The New Face of Ancient Texts
At just 32 years old, outdoorsy, and—if his short, spiky hair and charming scruff are any indication—somewhat trendy, Andrew Perrin, Ph.D., would be hard to peg in a game of “spot the ancient studies scholar.” Yet Perrin, the new co-director of TWU’s famed Dead Sea Scrolls Institute, geeks out over ancient texts like the best of them.
It‘s a singular interest he’s held since his undergrad days in Calgary, AB, when he skipped class to attend a lecture by celebrated scrolls scholars Martin Abegg, Ph.D., and Peter Flint, Ph.D.
Now, only two years after earning his own doctorate in religious studies, the TWU alumnus (MA ‘09) takes the reins of the Institute from Abegg. He’ll share co-helming duties with Flint, Canada Research Chair in Dead Sea Scrolls Studies, who says Perrin won the role after a nationwide search.
“It’s like someone told me, ‘Here are the keys to the kingdom, go run with it,” Perrin says, crediting his success to “staying hungry and passionate” about his discipline.
With his appointment to the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute—the only one of its kind in North America—Perrin's relationship with Abegg and Flint comes full circle. “To have had them first as teachers, then mentors, then friends, and now colleagues shows the type of legacy we have in this field of study. It's been very rewarding to be shown, ‘Here’s what it means to be a good scholar, to research well, be charitable and equitable in your writing, and engage other people.‘“ The same culture extends throughout the Religious Studies Department, says Perrin, who has also been named Assistant Professor of Religious Studies.
Continuing the Legacy
Even as Scrolls research nears its diamond jubilee, Perrin is more than ever convinced of the discipline‘s import. “[The Bible] is supposed to have meaning for people everywhere, for all time,” he says. “Yet we spend more time reading the labels on our food than we do asking where our Bible comes from. Research on the Bible is not foreign to faith, but necessary for faith—they go hand in hand.”
Focus now shifts from what the texts say to what they mean. “We are no longer limited in the questions we can ask,” says Perrin, who‘s keen to explore the impact of scroll writings on theology. “The ancient people who copied or kept these scrolls believed in the God of Israel. What did their belief system look like?” Perrin says the texts are used to recover something of the day, the thinking, people‘s ideas and backgrounds, which is significant for reconstructing the ancient Jewish world of the New Testament writers.
Looking to the future, he says, “I want the institute to continue to be a hearth for the academic guild of Qumran scholars—a space where scholars come together to dialogue over research.”
Fall 2016 will see the launch of an online workshop series—part of a new focus Perrin wants to put on online collaboration. The idea came when he got 60,000 YouTube views for a lecture series he‘d given to 70 students. “I want to see us continue to do what we do best like philology, history, and language, but somehow mobilized online,” he says.
“We‘ve really captured the flag here. We see how important these scrolls have been for Trinity Western, for the church, for students. Now, we need to find a permanent way to invest in that work.”
Perrin’s appointment “bodes well” for the future of the university, says Flint. “He’s a brilliant and devout young man—the worthy successor for Martin Abegg.”