January 28, 2021
Many would think that becoming a professor of New Testament Greek would require single-minded focus and a career’s worth of laborious study. Some professors do take such a path, spending the majority of their professional lives handling Greek documents and teaching the language to students. But Dr. Murray Baker, Emmanuel’s adjunct Greek professor, has a very different story. Even though he has mastered the language, studying Greek has been only one focus of his fascinating professional life and one of many opportunities for building up the kingdom of God.
Baker’s students might be surprised to learn that his first academic specialization had nothing at all to do with languages or theology. He began his postsecondary education by studying mathematics at the University of Regina, graduating with a Bachelor of Science. After he finished the program, he spent a year in Africa with Operation Mobilization, an evangelical missions organization, and sensed a call to vocational ministry. This did not entail an immediate and drastic change in direction; Baker returned to Canada and studied math at the prestigious University of Toronto, where he earned a master’s degree and even went on to the doctoral level.
A drastic change, however, did eventually come. Partway through his doctoral program, Baker’s sense of calling led him to pursue a Master of Divinity degree from the Canadian Theological Seminary, now Ambrose Seminary, in Calgary. He later earned a second theology degree from Wycliffe College in Toronto, where he studied under the highly respected New Testament scholar Richard N. Longenecker. They shared a deep interest in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, on which Longenecker published a commentary in 2016. The book, which belongs to the New International Greek Testament Commentary series, contains over a thousand pages of careful commentary on the Greek text of the epistle.
While the change from math to theology certainly involved some adjustments, Baker’s math background equipped him with an enjoyment of precision and logical proofs that was useful in his biblical-studies work. He says, “While historical inquiry, and so much of biblical studies, does not have precision or proof in the same way as mathematics, I do think a desire for clarity and care in working with biblical material is necessary.” With this emphasis, Baker learned the difficult Greek language and focused his biblical-studies research on Romans 9–11, one of the most controversial sections of the entire Bible.
Aside from shaping his approach to theology, math also played a significant role in Baker’s professional life and ministry. He began teaching math at the university level during his time in seminary, and after graduation, he incorporated teaching into a bi-vocational ministry arrangement that involved planting a church in Cambridge, Ontario.
After four years of ministering in Cambridge, Baker and his wife moved to Germany, where they served with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in church-planting ministries. Here Baker learned German, yet another difficult language—and one that, as his students will recall, often humorously finds its way into his lectures at Emmanuel. The couple served in the northern part of the country for four years and then relocated to Mannheim, where they ministered for three years.
Later, when they were living in Canada once again, Baker pursued doctoral studies at Wycliffe College. Once again he taught at the postsecondary level as he studied, but this time he taught biblical studies and Greek, thus beginning a new phase of his successful teaching career. He completed his Doctor of Theology degree in 2013 and began teaching at Emmanuel that same year. Since then, he has assisted greatly in the work of the College by teaching students the original language of the New Testament and guiding them in interpreting the text with precision.
When asked about what he would like the general evangelical population to know about Christian academics, he had this to say: “Christian academics should seek God’s truth and, at an institution like Emmanuel, how to truly apply that. With that in mind, life as an academic is humbling—it is not about self or abstract ideas, but about serving God through serving others, enabling them to know God, themselves and the world better, so that they may serve Him with heart, soul, mind and strength.”
Dr. Murray Baker’s career is an excellent example of how believers who have a calling to vocational ministry can sacrificially serve God while drawing on their backgrounds, passions, and talents. Emmanuel Bible College has designed its education to enable students to do just that.
Those interested in taking a course with Dr. Murray Baker are encouraged to contact the Registrar’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.