New York Theological Seminary

Jump to navigation Jump to search

New York Theological Seminary was known as W. W. White's Bible Teachers Training School from 1900 until 1921. Most Mennonites until 1961 knew it as The Biblical Seminary in New York (hereafter BSNY).

"Professor of English Bible" is the academic title Erland Waltner chose as the first president of Mennonite Biblical Seminary in the newly organized Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, IN. (1958). This mirrors accurately the essential objective of the New York model. Travel to the world's mission fields by Wilbert W. White (1863-1944) and close association with the enthusiasm of William Rainey Harper (1856-1906), the founding president of the University of Chicago, who had studied with White at Yale University, furnished the vision for graduate-level study of Scripture in the student's vernacular language. One half of each semester's study was in the Bible on a book-study basis. Either Greek or Hebrew was required for graduation. Mastery of the biblical text under study is assumed before turning to exegetical opinion.

In White's view the other disciplines—historical, theological, pedagogical, psychological, homiletical, and pastoral—must always be legitimated by the Scriptures, and he believed one must bring the contributions and insights of those disciplines to bear on the full understanding of the Scriptures. For example, a book by long-term faculty member Louis Matthew Sweet, To Christ Through Evolution, related philosophy and the natural sciences to the Scriptures; similarly Albert Clark Wyckoff s course, "The Bible and Modern Psychology," helped Gerald Stucky, pioneer Mennonite missionary to Colombia (General Conference Mennonite Church), become a participant in the first-ever offering of a clinical pastoral education program at the University of Michigan (summer of 1942). Teaching courses in Bible as well as in their major discipline also helped professors bring about such integration, e.g., Ralph Key, the teacher in philosophy taught the Book of Jeremiah. The third dimension, community service, brought the Scriptures to bear on the needs of the larger New York City setting.

The substantial representation of Mennonites in the student body led to an invitation to Orie O. Miller to join the BSNY board of trustees. Miller served in this capacity for 20 years and two of his sons, Daniel and John, attended the seminary. Some 22 Mennonite students were enrolled at one point during Miller's service on the board. Miller's time on the board, as he observed to someone, overlapped with the planning for the beginning of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries (AMBS).

One might conclude that the school's stress on the study of individual books and the whole Bible in the form in which we now have them anticipated redaction criticism, canon criticism, and the Biblical Theology movement; that the careful observation of literary form taught by BSNY professors anticipated the emphasis of Hermann Gunkel on Gattungen (genre criticism) and anticipated the present stress on story or narrative theology and on the Bible as literature; and that the prominence given to women in major roles in instruction at BSNY also anticipated later developments in seminary and pastoral education.

A number of Mennonite college and seminary teachers have been exposed to the inductive Bible study method, either directly through study at BSNY (Stanley C. Shenk, Jacob J. Enz, Erland Waltner, Erna Fast, Gertrude Roten, Orlando Schmidt, Marcus G. Smucker), or indirectly through study under BSNY graduates at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Princeton Seminary, and Bethany Biblical Seminary (Howard Charles, Willard Swartley, Donovan Smucker and others). (Bethany Biblical Seminary [CBrethr], established by A. C. Wieand in direct imitation of W. W. White's school, was closely associated with Mennonite Biblical Seminary, 1945-1958.) Two presidents of seminaries outside North America were Mennonites who studied at BSNY: Peter Buller (Kinshasa, Zaire) and Kenneth Bauman (Union Biblical Seminary, Yavatmal, later Pune, India). Other BSNY Mennonite graduates have served in various Mennonite agencies and organizations.

See also Burkhalter, Martha.


Eberhardt, Charles R. The Bible in the Making of Ministers, The Scriptural Basis of Theological Education: The Life Work of Wilbert Webster White. New York: Association Press, 1949.

Enz, Jacob J. "Living Bibliocentrism." The Bulletin: Mennonite Biblical Seminary 23, no. 4 (October 1960): 4-5.

Kuist, Howard T. "Scripture and the Common Man." Theology Today, 3, no. 2 (July 1946): 205-20;

Kuist, Howard T. These Words upon Thy Heart: Scripture and the Christian Response. Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1947.

Schroeder, David. Faith Refined by Fire. Newton, 1985. The first volume in the Faith and Life Bible Studies series—most authors in the series have been exposed to the inductive Bible study approach.

Swartley, Willard M. Mark: The Way for All Nations. Scottdale, 1979. Dedicated to Howard H. Charles as a teacher in the inductive approach who in turn was taught by Kuist at Union Theological Seminary, Richmond.

Turner, George A. Portals to Bible Books. Wilmore, KY: Asbury Theological Seminary, 1957.

Waltner, Erland. "Drenched in the Word." The Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Bible School Bulletin 20, no. 3 (July 1957).

Yoder, Perry. From Word to Life. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1982.

Yoder, Perry. Toward Understanding the Bible. Newton, KS:Faith and Life, 1978.

Author(s) Jacob J Enz
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Enz, Jacob J. "New York Theological Seminary." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 21 Jun 2021.

APA style

Enz, Jacob J. (1987). New York Theological Seminary. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 June 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 627-628. All rights reserved.

©1996-2021 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.