A Study in Scripture

Professor of Biblical Studies Juan Hernández Jr. has devoted his life to uncovering mysteries of Scripture and passing on the knowledge

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

September 12, 2018 | 4 p.m.

Juan Hernandez Headshot

Professor of Biblical Studies Juan Hernandez Jr. has published extensively on the scribal activity and textual history of the Apocalypse's manuscript tradition.

In a Bethel office surrounded by his books, Professor of Biblical Studies Juan Hernández Jr. smiles almost continuously as he talks about teaching the New Testament. “To me,” he says, “the joy is the work.” While he admits that some material is complex, it’s meant to lead students to a deeper interpretation and understanding. “You’re going to hear stuff that’s going to be a gut punch,” he says. “Once you get over it, you’ll find stuff that’s really fascinating.”  

He says this isn’t meant to wreck the faith; it’s meant to reconstruct it. And his resume backs up his ability to help others do just that. Deb Harless, executive vice president and provost, says Hernández displays some of the best traits of Bethel faculty, impacting people both inside and outside the university. “Juan contributes with the top-tier scholars,” she says. “He engages with our students and encourages them, and he is also committed to the local church.”   

Hernández traces his love of Scripture to his uncle, who inspired him to explore and memorize thousands of verses. The mental faculty to memorize Scripture, as well as his bilingual upbringing by Puerto Rican parents, transitioned well to his study of languages at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and as he earned his Ph.D. on the New Testament and early Christianity at Emory University. His dissertation—Scribal Habits and Theological Influences in the Apocalypse: The Singular Readings of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Ephraemi—was published in 2006 by Mohr Siebe, a major German publisher, and led to international awards and speaking engagements. 

Before and since arriving at Bethel in 2006, Hernández’s love of language, words, and detail helped lead him to publish extensively on the scribal activity and textual history of the Apocalypse's manuscript tradition,and in fall 2019, he’s partnering with Garrick V. Allen and Darius Müller to publish the first English translation of Josef Schmid’s Studies in the History of the Greek Text of the Apocalypse: The Ancient Stems, which until now has only been available in German. “This is considered the high water mark in the field of textual criticism of the Apocalypse,” says Hernández.

“He cares about Scripture and about wrapping people up in its story, capturing them with its beauty and history.”

— Caleb Shea ’18

Professor of Music Stephen Self has experienced Hernández as both a colleague and a teacher—he took Hernández’s Advanced Greek Translation course—and calls him an approachable professor and a passionate, skillful scholar. “He is really a star in his area of New Testament studies,” says Self, “and that has raised Bethel’s profile in the eyes of many people.”  

Students also recognize Hernández’s zeal. “He’s a dynamic professor. He cares a lot about Scripture and about wrapping people up in its story, capturing them with its beauty and history,” says Caleb Shea ’18, who describes Hernández as generous inside and outside the classroom.

Hernandez and the Hispanic Pastors Seminar

Hernandez leads Bethel's popular Hispanic Pastors and Ministry Leaders Seminars three times a year.

Along with teaching at area churches, Hernández also leads Bethel’s Hispanic Pastors and Ministry Leaders Seminars, where 80 to 135 pastors gather for biblical teaching in Spanish. He sees a chance for Bethel to reach new audiences and “an opportunity to reverse stereotypes and expectations,” he says. The popularity of the event speaks for itself: In April 2018, more than 100 people braved a historic Twin Cities blizzard to attend the spring seminar. 

Ralph Gustafson, former executive minister for seminary and church relations, says Hernández’s great sense of humor and infectious smile make him an approachable figure for those attending the seminars—and for his students. “He’s just a lovable guy—he exudes a warmth and an openness to people.”

Learn more about Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel.

The Department of Biblical and Theological Studies builds on a strong biblical foundation that prepares you to serve and lead capably and knowledgeably. But we don’t stop there. Beyond biblical knowledge, you’ll experience deep spiritual and personal transformation as you integrate your faith into everything you do.

Learn more