James L. Papandrea

Professor of Church History and Historical Theology


  • B.A., University of Minnesota
  • M.Div., Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Ph.D., Northwestern University (in conjunction with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary)

From Sheep to Shepherd

In my classes, I try to use primary sources as much as possible, always keeping in mind that both Scripture and history must be interpreted - and in fact the very recording of history already contains at least one layer of interpretation. Therefore the historical context, as well as the perspective and agenda of the authors must be taken into account in order to understand the early Christian texts, not to mention render them relevant for the contemporary Church.

My goal is to make the historical authors, their worlds, worldviews, and their thought accessible to the twenty-first century student as much as possible. I always strive to bring the past to life so that the students can see the relevance of those who have gone before them in the faith, learn from them (though not necessarily copy them!), and be inspired by them.

The goal of teaching is to teach students how to learn - to train them to think critically for themselves: to analyze, and not simply memorize. I also believe it is important for the students to be able to articulate what they learn. Ultimately the Christian faith is one in which sheep become shepherds, and to that end I see theology students as ones who learn so that they can teach. Whether or not a student is called to a teaching role or a ministry in the parish, it is not enough that students absorb information. They must also learn to understand and articulate the faith.