Kyungji "Kevin" Ha '21
Adjunct Professor of the Old Testament, Westminster Graduate School of Theology (WGST)
Please tell us about your journey to HUC-JIR.
I was born in South Korea, where my father was a Presbyterian Pastor and later a missionary in China until he passed away in 2010. I grew up in a remote rural area in South Korea until going to college in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, where I majored in Theology at Chongshin University, the oldest, largest, and most conservative Presbyterian university and seminary in South Korea. After fulfilling my military duty for two-and-a-half years, I came to the United States to study for 10 years, attending Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida in 2006 before transferring to Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS), and later HUC-JIR.
Growing up as a Christian, I was curious about the Jewish community. I learned that HUC-JIR is very welcoming and open to diverse backgrounds. Plus, there are so many prominent HUC-JIR alumni Christian scholars in the Hebrew Bible including Dr. John Walton, who is a most famous scholar in Korea. So, I was sure that HUC-JIR fit my academic pursuits, and I am still deeply satisfied with my studies at HUC-JIR.
HUC-JIR is an invaluable place for those who want a well-balanced education of the Hebrew Bible. For Christians, Jews, and those of any other backgrounds, HUC-JIR provides a unique experience, not only with its rigorous academic environment, but also with its warm and welcoming interfaith community. I pray HUC-JIR continues to write its glorious history, and make this world a better place.
Why did you choose the Pines School of Graduate Studies?
I got to know about PSGS during my master’s studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, in Grand Rapids, MI. I valued the welcoming atmosphere of interfaith community as well as the rigorous study program. As a “PK” (Pastor’s Kid), I used to wonder about the Jewish community, their traditions and biblical interpretations. I knew that I would attain a well-balanced education for academic training in the biblical studies, and I can say that I was right!
What did you most enjoy about the Cincinnati campus?
The Klau library was the most enjoyable place for me at the Cincinnati campus. I was privileged to enjoy the abundant resources for academic research including the interlibrary system, which is very quick and handy. I also enjoyed working in the library shelving books in my spare time, which refreshed me and acquainted me with the book catalog. I also received extra money to assist with my living expenses abroad.
What is your favorite HUC-JIR moment or experience?
Reading cuneiform texts on the second floor of the Klau Library was such a unique and engaging experience. I enjoyed sitting around with classmates during my course work (for six semesters!). Our reading sounded melodious (sometimes). It was almost my second house — one of my favorite places in Cincinnati!
How has HUC-JIR prepared you for your career?
As an Adjunct Professor, I am teaching courses on the Hebrew Bible texts in an ancient Near Eastern perspective. The ANE courses at HUC-JIR such as Akkadian, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Syriac, and Egyptian helped me delve into ancient primary texts without fear or uncertainty. The Summer in Israel program was an eye-opening experience, which familiarized me with biblical archaeology, history, and geography in Israel. During the program, I was able to smell and taste ancient and modern Israel. It also was a vivid education opportunity for me as a Bible instructor.
Please tell us about writing your dissertation, entitled “Reading the Jephthah Narrative with Asian Perspective.”
Dr. Christine Thomas encouraged me to work on something I like, and Dr. Nili Fox recommended that I work on something I can handle while living in South Korea. I had limited access to research material. I agreed with them since I thought it was meaningful for me to apply my experience with the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern studies to an Asian context. Finishing up the long journey of my dissertation, I’m glad to have an opportunity to integrate the study of traditional Asian stories with the Hebrew Bible. My advisors, Drs. Nili Fox, Christine Thomas, and James Kalman, are so understanding about my difficulties with conducting research away from appropriate facilities, so patient about my slow progress, and so kind to develop each chapter more soundly. It was a touching lesson for me to apply to my students in the future.
My dissertation took longer than I expected when I came back to Korea in 2015 after the comprehensive exams. I taught English at a private school and a college for the first two years. And then I did some ministry work as a vice principal at Vision Christian Institute, a small Christian school run by a local church and as a youth pastor at my home church in the education department. I also was a research fellow at the Institute of Bible and Israel Research (IBIR) in Yongin. I led a study tour group to Israel, which is an annual program of the IBIR. I visited STT Arastamar Bengkulu (a university and seminary) in Indonesia as an instructor at the annual English camp. Now I feel I have done many things for Christian ministry (as an ordained pastor) as well as raising funds for living expenses during my dissertation years.
I hope to visit the campus again and see my old colleagues, professors, and buildings. At the end of 2019, I was planning to come back to Cincinnati in early 2020 to work on my dissertation, but the pandemic would not let me go back to the United States. So, I had to stay in Korea working on the dissertation alone. However, I was so blessed by my wonderful dissertation advisors. I also deeply appreciate Michael Owen who read and edited my dissertation.
Where are you working now?
Right after my dissertation was approved, I was appointed as an Adjunct Professor of the Old Testament at Westminster Graduate School of Theology (WGST) in Korea where I am currently teaching Old Testament and Ancient Near East (a Korean course) and Old Testament Survey (an English course). Also, I am teaching the Old Testament Survey at Gateway Seminary in the United States and Canada as an instructor. On Sundays, I work part-time at a local church, leading children’s English worship service.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to hike, swim, and play the piano. During the pandemic, I’ve been enjoying reading while sipping hot coffee.