Exterior of Greenfield Building

Joel Pless

Joel Pless Joel Pless Theology Professor Email: joel.pless@wlc.edu Phone: 414.443.8930

Joel Pless


  • A.A.  Concordia College, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1980
  • B.A.  Concordia College, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1982
  • M. Div.  Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, 1986 
  • S.T.M.  Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, 1993
  • Ph.D.  Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, 2008


I was born in northern Illinois and grew up in the Detroit area of Michigan. My father was a research engineer. Starting as a first grader and ending with my Ph.D. commencement, I was either a full or part-time student of a Lutheran school for 42 straight years. After graduating from the Concordia system, I enrolled at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1982. I served as a vicar (intern) at Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church, Waupaca, Wisconsin from 1984-1985. After graduating from the seminary, I served as a parish pastor for 14 years in north-central Wisconsin, serving St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Rib Falls and Zion Ev. Lutheran Church, Town of Rib Falls, near Wausau. During my time in the parish ministry, I twice taught social studies at Northland Lutheran High School, then located in Wausau.

I was called to teach theology at Wisconsin Lutheran College in 2000, specializing in the areas of New Testament and church history. Since 2010, I have served as a co-host for overseas study tours in the Mediterranean area. Greece, Jordan, Israel, Italy, and Turkey have been some of the countries I have taken students to learn about the history and geography of the Bible.

My wife, Linda, and I have been married since 1990. We have been blessed with three grown children and two grandchildren. My wife and I reside in Germantown and belong to David’s Star Ev. Lutheran Church, Jackson, Wisconsin.

Since 2019, I have also served as an adjunct instructor in the Graduate School at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota. I now teach both undergraduate and graduate online courses for MLC.

In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I am a regular chapel speaker and author weekly devotions for the WLC Alumni Facebook page. I also serve the church at large by being a tour guide of the birthplace of the Wisconsin Synod, Salem Landmark Church, and as a congregational delegate for the General Board of Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, Jackson, Wisconsin. I also serve as the Facebook page manager and local arrangements coordinator for MABAS (Milwaukee Area Biblical Archaeology Society). I serve the greater community by being a monthly platelet donor for Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin.


  • COL 101 - Introduction to College Experiences 
  • LAS 101 - Liberal Arts Seminar 
  • THE 110 - Introduction to Theology
  • THE 225 - History of Israel
  • THE 230 - New Testament
  • THE 231 - Life of Christ
  • THE 311 - Christian Faith and Life
  • THE 321 - History of Religion in America
  • THE 441 - History of Christianity

Research Interests

My 1986 M.Div. thesis focused on researching the backstory of the 1974 protest walkout at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, titled “Cancer at Concordia: An Examination of How the Historical Critical Method of Biblical Interpretation was Introduced to the Classroom Teaching at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.” My 1993 S.T.M thesis was titled “American Lutheranism and the Civil War.” My 2008 Ph.D. dissertation was titled “In the Footsteps of Walther: The Doctrine of the Ministry in the Writings of George Stoeckhardt.”

I have also done extensive research and writing on German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun (1912–1977) and his career before, during, and after World War II and on the 19th-century Erlangen theologian, Johann Wilhelm Friedrich Hӧfling (1802–1853). Other research interests include

  • Near Eastern and Greco-Roman archaeology
  • American and European Lutheranism
  • Civil War history
  • World War II history

Lastly in my limited spare time, besides traveling, I enjoy engaging in genealogical research. On my mother’s side of the family, I have been able to trace back portions of my family’s pedigree to the late 1400s and early 1500s.