As we come together to launch and celebrate the Central and Eastern Bible Commentary, we cannot help but feel sadness that our friend, and general editor of the project, Corneliu Constantineanu, is not here to join us. However we know that he is celebrating and giving thanks to God with us, alongside our Lord.
Corneliu Constantineanu was a father, husband, scholar, and teacher who went to be with the Lord in March 2021. As we thank God for this completed commentary, we also thank God for the life and legacy of Corneliu, of which this commentary is just one such contribution in many that he made to the church.
In remembrance of Corneliu, we sat down with a longtime friend and colleague, Marcel Măcelaru, who shared a personal reflection with us.
“If I had to define Corneliu in one phrase, I'd say Corneliu was a visionary, a hard-working visionary. That being said, it's no wonder he was involved in many things.
He was ordained as a pastor in Osijek, Croatia, and that came as a response to a need to take over and minister to an international community of believers, so he responded to the call: he was there. Corneliu was very respected for his dedication and the work he did. But his love was, of course, always the academic side of work.
At the end of his master's studies, his examiner told him that his dissertation was a contribution to the field of New Testament studies. It was a topic nobody had ever written about before. And then he applied for a scholarship from Langham, and I still remember how excited he was, happy to be moving on. It took a long time for him because, while doing his PhD, the school in Osijek also needed his already developing expertise and enthusiasm. He was working and studying in parallel. Somewhere around 2007, both of us were finishing our PhD and were talking about the need to publish.
Around that same time, we became very involved in teaching in Romania. We realized there were so few resources in the Romanian language available to Romanian students, so we started having this bigger dream of developing something in this area.
Corneliu would call me in the morning and tell me excitedly that there was another project we could do together, another book we could be involved in. Most of the time, he was the engine behind this. He would call me and ask me to finish – and, in a sense, it was a symbiotic relationship; he was pushing things to move forward and I was asking to do more revision.
Corneliu got involved in all these things because he saw the need. It looks like it was a very well-planned career path and ministry plan, maybe planned by God. One thing about Corneliu was his desire to respond to any call God made. The way he understood that was not for God to come down and call him by name or lead him by hand, but rather to see the need – and to respond to the need. That's how Corneliu became the multitasking, developed, and experienced person that he was.
Corneliu was the kind of person who believed strongly that God's love and reconciliation are something that has to be in all our relationships.
For people who knew him, you couldn't stay upset or angry with him because he was full of joy and jokes. Despite everything, one thing that you always knew was that Corneliu cared about you. He would do anything to intervene, to show his care. There was this feeling, even for students, that they were respected, loved, and dealing with someone who treated people justly. You felt Corneliu was there for you, ready to tell you the truth.
Because of our experience studying abroad, we've seen that things can be done differently in an academic context. We understood our students were our friends, and Corneliu would help young people relax; he would call them younger colleagues.
For Corneliu, a good relationship was more important than anything else. He would always find a way to reconcile.
The CEEBC is a good example of his bridge building skills and vision because of what excited him about the project. Beyond the fact that we would produce a resource for believers from our part of the world, it was the whole idea of working together with so many people. It's an excellent example of how he managed to bring people together as dozens of authors joined this project because of Corneliu; he was a community maker.
What he had was his ability to translate his vision of spirituality into a vision for the community, a more social approach to life – and to translate it into his academic work. The concept of “believing and practicing scholars" remained his phrase throughout the years because, in his mind, scholarship wasn't an objective on its own but something to speak to the church's needs.
The kind of influence Corneliu had in the field of Eastern European theology encouraged people to study theology. A lot of my being a theologian has to do with Corneliu's encouragement. He wouldn't let me rest and at times he facilitated things. When I got a scholarship to do research at Oxford University, he was the person who brought me the application form. He wrote a letter of recommendation to the scholarship committee in Oxford on my behalf – and he would do these things, he impacted lives in this way.
As he developed as a scholar, he brought to the table two things that in this part of the world will remain his legacy.
For Corneliu, being reconciled with God meant to be reconciled with the people around you.
The first one emphasizes the social meaning of reconciliation, which started in his PhD. For Corneliu, being reconciled with God meant that you must be reconciled with the people around you. He became known in Romania for being the Pentecostal theologian with Orthodox, Catholic, and Baptist friends. When Corneliu passed away, I was contacted by an Orthodox theologian who told me he lost his best friend.
The second thing he was writing on was the whole concept of public theology. It's the role of faith, the dialogue of faith in the public sphere, answering the question of what it means that Christ is the Lord of all.
He reckoned that we must be a prophetic voice even within corrupted structures.
In the context of a multireligious society, it had to do a lot with his understanding that we must be a prophetic voice even within corrupted structures, in a country that struggled with corruption. 95 out of 100 dissertations and doctoral works produced in Arad would have at least one mention of public theology.
There are some things we can learn from Corneliu's life and work.
Most importantly in all work, not only theological, everything you do in life has to spring out of a healthy relationship with God – this was Corneliu’s vision of life. When we were master students in Osijek, we decided to stay there and work on our papers during one Christmas break, rather than go home. We organized a small Christmas party with others; typically we would play some games and eat. In the middle of all this, Corneliu stood up and said something typical of his spirituality. He said, "Before we start eating and playing, why don't we just say a prayer?" And then he prayed along these line, "It's so nice that we can play in Your presence and laugh and have good food in Your presence." It was the first time in my life that I realized having a good time doesn’t contradict a deep, healthy spirituality. We usually separate the religious from the secular but this dichotomy was not in Corneliu’s mind.
The other thing was his diligence and hardworking attitude. Corneliu woke up at 3.50 in the morning because he could not conceive of starting the day without reading the Bible and praying.
Corneliu left us an example of scholarship; the courage to say things that some people wouldn't have the courage to say, the courage to address the topics that are hard to address.
And then, of course, the example of scholarship Corneliu left us; the courage to say things that some people wouldn't have the courage to say, the courage to address the topics that are hard to address. Even in his PhD, he spoke about the reconciliation of Romanians and Hungarians, which is a difficult topic to debate, but he had the courage to speak out about issues that matter.
Last but not least, it’s his emphasis on good relationships and his love to connect and work with people. Corneliu was very intentional in creating an atmosphere of love. He would speak about the necessity of developing a hermeneutic of love. And he lived by it.”
|We also had the opportunity to speak with Peter Penner, a close colleague and friend of Corneliu, who took over the role of general editor after Corneliu's passing. Our conversation with Peter centred on Corneliu's impact on and involvement in the CEEBC project.|
“I think it was natural that Corneliu picked up the role of the general editor of Central and Eastern European Bible Commentary. One of Corneliu's great qualities was that he could bring people together; he could unite and excite. He was the person who could encourage and motivate.
Corneliu was excited about the CEEBC project and he saw it as one of his big dreams to come true, to have a Bible commentary for the whole region of Central and Eastern Europe. The commentary includes authors from twenty different countries. Coming together, there was a lot of variety and cultural differences. Nevertheless, Corneliu was respected by everyone. He was always a very positive person, people liked him. He developed the gift God gave him of being a positive person and bringing people together.
Corneliu was someone who was able to initiate things. He had big dreams. And to dream big dreams is important. He modelled a good Christian character and that's what people can learn from. He had a positive attitude in different circumstances, even when things didn’t go so well.
Corneliu was a person who was ready to talk to different people, difficult people, and people who would disagree with him… We need people like him to build bridges.
Corneliu knew his limitations and how to work in a team – a critical thing to have in these times. Corneliu was a person who was ready to talk to different people, difficult people, and people who would disagree with him. He came back positively talking to them. We need people like him to build bridges.”
Rev. Dr. Corneliu Constantineanu (†17 March 2021) gained his PhD from the University of Leeds and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, UK. He was former Professor of Theology at Aurel Vlaicu University of Arad, Romania, after serving as Academic Dean of Evanđeoski Teološki Fakultet, Croatia, where he taught for more than sixteen years. He also served as Rector of the Pentecostal Theological Institute, Romania. In addition to his formal positions he was a Langham Scholar, a member of INFEMIT’s (International Fellowship for Mission as Transformation) Networking Team, as well as being involved with several other organisations such as the Central and Eastern European Association for Mission Studies (CEEAMS), International Council for Evangelical Theological Education (ICETE), World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).