In 2024, Christian Theological Seminary will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of its founding as Butler School of Religion in 1924. This series of captivating history stories lifts up the remarkable moments, visionaries, and milestones that have shaped our institution over nearly a century. Join us on this inspiring journey as we honor our past, celebrate our present, and look forward to the future.
CTS History: US Internment and Toyozo Nakarai
This story from the CTS Archives was written by Rev. Dr. Scott Seay and originally posted July 25, 2019 on Facebook.
Born and raised near Kobe, Japan, Toyozo Nakarai (1898-1984) was groomed from a young age to succeed his brother as the local Shinto priest. While a student at Nippon University in the early 1920s, however, he converted to Christianity under the influence of Disciples of Christ missionaries teaching there. He was baptized in 1922 at the Takinogawa Christian Church and determined to become a scholar of the Bible. With the help of Charles T. Paul, president of the Disciples-related College of Missions, he immigrated to Indianapolis in 1923. Already well-educated, he qualified for the bachelor’s degree from Butler College in 1924, and the master’s degree a year later. After teaching briefly at the College of Missions, he was appointed to the newly formed Butler School of School of Religion (BSR) in 1927, just as he began PhD work at the University of Michigan. He taught Old Testament and Hebrew language at BSR for 38 years, retiring in 1965. For most of his teaching career at BSR, Nakarai was ineligible to apply for U.S. citizenship under restrictive naturalization laws then in effect. Following the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, he tendered his resignation from BSR lest his presence on the faculty bring dishonor on the school. A year later, when President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, he was in danger of being interned as an enemy collaborator. BSR Dean Frederick Doyle Kershner not only tore up Nakarai’s resignation letter, he appealed directly to the President of the United States and kept Nakarai out of the internment camps. Still, he was forced to register himself as an “enemy alien” until he was granted full citizenship in 1952. He distinguished himself with countless scholarly publications and became one of the foremost scholars of his generation on the Dead Sea Scrolls. BSR students remember him as an exacting teacher, but deeply humble and pastoral in his demeanor. Upon his retirement from BSR (by then renamed Christian Theological Seminary) in 1965, he turned down more than twenty visiting professorships at prestigious universities. He helped to found Emmanuel School of Religion, now affiliated with Milligan College in east Tennessee, and taught there until his death in 1984. In the photos below, Nakarai appears with his faculty colleagues at BSR in 1927; and in his office and classroom in 1962.
All photos courtesy of the Archives and Special Collections at Christian Theological Seminary.