Back in the summer of 2012, when Paul Twiss, his wife Laura, and their children came from England to Southern California to study at The Master’s Seminary, he would have been stunned if someone had told him that, nine years later, he’d have two degrees from TMS, a faculty position at the seminary, and a PhD from Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. But even more surprising than all that would be the emphasis of his PhD: the Old Testament.
“I fell in love with the Old Testament in my MDiv days, which was funny because when I started my studies at TMS, I had something of a hard heart towards it. I just wanted to study the New Testament,” Twiss said. “But two classes in particular, Dr. Keith Essex’s Old Testament survey class, and Dr. Irv Busenitz’s Hebrew class, were so formative. All these lights went on and after that I just wanted to study the Old Testament more. So, when I got to my ThM degree at TMS, Old Testament was my emphasis. And at Queens University, I pursued an Old Testament PhD.”
In particular, Paul studied Genesis 37-50—the Joseph narrative—though Twiss has stopped calling it that. “Certainly, Joseph gets a lot of the limelight, but it’s really a story about the sons of Jacob. Specifically, the narrative focuses on which one of these boys is going to be Jacob’s heir—who will carry forward the line of the promised seed?”
For nearly two centuries, that portion of Scripture has been a favorite punching bag for higher critics—scholars who do not believe the book of Genesis was written by a single author. Instead, they say it combines multiple stories from several authors to create a narrative that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t have a sound plot structure. Twiss challenged that, and in his dissertation, he set out to show the literary brilliance of the narrative.
“In my dissertation, I argued that this plot is both wonderfully complex, and entirely logical,” Twiss said. “If we think carefully about how narrative works, we see that Gen 37-50 is a remarkable story about the sons of Jacob—not a disjointed text from multiple sources.”
Through this process, Twiss found extraordinary reasons to trust the text. He also learned a lot about how to read and preach from the Old Testament.
“Hopefully the PhD will help me with further research, but I’m especially eager to use what I’ve gained to better serve the church,” Twiss said. “This process has helped me think carefully about the text, how we read it, and how we should minister it to people.”
Twiss said that weekly, he, his wife, and his family reflect on how good the Lord has been since He brought them to TMS nine years ago. And the Twiss family is eager for the coming days as they use all the Lord has entrusted to them to minister at the seminary and within the body of Christ at Grace Community Church.