Rev. Dr. Joseph M. Alexanian
Joseph Manuel Alexanian was born in 1930 to Manuel and Priscilla Yeghoyan Alexanian in Oakland, California, the older of two children. His maternal grandfather was the renowned pastor and evangelist, Rev. Assadour Yeghoyan.
Joseph attended local public schools, graduating from high school in 1948. He acquired a love for music from his parents and studied piano and cornet at an early age. Throughout his public school and college years, Joseph played the cornet in school and community bands, orchestras, and in musical ensembles.
From his parents, Joseph learned to love God and to trust Christ for salvation. In 1944, during a worship service in Fresno, California, he committed his life to the Lord.
In addition to his family, his home church, Bethany Armenian Congregational Church of Oakland, played an important role in his spiritual growth.
Following graduation from high school, he attended Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, graduating summa cum laude in 1952.
After attending Wheaton Graduate School for a year, he transferred to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He graduated cum laude from Fuller in 1955 with a master of divinity degree. While at the Seminary, Joseph married the former Esther Chetakian in 1954. They were blessed with two sons, Daniel and David and two daughters, JoAnn and Debra.
Joseph was ordained to the Christian ministry in 1955 in the Bethany Armenian Congregational Church by a Vicinage Council of Congregational Churches and ministers. In 1975, he transferred his ministerial standing to the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
The Rev. and Mrs. Alexanian went to Beirut, Lebanon in 1955 and taught full-time at Central High School (CHS) in Eshrefieh, Lebanon. He also inspired his sister Pauline Alexanian Khanjian to join him in teaching at CHS. One of their students, Hagop Bozabalian, became Archbishop Nerses Bozabalian, Chancellor of the Catholicosate in Etchmiadzin, Armenia. He has since passed away. While in Lebanon, Joseph’s wife Esther also taught at CMC Hospital in the nursing program.
During the second year of their stay in Beirut, Rev. Alexanian received a call from Bethany Armenian Congregational Church in Oakland, California to become the pastor. He accepted the call and served Bethany Church from 1957 to 1962. During his ministry, he was elected and served as Moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Union of California, from 1959 to 1960. He visited all the Armenian Evangelical churches throughout California, meeting with pastors and boards to discuss their needs and challenges.
In the summer of 1962, Rev. Alexanian made a change in his vocational career. After a time of personal assessment, he came to the conclusion that he could better fulfill God’s call to teach the scriptures in the teaching profession rather than in the pastorate. He was accepted into the doctoral program of the department of humanities at the University of Chicago (UC).
During the next three years, from 1962 to 1965, the Rev. Alexanian completed the course requirements for the UC. After arriving in Chicago, the Alexanians became members of the Bethany Evangelical Covenant Church. Shortly after, when the pastor of the church moved to Seattle, Washington, the Board of Bethany asked Rev. Alexanian to fill the pulpit Sunday mornings and evenings as often as possible. After a few months, Bethany Church extended an invitation to Pastor Joseph to be the full-time minister. After declining the church’s offer three times, Rev. Alexanian allowed his name to be considered as a candidate. With acclamation, he was elected Pastor of Bethany. The Alexanians lived on the south side of Chicago near the church.
In 1969, Redeemer Covenant Church merged with Bethany Church, and the two churches became the Beverly Evangelical Covenant Church, with Rev. Alexanian as the minister. The merged church had 700 members.
After having guided the two congregations through the transition period, Rev. Alexanian felt he needed to return to his doctoral studies. During the next four years, from 1969 to 1973, he completed all the necessary research and analysis for his doctoral dissertation entitled, “The Armenian Version in Luke and the Question of the Caesarian Text.” Meanwhile, he was offered a teaching position at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois. He began his teaching career at Trinity College as an assistant professor. Over the years, he advanced in rank to full professor of Biblical studies and became Chairman of the department of Biblical studies. He held this position from 1973 until his retirement in 1995.
In July 1994, Dr. Alexanian taught at St. Nersess Seminary in Armonk, New York and in 1995 he taught for two weeks at the Armenian Evangelical Theological Academy in Yerevan, Armenia.
During his academic career, Dr. Alexanian published eleven scholarly articles in various prestigious journals and books and he presented ten major papers to seminars and symposiums. He received a number of awards, and continues to hold membership in more than a dozen academic and religious organizations. Among many articles and publications, Dr. Alexanian published a critical edition of the ancient Armenian text of Acts.
Dr. and Mrs. Alexanian moved to the state of Washington in 1995 to be nearer to most of their children and other family members. Currently, Rev. Dr. Alexanian is continuing his research while participating in various ministries of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America and Armenian Missionary Association of America. He continues to preach and teach in churches when asked.
This biography is an amended version of Rev. Dr. Joseph Alexanian’s biography in the Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian’s book “Fifty Years of Christian Service,” 2000, pages 30-32.