Robert Vande Kappelle, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies
Dr. Vande Kappelle (Dr. Van) was born and raised in Costa Rica, a picturesque country in Central America. A product of his multicultural surroundings, he came to the United States as a teenager and eventually enrolled at The King’s College in Briarcliff Manor, NY. During his undergraduate years, he played varsity soccer and traveled widely representing the college as a pianist and a public speaker. He studied religion and psychology while completing a major in Modern Foreign Languages. Following graduation, he taught Spanish at King’s before enrolling at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN), where he was granted an M.A. in Latin American Studies. He furthered his education at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he fulfilled the requirements for the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, concentrating in biblical studies. At Princeton, he spent two years as a graduate assistant and then successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, “Evidence of a Jewish Proselytizing Tendency in the Old Greek (Septuagint) Version of the Book of Isaiah.” At this time he became ordained as a Presbyterian minister and worked as a pastor for two years in New Jersey before he relocated to Pennsylvania to teach religion and philosophy at Grove City College (1975-80). In 1980 he came to Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), serving as Chair of the Religious Studies Department and College Chaplain until 2014 when he retired from full-time teaching and continued in the capacity of Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies.
A multi-linguist who has studied nine languages, Dr. Vande Kappelle has authored fourteen books and various articles and chapters for scholarly journals and texts. He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities grants, including one at Princeton University, where he participated in the postdoctoral seminar “Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire,” and another at the University of Pennsylvania, where he participated in the Summer Institute in Near Eastern Archaeology, sponsored by the American Schools for Oriental Research. Dr. Vande Kappelle is listed in Who’s Who in Biblical Studies and Archaeology, Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals in Education, four times in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and three times in Who’s Who in America.
Throughout his teaching career, Dr. Van has cycled extensively, including a solo trip across the United States in 1989 to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. Another passion includes music, particularly jazz music. His book Blue Notes (2011) includes 365 biographical entries of jazz artists by date of birth, one for each day of the year. The book also contains valuable information on jazz styles and jazz history. For six years professor Vande Kappelle played tenor saxophone with the W&J Wind Ensemble. In 1991 he received the “Citizen of the Year” award from Community Action of Southwest Pennsylvania for Washington County.
His fascination with other cultures and places has led him to travel through five continents. In 1975 he spent the summer in Spain as leader of a summer study abroad experience for a consortium of colleges. A sabbatical trip through southern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa in 1989 enabled him to visit many religious and archaeological sites. In the summer of 1993, he traveled to Mexico on a fact-finding team with W&J faculty, after which he presented a paper at an international conference of the Society of Biblical Literature in Münster, Germany. He attended an international clergy conference in Cuba in 2005.
Love Never Fails, Dr. Vande Kappelle’s biographical and spiritual tribute to his missionary parents, was published in 2006. This book, together with The Invisible Mountain (2010) and Into Thin Places (2011), constitutes his “Adventures in Spirituality” trilogy. The Invisible Mountain documents Dr. Vande Kappelle’s 1989 solo cross-country cycling trip to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity, and Into Thin Places describes Dr. Vande Kappelle’s travels across the Mediterranean world and the Middle East in search of his cultural and spiritual roots, commenting on seminal events, persons, and places that helped shape Western sensibility.
Beyond Belief (2012) addresses the quest for God and for authentic faith in an age of science. Iron Sharpens Iron (2013) is a discussion guide for individuals or small groups that wish to interact with the topics introduced in Beyond Belief. In addition to a volume on spirituality ( Dark Splendor, 2015) and on ethics ( Living Graciously on Planet Earth, 2016), Dr. Vande Kappelle has written a set of biblical commentaries, including four volumes in his “Now and Then” series: Hope Revealed (2013), on the book of Revelation, Truth Revealed (2014), on John’s Gospel, Wisdom Revealed (2014), a survey of Biblical wisdom literature, and Grace Revealed (2017), on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Securing Life (2016) utilizes a topical approach to reading and understanding the Bible in its entirety. His latest volume, The Scandal of Divine Love (2017), a study on biblical Christology, explores the significance of Jesus Christ for twenty-first-century skeptics, seekers, and believers.
Dr. Vande Kappelle is married to the Reverend Dr. Susan Vande Kappelle, a Gestalt pastoral therapist. They have two children and four grandchildren.