Faculty Stories

The Retirement of a Renaissance Man: Dr. Charles H. Cosgrove, Professor of Early Christian Literature

Dr. Charles Cosgrove
Dr. Charles Cosgrove

Dr. Charles H. Cosgrove, professor of early Christian literature and director of the PhD program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, retired on July 1, 2021. Upon his retirement he was officially named faculty emeritus and having mastered the “triple threat” of the classical education—language, rhetoric, and music—he received the title, “a true renaissance man,” from his faculty colleagues.

Cosgrove joined the Garrett-Evangelical faculty in 2011. Prior to coming to Garrett-Evangelical, he was professor of New Testament studies and Christian ethics at Northern Seminary, Lombard, Illinois, from 1984 to 2011. In addition, he taught in the Association of Chicago Theological Schools’ Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program for more than a decade. It was Cosgrove’s expertise in incarnational translation for preaching that initiated and empowered the first course in the ACTS DMin in Preaching program entitled, “Preaching as Interpretation.”

Over the course of his career, Cosgrove has co-authored and edited more than 11 books and over forty essays in peer-reviewed academic journals, making indelible marks in the fields of New Testament and Early Christian Studies, and contributing to numerous professional societies. Subjects explored include numerous topics in the letters of Paul, biblical theology, hermeneutics and ethics, practical theology, and early Christian hymnody. His book Cross-Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves (Eerdmans, 2005) was written collaboratively with Herold Weiss and Garrett-Evangelical’s own Dr. K.-K. Yeo. In 2011, he produced the definitive study of the earliest Christian hymn to have been preserved with its original tune in ancient musical notation, and his current project—a book on music at social meals in Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian social meals—will be published next year by Cambridge University Press.

From a historical perspective, Cosgrove has done a tremendous service, both to the Garrett-Evangelical community and to the Chicago area, by writing the meticulously researched double biography of Augustus Garrett and Eliza Clark Garrett. Titled Fortune and Faith in Old Chicago (Southern Illinois University Press, 2020), Cosgrove received an “Outstanding Achievement Award” from the Illinois State Historical Society earlier this year for this informative and insightful work.

Cosgrove’s research in early Christian music explored in great detail one of the earliest notated Christian songs that helped us move beyond speculation about what the Pauline writer and early Christian communities meant by “hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs” to a more nuanced understanding. In addition to being a leading scholar in the field of early Christian music, Cosgrove is a lifelong trombonist and in recent years he has played regularly with the Still a Dream band, led by Professor Emeritus Osvaldo D. Vena of Garrett-Evangelical.

For his dedication, collegiality, professionalism, and constant enthusiasm in the classroom, Cosgrove has earned the admiration and respect of countless students. As director of the doctor of philosophy program at Garrett-Evangelical from 2016 to 2021, Cosgrove was an advocate and mentor to numerous scholars, in particular those of color. In his 2021 Forum for Theological Exploration publication, Voices of the Mentored: Scholars of Color Speak, Cosgrove brought together autobiographical reflections from scholars of color at seven different graduate schools. The result is a rich guide for faculty seeking to enhance their mentoring of students of color.

An author, educator, preacher, theologian, musician, administrator, and an esteemed colleague, we offer our heartfelt gratitude for Charlie and his significant contributions to the church, the academy, Garrett-Evangelical, and to each of us.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church, was founded in 1853. Located on the campus of Northwestern University, the seminary serves more than 450 students from various denominations and cultural backgrounds, fostering an atmosphere of ecumenical interaction. Garrett-Evangelical creates bold leaders through master of divinity, master of arts, master of theological studies, doctor of philosophy, and doctor of ministry degrees. Its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.