His childhood in communist-ruled Romania fostered in him an unwavering commitment for God’s Word
When you study at Grace Theological Seminary, you will be impacted by experienced professors who are experts in their fields. To a GTS professor, education is more than just a curriculum. Theological education, more than just doctrine and dogma. And to Tiberius Rata, professor of Old Testament Studies and Hebrew Language, seminary is about passing on the skills and knowledge he’s gained along his own journey.
We understand before you start your seminary degree, you want to know about the experts you will be learning from. Why are they credible? What experiences have they had? Today, we sat down with Professor Tiberius Rata and got to know more about his background, his educational foundation, and his ministry experience.
Read on, and we have no doubts you will be asking about when you can sign up for your first class with him!
How long have you been the Old Testament and Hebrew Language Professor at Grace?
This is my sixteenth year. In 2005, I was hired by the seminary to teach the Hebrew language and Old Testament, but in 2008 the School of Ministry Studies was formed and I started teaching both undergraduate and seminary degree classes.
Why is teaching important to you?
God has given me the gift of teaching and a passion for preaching. And the apostle Paul teaches that God’s call and gifts are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). I’m grateful that I can use them in this setting. I have the best job in the world — I teach the Bible. The fact that I get to preach as well is like the icing on the proverbial cake.
Have you published any books?
Dr. Kevin Roberts, dean of the School of Behavioral Science, and I wrote a commentary on Ecclesiastes for BMH Books. I’ve also written for other publishers, including a Mentor commentary on Ezra and Nehemiah and one with Walter Kaiser on Jeremiah for Lexham Press.
Tell us about your experience growing up in Romania.
I was born in Romania when it was under communist rule. My parents and grandparents were believers, and we went to a small Baptist church where my dad was the choir director. I gave my life to Christ when I was 13 and the people around me already knew I was a believer. We were never physically persecuted, but the secret police questioned my dad on some Mondays about the sermons on Sundays.
As believers, we didn’t have a chance of making it into any universities in Romania. My dad defected in 1984, moved to the United States, and then in January of 1986, my mom and the rest of us moved legally to LA. America was supposed to be the promised land for believers. I remember thinking it was the country of opportunity, but I felt overwhelmed. I prayed Solomon’s prayer that night, asking for wisdom.
What did you do before coming to Grace?
After college, I went to seminary, got married, and became a pastor. When I was 26, I pastored my first church, a Romanian Baptist church in Sacramento, California. I went to Trinity International University for my Ph.D., then moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where I taught Hebrew and Old Testament at Beeson Divinity School. I also served as interim pastor at a small community church. From there, I started preaching as an interim at different churches in Michigan and Indiana. We made lifelong friendships wherever we went.
Kierkegaard said, “Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backward.” I could not have mapped this for me, but when I look back, I see how God was working.
What impact do you strive to have on your students?
I love my students. I pray for them and know them by name.
Do I have an agenda? Yes. I always tell my students that. I want them to know that the Bible is the Word of God, without error, and that it is the foundation for everything they do. I hope that when people leave my classes, they know that for sure. And it’s not just knowing the Word of God, it’s knowing the God of the Word. I want my undergraduate and seminary students to be lifelong learners.
My favorite verse is Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches and favor is better than silver or gold.”
What are you most looking forward to right now in or outside of the seminary?
I’m currently writing a commentary on Proverbs with Dr. Roberts. I’m also leading a trip to Israel next summer that was put together by the alumni office. I enjoy reconnecting with students and getting to put the Hebrew language to work outside of a classroom context on these trips. It’s just amazing how God works. – from seminary.grace.edu