Biblical Studies

Steve Mason, Ph.D.

Written and Photographed by Janet Ragland

"Research makes us better teachers. It enhances our writing, reading, and critical thinking. And it keeps me energized."

- Steve Mason

When Steve Mason was an all-city high school quarterback throwing the ball to his identical twin brother, a wide receiver at Church Hill High School in San Antonio, he never dreamed he'd someday become a university professor or a book author. Instead, Mason thought he'd follow in the footsteps of his dad, a successful investment and mortgage banker, and pursue a business career.

With that in mind, Mason entered Baylor University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in business finance in 1998 and where he met his wife, Bonnie, who was a religion major. He planned to pursue a career in hospital administration. After graduation, he and his young bride moved to Dallas where his first job out of college was working at the internationally recognized Cooper Clinic, a world leader in aerobics and preventive medicine.

Mason began taking seminary classes at Dallas Theological Seminary while working at the Cooper Clinic. His interest in biblical studies and theology had previously been piqued during his junior year at Baylor in Dr. Richard Chewning's Christian ethics in business class.

"Chewning opened the Bible in class and talked about what business leaders should do based on the Bible," Mason said. "None of my other professors at Baylor had done that." (Chewning has served more than a decade on the LETU Board of Trustees).

As Mason attended classes at DTS, he realized God was pushing him in a new direction.

"Before then, it was never on my horizon to get a Ph.D. in biblical studies or teach on a college campus," he said. "I just loved school and learning. But I quickly realized God was calling me to the classroom and a life of academic ministry."

While working his way through seminary, Mason began working on staff with Young Life and began coaching baseball and football at a Christian high school in Dallas. He and his wife earned master's degrees in theology in 2002 before moving to Scotland for four years where he earned his doctorate in Old Testament at the University of St. Andrews.

In 2006, Mason came to teach at LETU. He has since published a wide range of essays, articles and book reviews, including 34 dictionary articles for Abingdon Press and Baker Academic's new Bible dictionaries.

Last summer, Mason wrote an essay on the biblical concept of work for a project sponsored by Gordon- Conwell Seminary.

Mason's latest work is his first book, "Eternal Covenant" in the Pentateuch: The Contours of an Elusive Phrase, published as part of a series in the Library of Hebrew Bible and Old Testament Studies. The book is a revision of his 2006 doctoral dissertation which explored the idea of berit olam, or "eternal covenant," which appears 18 times in the Old Testament. Written for scholars and graduate students, the new book covers the term as it is used throughout the first five books of the Old Testament.

"Understanding the concept of eternal covenant is crucial to understanding the Bible," Mason said. "What does it mean to be in covenant with God? What is an eternal covenant? What does it look like? Can it ever be broken? It is a thread that runs throughout Scripture.

"Studying 'eternal covenant' has given me a greater sense of Christ's fulfillment of all human obligations within any covenant relationship," Mason said. "I've learned a greater sense of God's grace and ultimately, that He stays faithful despite our failures. When covenants are broken, God is faithful. All covenants culminate in the life, death and resurrection of Christ."

Mason's research continues on the theme of the eternal covenant as found in Isaiah. He will present this new research at the National Society of Biblical Literature annual conference this fall.

"For me, research and teaching go hand in hand," Mason said. "Research makes us better teachers. It enhances our writing, reading and critical thinking. And it keeps me energized. In teaching undergraduates, my research expands my knowledge and makes me better able to present content in context. It keeps me abreast of what is going on in evangelical, Christian and secular academic circles. By being involved in these academic discussions, and by keeping myself informed, I'm keeping my students informed and preparing them to address viewpoints that will confront them after they graduate."

NOW Summer 2009