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James E. Brenneman

President, Professor of Biblical Studies

Contact

jbrenneman@bst.edu
(510) 841-1905, x. 246

Biography

Rev. Dr. James Brenneman, or Jim as he prefers being called, is president and professor of biblical studies at Berkeley School of Theology since the Fall of 2017. Just prior to his call to BST, he completed nearly twelve years as president of Goshen College in Indiana.

Dr. Brenneman is an ordained Anabaptist/Mennonite minister and was the founding lead pastor of Pasadena Mennonite Church where he served for twenty years. During that time, Jim served on the faculty at Episcopal Theological School at Claremont in Old Testament scholarship. Prior to that he was Senior Research Associate for World Vision, USA.

Jim has served on a variety of regional and national boards in the Mennonite Church USA, and beyond, including the Elkhart Economic Development Board, the Horizons Educational Association Board, the national board of the Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Board. He was among the initial signatories of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (2006) and was among fifty college presidents invited to the Obama Whitehouse for climate consultation before the Paris Climate Accords. Jim served as president of the board of the Center for Anabaptist Leadership in Los Angeles, and the founding leader of the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program in Los Angeles.

Brenneman is the author of two books, numerous chapters and articles in journals, reference works, and other publications and has spoken in venues, small and large, all over the world.

Jim grew up in Tampa, Florida, attending school and a bilingual Mennonite church in Ybor City, the Cuban quarter of Tampa. During college he studied and lived in Honduras, and since, has travelled, studied, and taught in various countries around the world. He has taken sabbaticals, led learning tours, done research numerous times in the Middle East, most often in Israel/Palestine. He is a member of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco where he serves on the Pastoral Care Committee and since 2020 has also become a regular online participant in Friday Shabbat services of Central Synagogue in NYC. Jim is married to Dr. Terri J. Brenneman, a clinical psychologist. They are parents of one adult son.

EducationClaremont Graduate University, CA (Hebrew Bible) PhD 1994 Claremont Graduate University, CA (Religious Studies) Master of Arts 1991 Master of Divinity, 1982, Fuller Theological Seminary, CA [Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, IN, ’79-80] Master of Divinity 1982 Goshen College, IN (Biology, Natural Science, Bible) Bachelor of Arts 1977
Professional AffiliationsAmerican Baptist Churches Ministers Council (USA & Northern CA) , Graduate Theological Union, Board of Trustees , Interfaith Council of Alameda County , Rotary International , Society of Biblical Literature ,
Teaching & Research Interests
  • How the Bible Came to Be and Why that Matters (Canon Criticism)
  • The Bible as a Literary Masterpiece (Literary & Rhetorical Criticism)
  • War, Peace, and Violence in the Bible
  • Wisdom, Women, and Word (The OT’s Feminist Self-Critique)
  • Joshua: The Bible’s Most Dangerous Book or Reading Joshua Backwards
  • Reading True and False Prophecy in Scripture and Life
  • Creation Care and The Green Bible
  • Implicit Bias in Bible Translations (Text Criticism)
  • Conflict in Scripture as a Model for Peace-making
  • Torah Spirituality in the Hebrew Bible
  • Reconciling Religion and Science
  • Salsa, Soul, Spirit: Intercultural Leadership
  • Intercultural Transformation of Institutions of Higher Learning 
Select PublicationsOn Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Lessons from the Book of Deuteronomy.PA and Ont.: Herald Press, 2004. Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophecy. NY/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. "There's Just Something About that Name: Why It's Better to be 'Jesus-Centered' than 'Christ-Centered," Anabaptist World, February 23, 2022. A Word About. . . Abolitionist Mamas and a New Emancipation Proclamation,” Economic Enslavement issue of the Review & Expositor: An International Baptist Journal, 116:1, PA: Sheridan Press, Feb 2019. Book Review, “The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy. by Eric A. Siebert. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2012, in The Mennonite Quarterly Review, Oct. 2015. “True and False Prophecy,” Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, eds Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012. “Turning the Tables: War, Peace and the Last Supper,” in Compassionate Eschatology: The Future as Friend, eds. Ted Grimsrud and Michael Hardin, OR: Cascade Books, 2011. “Sequencing Allegiances: Idolatry and the One God,” Vision: A Journal for Church and Theology, 12:1, Spg 2011. Forward to Revised Edition God’s Healing Strategy, Revised Edition. Ted Grimsrud. Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2011. “Living by the Word: Reflections on the Lectionary, Matt. 25:31-46 and Isaiah 64:1-9,” Christian Century, Nov. 18, 2008. Introduction to the Pentateuch and Introduction to the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy in The Catholic College Study Bible, MN: St. Mary’s Press, 2007. “Missional Practice (Open Communion as Pedagogy & Invitation),” Evangelical, Ecumenical, and Anabaptist Missiologies in Conversation, James R. Krabill, Walter Sawatsky, Charles E. Van Engen, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006. “Debating Ahab: Characterization in Biblical Theology,” Reading the Hebrew Bible for a New Millenium, Vol. 1, eds. Wonil Kim, Deborah Ellens, Michael Floyd, Marvin Sweeney. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000. “Day of Atonement,” “Hagar,” “Ishmael,” “Ishmaelites,” Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. Forward to God’s Healing Strategy: An Introduction to the Bible’s Main Themes. Ted Grimsrud. Telford/Scottdale, PA: Pandora Press/Herald Press, 2000. “Reading Joshua Backwards from Exile,” What Mennonites are Thinking in 2000. eds. Merle Good and Phyllis Pellman Good, PA: Good Books, 2000. Book review of P.R. Davies, Scribes and Schools in Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Fall issue, 1999. “Prophets in Conflict,” Peace and Justice Shall Embrace: Power and Theopolitics in the Bible. Telford/Scottdale, PA: Pandora Press/Herald Press, 1999. “Making Prophecy Come True: Human Responsibility for the End of the World,” Apocalypticism & Millennialism: Shaping a Believers’ Church Eschatology for the 21st Century. Telford/Scottdale, PA: Pandora Press/Herald Press, 2000.

Philosophy of Seminary Education & Training

I wish for students to discover the appropriate blurring of distinctions between “worldly” wisdom and the wisdom of God that invites them into relationship with God on a far grander scale than afforded otherwise by limiting knowledge to a strictly Christian worldview. As an interdisciplinary learner myself (biology, natural science, and Bible), I ask myself and, now my students, several questions: If Christians believe that God was self-revealing in nature (Rom.1:20), why then is this not also special revelation? Or, if we believe that God was self-revealing in Ancient Israel (or in Christ), why then is this not also natural revelation? Must holy or “revelatory” readings of history (Heilsgeschicte) and wisdom (liberal arts) be so systematically dichotomized when our own Scriptures refuse such systematic categorization? The Bible as Canon (a set of many books with many points of view) serves as a most profound creative model of education for someone seeking a seminary degree. Between its covers, the Bible contains numerous examples of liberal-arts-like education (or “natural” “worldly” revelation) and plenty more examples of what we more often narrowly call “special” revelation. Both forms of education contained in Scripture, under the canopy of the one God, might better be called “spiritual formation.” What better place than a seminary, with a generous orthodoxy, for students to experience multiple streams of “revelation” in creation, in Scripture, in art, in science, and in ordinary life? Is this not special natural revelation? Is this not natural special revelation? Is this not biblical revelation embodied?

Challenges facing the Christian educator engaged in spiritual formation today include:

  • Preparing future leaders to minister in the church and out.
  • Teaching from a stance of shared experience.
  • Training future leaders to discern and pass on normative Jesus-centered beliefs and practices.
  • Promoting holistic quests for truth in all disciplines through a common narrative base.
  • Mastering the art of rhetoric and persuasion.
  • Recognizing the historic effect, the shift from a book culture to a screen culture has had on education.
  • Modeling Jesus-centered character.

Hobbies and Interests

  • Beachcombing, Sequoia walks 
  • Watching cooking & music contests on television 
  • Reading historical fiction, novels, poetry 
  • Writing poetry 
  • Practicing my Spanish and modern Hebrew with native speakers 
  • Devouring all things political (political junkie) 
  • Going to “historical” movies by myself with a bag of popcorn, large coke, and Snickers bar in hand 
  • Riding my motorcycle on a beautiful day