled with whether to major in Old Testament and Hebrew or New Testament and Greek. As I retraced my steps, I felt that I had been providentially prepared for an emphasis on New Testament and Greek. So, I decided to do my PhD in New Testament with minors in theology and Old Testament.

Since then, I’ve devoted much of my research to the Gospel of Matthew. I’ve always loved the Gospels because I think the most critical question in life is simply Who is Jesus? Nothing matters more than that. When I chose a specialization, I felt that the synoptic Gospels weren’t receiving the scholarly attention they deserve. I wrote my dissertation on Midrash criticism as applied to the synoptic birth narratives, defending the accounts of Christ’s birth in Matthew and Luke. I’ve continued this emphasis on Matthew and the other synoptic Gospels through most of my writing.

I think the most critical question in life is simply Who is Jesus? Nothing matters more than that.

What are your go-to biblical language resources?

The tools I use every day are “A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature” (BDAG); the companion grammar, “A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature” by Blass, Debrunner, and Funk; and “Greek-English Lexicon” by Liddell and Scott. A lot of the work I am doing now involves New Testament minuscules, so one of the resources I consult regularly is William Wallace’s “An Index of Greek Ligatures and Contractions.”

What advice would you give students as they begin to learn Greek and Hebrew at Southeastern?

Remember language learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes students think they will master the language in a semester or two; however, even though they will learn a lot in that time, it usually takes longer than that. So, be patient and don’t give up too soon. Continue to Greek III or Hebrew III and learn syntax, which will really inform your interpretation and deepen your understanding of God’s word.

Also, habitually incorporate the biblical languages into your daily routine. If we’re going to master biblical languages and be able to use them effectively, it’s important that we read from our Greek New Testament, Septuagint, or Hebrew Old Testament every single day. I encourage students to diagram the text and do a syntactical analysis of a verse or passage every day. I find it very edifying. On a daily basis you get to see how Greek or Hebrew constructions are much richer theologically than what you assume when you just read English translations.

How has your time as an IMB missionary shaped the way you think about your role as a professor?

In God’s kindness, my wife and I were privileged to serve for a few years in Romania, helping to lead theological education efforts in Bucharest. My sense of missionary calling, which I had for years before we ever went to Romania, still deeply influences my teaching. Southeastern’s Great Commission focus dovetails with my personal sense of call.

If we don’t have a strong sense of responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission as we pursue biblical studies, we can easily drift toward a teaching approach that is sterile and solely academic, losing our warmhearted passion for reaching the nations with the gospel. Without a Great Commission focus, our instruction can become all head and no heart — merely communicating knowledge rather than equipping people for ministry. It is a joy to teach at a Great Commission seminary like Southeastern because I get to pour my life into students who will strategically engage in ministry all around the world.

It is a joy to teach at a Great Commission seminary like Southeastern because I get to pour my life into students who will strategically engage in ministry all around the world.

What excites you most about the upcoming launch of Southeastern’s Caskey Center for Biblical Text and Translation?

Everything about it excites me because all three elements of the center’s mission are so important.

One of the things we’ll be doing is helping to improve the accuracy of our Greek and Hebrew text of Scripture. The text we have is very good and reliable because it is based on a comparison of many different ancient manuscripts, but it can still be improved to more closely reflect what was originally written by the prophets and apostles. Because we believe God’s word is inerrant, every single word matters. At the center, not only will we be doing that work ourselves but also we’ll be training those who will train the next generation to do that work globally.

Another thing that we’ll be doing is seeking to improve the accuracy of Bible translations all around the world. We have a partnership with the Bible League, and we’ll be assisting to improve the accuracy of many modern non-English translations and the accuracy of the English basis for all those modern language translations. So, the Swahili translations, the Hindi translations, and hundreds of other translations are going to be impacted by the work we do on the base English version.

Lastly, we’re going to be working to improve the accuracy of the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). We have a partnership with Lifeway, so we are going to be doing a lot of the homework that leads to the next major update of the CSB. Although, the CSB is already a very accurate Bible translation, there are ways it can be improved, and we are going to be doing the research necessary to make some of those improvements.

I don’t think there’s anything that impacts the work of the Kingdom more than having an accurate and reliable translation of the Bible. I think these efforts dovetail with our commitment to strengthening the local church and our commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission.

I don’t think there’s anything that impacts the work of the Kingdom more than having an accurate and reliable translation of the Bible.

What is something you’ve been learning lately in your time in God’s word?

Every day I am reminded of the glory, majesty, deity, and grace of the Lord Jesus. It’s everywhere in Scripture. I just finished a sabbatical, and during that sabbatical leave, my major focus was coauthoring with John Hammett a book on the work of Christ. My focus in the book was biblical theology, so I got the opportunity to work more in the Old Testament than I typically do in my role here. Day after day I was stunned by the explicit prophecies about the coming Messiah and their vivid descriptions of the glory and deity of Christ, his eternal rule, and his atoning death.

What do you and your family like to do when you have some free time together?

My kids are all adults, so when I’m doing fun stuff with family, it’s usually me and the grandkids. Our favorite thing to do is fish on a small pond out on our property. We also like to metal detect. When we all went on vacation a few years ago, I would wake up before the grandkids and bury treasures in the sand for us to find later that day. Unfortunately, my granddaughter, who is the oldest of the three grandkids, figured things out, but she kept playing along with Papa.

Personally, I also like throwing tomahawks and knives. I started when I was a boy, and my son and I would practice when he was growing up. It feels more manly than throwing darts.


Tyler Craft

Associate Director/Research Associate for New Testament

Tyler is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Studies, researching the citation of Psalm 110:1 in the Synoptic Gospels. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and an M.Div in Christian Ministry from SEBTS. He and his wife Natalie have five children (their oldest daughter is with the Lord). When he is not busy studying, Tyler enjoys time with his family, reading fiction, the symphony, hiking, and writing music. He is a member at Gateway Community Church in Pikeville, NC, where he is involved in music, teaching, and preaching.

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