Jonathan Loopstra | University of Northwestern, St. Paul

Jonathan Loopstra, Ph.D.

Professor of History

Ph.D., The Catholic University of America (DC)
Mst., Oxford University (England)
M.A., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Illinois)
B.S., Northwestern College (Minnesota)

Contact Information

Nazareth Hall, N3062
3003 Snelling Ave. N
St Paul, MN 55113


Dr. Jonathan Loopstra joined the University of Northwestern faculty after teaching at Capital University in Columbus, OH. He has also taught at the Reformed Theological Seminary and in the Middle East. In his classes, Dr. Loopstra seeks to encourage his students to improve their understanding of history and the contemporary world around them.

At the University of Northwestern, Dr. Jonathan Loopstra teaches a wide variety of courses from Antiquity through the Medieval Period. As a specialist in the history of Christianity in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Central Asia, Dr. Loopstra is well-equipped to help students understand the complex history of these regions.

He works frequently with texts in the Syriac language, a dialect of Aramaic used by Christians in the Middle East. These texts are a largely untapped resource for our knowledge of the history of this part of the world.

Much of Dr. Loopstra’s current work is also focused on preserving the heritage of Middle-Eastern Christianity in the face of the present violence in the region.

Jonathan and his wife Carol live in the Twin Cities where they enjoy the many outdoor activities Minnesota has to offer.

Specialty Areas

  • Early Christianity
  • Christianity in the Middle East
  • The history of biblical interpretation and exegesis
  • Translation and lexicography
  • Preaching, homiletics, and the spoken word in Antiquity
  • Manuscripts, papyrology, and codicology

Courses Taught

  • History of the Ancient Near East
  • History and Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
  • History of the Greek World
  • History of the Roman World
  • History of East Asia
  • History of the Christian Church
  • Western Civilization


  • North American Patristics Society
  • Society of Biblical Literature
  • American Society of Church History

The parts of the discipline of history that most intrigue and fascinate me are...

I enjoy reading ancient writers, whose wisdom and ways of approaching the world often still hold relevance today. Every time I read a manuscript that is over a thousand years old, I enjoy deciphering all the notes that previous readers have left behind in their own attempts to make sense of the text.

One of the things I enjoy most in the classroom is...

Encouraging students to see modern questions through the lens of history.

Some interesting things I have done in the past include...

  • Instead of going to college straight out of high school, I joined the Navy as a Nuclear Mechanical Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. My interest in the history and cultural heritage of Western Asia was nurtured during my tours in the Persian Gulf. Then, after my enlistment, I backpacked around the Mediterranean for six months, visiting museums and archaeological sites along the way.
  • I helped to start the Fencing Club at Northwestern!
  • While at seminary, I lived in a synagogue as the Shabbos goy.
  • I spent a year in Granada, Spain where I was asked to help start a centre for the study of Middle Eastern Christianity.
  • I spent two years in Iraq teaching university students from a broad spectrum of Iraqi society. I had the unique opportunity of taking my students to nearby sites where the ancient history we were studying actually took place.

Books which have shaped who I am as an historian

Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern
David Hackett Fischer, Historians' Fallacies
Mark A. Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind
Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam
E. H. Gombrich, A Little History of the World

Advice I would give to college students

  • Take full advantage of this time in your life to expand your horizons. Travel and explore, when possible.
  • Develop good study habits and work with your professors to stretch yourself beyond where you think you can go.
  • Refine the skills you learn in history courses, such as careful reading, clear writing, and critical thinking. These skills will advance your career down the road, regardless of your major!

Selected Professional Accomplishments


  • Job. According to the Peshitta Version with English Translation. The Antioch Bible. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2016.
  • An East Syrian Manuscript of the Syriac ‘Masora’ Dated to 899 CE. Introduction, List of Sample Texts, and Indices to Marginal Notes in British Library, Additional MS 12138. Vol. 2. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2015.
  • An East Syrian Manuscript of the Syriac ‘Masora’ Dated to 899 CE. A Facsimile Reproduction of British Library, Additional MS 12138. Vol. 1. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2014.
  • With Michael Sokoloff (co-editor). Foundations for Syriac Lexicography V: Proceedings of the New Orleans Meetings of the International Syriac Language Project. Perspectives on Syriac Linguistics 7. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2013.

Select Articles

  • “The Syriac Bible and its Interpretation.” In The Syriac World, edited by Daniel King. Oxford: Routledge Press, forthcoming.
  • "How to Read the Bible with the Tahtaya da-tlata: Recovering an ancient biblical marker of exclamation and supplication.” In Perspectives on Linguistics and Ancient Languages VII, edited by Tarsee Li and Richard Taylor. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, forthcoming.
  • “Exploring Patterns of Accentuation in the Peshitta Bible: Perspectives and Possibilities.” In Perspectives on Linguistics and Ancient Languages V, edited by Alison Salvesen and Timothy Lewis. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2016.
  • “Justin Perkins: The Legacy of an American Missionary to Persia.” In Christlicher Orient im Porträt – Wissenschaftsgeschichte des Christlichen Orients und seiner Nachbarwissenschaften, edited by Predrag Bukovec and Barbara Kolkmann-Klamt, 51-74. Religionen im Vorderen Orient 2. Hamburg, 2013.
  • “Jacob of Edessa and Patristic Collections in the ‘Syriac Masora’: some soundings.” In Syrien im 1.-7. Jahrhundert nach Christus, edited by Dmitrij Bumazhnov, 55-86. Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011.
  • “Solomon of Basra,” “Tell cAda,” and “Qarqaphta.” In Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (EDSH), edited by Lucas Van Rompay and George Kiraz. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2011.
  • “Selections and Concordance of Gregory Nazianzus in the Manuscripts of the Syriac Masorah.” In Studia Nazianzenica II, edited by Andrea Schmidt, 619-704. Corpus Christianorum, Series Graeca; Corpus Nazianzenum 24. Turnhout-Leuven, Belgium: Brepols, 2011.
  • “The Trouble with _____: Basil’s Hexaemeron 2.6 in Context.” Orientalia christiana periodica. 76.1 (2010): 145-160.
  • “A Syriac Tract for the ‘Explanation’ of Hebrew and Foreign Words.” In The Old Testament as Authoritative Scripture in the Early Churches of the East, edited by Vahan Hovhanessian, 57-64. New York: Peter Lang, 2009.
  • “‘School Texts’ for Reading the Bible and the Greek Fathers in Ninth- Through Thirteenth-Century Miaphysite Pedagogy.” Scriptura. Nouvelle serie. Patristic Exegesis: the Fathers of the Church and the Bible 10.1 (2008): 87-97.

Select Reviews

  • Review of Chorbishop Seely Joseph Beggiani, Early Syriac Theology: with special reference to the Maronite tradition, 2nd ed., 2014. The Christian Librarian (forthcoming).
  • Review of Takamitsu Muraoka, Classical Syriac for Hebraists, 2nd ed., 2013. Review of Biblical Literature (2015).

Recent Presentations

  • “Le Nouveau Testament dans les manuscrits syriaques massoretiques. Ou en sommes-nous?” Invited Lecture. Societe des etudes Syriaques. Paris. November 18, 2016.
  • “The Church of the East and the Transmission of Ancient Knowledge.” Invited Lecture. Seminar on the Assyrian Legacy: From Ancient Civilization to Today’s Cultural Revival. Library of Congress, D.C. June 10, 2016.
  • “Interpreting the ‘Interpreter’ without Words, Dot by Dot.” Annual North American Patristics Society Meeting. May 27, 2016.
  • “(Mis-)Interpreting the Peshitta of Job in the Medieval Middle East.” Invited Lecture. Department of Near Eastern Studies, Ohio State University. March 29, 2016.
  • “Between a ‘Hard Rock’ and ‘Leviathan’: Syriac writers wrestle with the Peshitta of Job.” Annual Society of Biblical Literature Meeting. 2015.
  • “Interpretations of Syriac Dottology, Reclaiming the Past.” Annual Society of Biblical Literature Meeting. 2015.
  • “Poetry and the Post-Chalcedonian Search for Identity at the Edge of the Roman Frontier.” Theologians of Ohio Annual Meeting. 2015.
  • “How to Read the Bible with the Tahtaya da-tlata: Recovering an Ancient Marker of Exclamation and Supplication.” International Language Project. St. Petersburg. June 29-July 4, 2014.
  • “‘Edessa loved the Son Without the Apostolic Witness’: Jacob of Serug and Notions of Edessene Exceptionalism.” Evangelical Theological Society. 2014
  • “Reading in the Margins: Between Gloss and Lemma.” Annual Society of Biblical Literature Meeting. 2013.
  • “Manuscripts and the Readership of Gregory Nazianzen’s Works in Syriac.” American Society of Church History Annual Meeting. 2013.
  • “American Higher Education Policy in Postwar Iraq.” Invited Lecture. University of Illinois-Springfield. April, 25-26, 2013.
  • “Accent on Accents: Exploring Patterns of Accentuation in the Syriac Bible.” 11th Symposium Syriacum. Valletta, Malta. 2012.
  • “Perceptions of the Syriac Bible in the Works of the 17th Century Biblical Critic Father Richard Simon.” Seventh World Syriac Conference. St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI). Kottayam, India. 2010.
I enjoy reading ancient writers, whose wisdom and ways of approaching the world often still hold relevance today. Every time I read a manuscript that is over a thousand years old, I enjoy deciphering all the notes that previous readers have left behind in their own attempts to make sense of the text.
Jonathan Loopstra
Professor of History

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