By guest writer, Dr. Mark Sneed, Professor of Old Testament

Dr. Michael Martin (‘93) serves as Professor of New Testament in the Alfred and Patricia Smith College of Biblical Studies. He is one of the most prodigious publishers at Lubbock Christian University, and his publications have been produced by the most prestigious presses and journals. To date, he has published three books with two more forthcoming, 16 journal articles with several forthcoming, and one article in an edited volume. He has also co-authored both books and journal articles, often in collaboration with his friend and former classmate, Dr. Jason Whitlark, from Baylor University. In a mentoring role, he has published articles with former LCU students Ron Guzmán and Bryan Nash. He is currently writing a book on the famous Christ “hymn” in Philippians 2:6-11 and is including the work of former LCU students Timothy Gibson, Jonathan Dansby, Bryan Nash, and Jordan Wilson. Journals which have published his work include Journal of Biblical Literature (the guild’s flagship journal), Catholic Biblical Quarterly, New Testament Studies, Novum Testamentum, Journal of Theological Studies, Biblica, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, and Perspectives in Religious Studies, and even an Old Testament journal (Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft).

His areas of expertise include the Book of Hebrews, the Gospels, New Testament Poetry and Rhetoric, Philippians, and, most recently, Second Temple Judaism (from the time of Ezra to New Testament times). His work in Second Temple Judaism has required him to develop new expertise in the scholarship surrounding the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), especially Isaiah 40-55. In a forthcoming book, Dr. Martin argues that the Septuagint translator tends to view the Suffering Servant not as representing all of Israel, which is what the Hebrew text assumes, but as an individual who is the Messiah, even pre-existent. This is a bold thesis sure to stir the academic waters in the best kind of way.

Dr. Martin describes his primary research and publishing methodology as “literary and rhetorical criticism, historically and socially contextualized,” meaning he works hard to interpret New Testament texts within their own contexts. He demonstrates how the New Testament writers often reflect the typical education that elite Greeks and Romans received, especially in how they utilized rhetorical devices and literary techniques commonly used at that time. His work is groundbreaking and original in this area.

For example, just this past summer, Dr. Martin published an article with Dr. Whitlark in Novum Testamentum: “Strengthened by Grace and Not By Food: Reconsidering the Literary, Theological, and Social Context of Hebrews 13:7-14.” In this article, Martin and Whitlark counter the typical interpretation that sees the “regulations about food” as referring to the Jewish food laws. Instead, they argue that this refers to pagan altars where food was eaten. The author of Hebrews thus tries to persuade his audience to abandon those altars and instead focus on the Lord’s altar (or Supper), where a meal was prepared. This practice may have also served as an act of charity for the poor in the community.

Another example can be found in his forthcoming book on the Christ “hymn” (Phil 2:6-11), in which Dr. Martin is incorporating the work of several former LCU students. Instead of seeing this passage reflecting a hymn that Paul is quoting and that may have been sung in the early Christian churches—the consensus position—Martin and his students are arguing that it should be properly identified as Gorgianic prose that was appropriate for literature and letters. Gorgias was an ancient Greek sophist, philosopher, and rhetorician. This view would assert, then, that Paul composed it and that he used the literary and rhetorical devices and styles appropriate for his time. This is a radically new interpretation and will cause a stir in scholarship soon.

According to Dr. Sneed, Professor of Old Testament at LCU, “Dr. Martin is passionate about the topics he explores but is always constrained by the evidence. His research is deep, disciplined, and comprehensive. He makes cogent and compelling arguments and is also a gifted writer, carefully polishing his work toward an excellent end. In a phrase, he is a scholar’s scholar.”

However, Dr. Martin is not just a prodigious publisher. As you can tell by his engagement with former students, he is a beloved professor. Students flock to his classes. He has the rare ability of combining academic excellence with effective pedagogy, and he is a trusted and valued mentor for those students who are preparing for a variety of ministry contexts as well as top level graduate programs. Further, Dr. Martin forms deep and abiding friendships with his students. They know they are cared for and loved by him, not only while they are at LCU but long after they have graduated.

Dr. Jeff Cary (‘95), Dean of the Smith College of Biblical Studies, says, “Dr. Martin’s scholarly excellence is beyond question. What makes it truly beautiful and virtuous is his genuine humility. His humility sits very comfortably alongside his scholarly work, which provides a great model for our students as we seek to lead them in the way of Christ.”

Dr. Martin is also deeply connected to the life of the church. He is a member at the Quaker Avenue Church of Christ in Lubbock, where he contributes significantly to adult education. Dr. Cary says, “One of my favorite things about Dr. Martin is that he truly believes his research arises out of the heart of the church and is for the good of the church. His academic work isn’t separated off from his life of worship, Christian fellowship, and discipleship. Our students get to see that modeled and hopefully learn to walk in these same paths.”

Finally, and certainly not least, Dr. Martin is an exceptional and doting single father of his son, J. H., who has severe autism. All who know Dr. Martin, including his students, get to regularly witness his patience and love as he guides his son through their shared daily routines. Dr. Martin puts J.H. before everything and everyone else, and he sacrifices a great deal so his son can be happy and less anxious.

Dr. Martin serves the Lord as he serves his son, his students, the church, and the academy by expanding knowledge about the Bible and Christian faith. LCU is beyond blessed to have someone of Dr. Martin’s caliber and character among us.