In the latest installment in our series, “Getting to know the RTS Orlando Faculty,” we have the opportunity to hear from the Orlando faculty’s newest addition, Dr. Zachary Cole. Beginning June 1, 2021, Dr. Cole will serve as Associate Professor of New Testament.
(For an introduction to the series as a whole, see here.)
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a pastor’s kid from St. Petersburg, Florida, and I have always been interested in knowing about the Bible and how it has come down to us. While I was in high school my dad helped me get started reading Koine Greek before I studied it formally at Palm Beach Atlantic University, where I met my wife, Kayla. We moved to Dallas, Texas, where I completed the Th.M. at Dallas Theological Seminary, and from there went to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for a Ph.D. Not long after that, I spent five years teaching at a Presbyterian seminary in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Alongside my teaching I served as an assistant minister in a few congregations in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. My wife and I have three young daughters. The first was born in Dallas, the second in Scotland, and the third in Ireland.
2. You wrote your dissertation on numerals in the New Testament manuscripts. What led you to this topic?
To be honest, I am rather bad at math, so I suppose it is a little surprising that I devoted three years of my life to researching New Testament numbers! However, my interest lies in the fact that New Testament manuscripts are more than just words, they are also physical artifacts. This means we can learn a lot about the earliest Christians by studying the visual and material features of the oldest hand-made copies of their Bibles. The way that New Testament scribes handled numerals when copying is one such feature that had not yet been studied in any detail, yet it actually sheds considerable light on some important facts about early Christians and their priorities. For example, I found that the scribal treatment of numerals provides significant evidence of care and accuracy in copying, and it shows how important it was that New Testament manuscripts could be read aloud clearly in the context of public worship.
3. How has your work as a New Testament scholar influenced your Christian life?
First and foremost, I have come to see that the Christian faith rests on a solid foundation. The Biblical text is reliable, historically accurate, and absolutely trustworthy. People are sometimes surprised to hear that academic study of the origins and history of the Bible has not weakened my faith, it has strengthened it! Second, I am continually amazed by the power, the depth, and the inexhaustible richness of Scripture. I have found (and continue to find) that the Bible holds new and exciting discoveries every time I engage seriously with it. The better equipped I am to study the Word, the more riches I find.
4. How has your writing and research influenced your teaching, both inside and outside the classroom?
My writing and research have helped me see in detail the particular questions and problems that students will face when they leave seminary. For example, students will face questions about the historicity of the Bible, how it all fits together, and how it can be applied responsibly today. Having a close-range understanding of some of these critical issues helps me prepare students for the challenges they will face in their future ministries, whether those challenges are exegetical, pastoral, or apologetic in nature.
5. What are you most looking forward to teaching at RTS Orlando?
My absolute favorite thing to do is to read Scripture in its original languages with a small group of others and to discover the riches of God’s word together. So, I’d say I’m looking forward to Greek Exegesis and Greek Readings the most. More generally, I eagerly anticipate the fellowship with staff and students. RTS Orlando has made a name for itself as a place for thoughtful and biblically-faithful theological education that is also warm and amicable. I can’t wait to be a part of that community.