Study examines Old Testament characters


This fall, all Calvin students  have the opportunity to be a part of the Old Testament Characters Bible study. Taking place over the course of 10 weeks, the study will let students dive into what members of our religion and congregational and ministry studies (CMS) departments consider the most important to know before taking their classes.

Pastor Joella, who wrote the material for this study, defined “biblical literacy and [knowing] God’s redemptive plan in the lives of men and women” as one of the study’s main goals. It will cover some of the more commonly discussed characters, such as Jacob, Joseph and Jeremiah, while also exploring the stories of characters such as Hagar and Miriam. Though the Bible’s writers lived in a patriarchal era, the study features an equal number of men and women.

Study materials are offered in English,  Spanish and Korean so that parts of Calvin’s diverse student body can study in their heart language. For students studying in any language, 10 biblical characters is a hefty undertaking in only 10 weeks. Pastor Joella reminds the Calvin community that it is meant to be a survey, a “significant and substantial introduction.”

If students are craving even more Old Testament character knowledge, Pastor Mary will be preaching in LOFT on ten additional characters, such as Abraham and Sarah, Ruth, and Huldah. By the end of December, 20 people will be studied between the Bible study and LOFT services.

Similar to all previous Bible studies, Calvin encourages anyone who is interested to take up and lead a study. Pastor Joella urged leaders to not get discouraged in the first few weeks if it is awkward, as it takes time for a new group to be comfortable together.

“If you focus on togetherness in the group and on the Scripture, you’ll be successful.” Additionally, she reminded students that “this isn’t about trivia or Biblical prowess; it’s about looking at the Bible and expecting God to show up.”

When asked to define markers of success for their studies, some dorm Barnabi had similar responses, emphasizing Pastor Joella’s focus on togetherness.

“I want the girls on my floor [to] make friends and bond with the other girls who participate in the study, [and] become comfortable being honest with and opening up to each other,” said Jessica Pityer, a junior serving 3rd Noordewier.

Spencer Rizer, also a junior and the Barnabas on 1st VanderWerp, shared that he “would be elated if people become more comfortable talking and praying to God, [as] a personal relationship with the Lord is very important.”

Pastor Joella invited engagement and questions about the characters, adding that one of the largest themes in Biblical literature is that no character (with the exception of Jesus) is perfect. For example, during Monday’s chapel Rev. Scott Hoezee of Calvin Seminary shared, “Jacob was a cheat, a crook, and a sneak,” and God’s choice to use him “speaks to God’s grace.”

If students would like to dive in and learn more about these imperfect characters that God graciously uses, and engage with the faith community on campus, they can head to the Bible Study page and join a group. There are opportunities for both dorm and non-dorm groups.