Paul John Achtemeier, Herbert Worth and Annie H. Jackson Professor of Biblical Interpretation Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA (now Union Presbyterian Seminary), died after a long illness in his home on Monday, January 28, 2013. He was 85.
Born in l927 in Lincoln, NE, Dr. Achtemeier ("Bud" to his friends) was an honors graduate of Elmhurst College (A.B.) and of Union Theological Seminary in New York (B.D.), from where he also received his doctorate (Th.D.). He also studied at Princeton Theological Seminary, Heidelberg University (Germany), and the University of Basel (Switzerland).
Before coming to Richmond to teach at Union, Dr. Achtemeier also taught at Elmhurst College and the Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies of the World Council of Churches, Chateau de Bossey, Switzerland. He was also Visiting Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, PA. He was elected to membership in several learned societies. He was the first Protestant elected president of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, and he served as treasurer, secretary, and president of the Society of Biblical Literature.
Dr. Achtemeier was an internationally recognized scholar, having published 18 books and over 60 scholarly journal articles. In addition, he was editor of a number of book series, most notably the New Testament Editor for the series Interpretation: Biblical Commentaries for Teaching and Preaching and the general editor of Harper’s Bible Dictionary (the l985 prize-winning edition) and later revised edition (l996), in conjunction with the Society of Biblical Literature. Additionally, Dr. Achtemeier has lectured and preached throughout North America and abroad at educational institutions, churches, scriptural institutes, and a wide variety of conferences for scholars, clergy and lay people, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.
Dr. Achtemeier was a beloved professor for generations of students, and a loyal colleague and friend to other professors at institutions where he taught. In his honor, a festschrift, The Forgotten God (edited by his former students, Frank Matera and Andrew Das) was published and presented on the occasion of his 75th birthday. He was generous in sharing with the needy and took very seriously the biblical mandate to care for the poor and homeless. He held deeply the value of social equality and was numbered among those who witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech on the Washington, D.C. mall.
Dr. Achtemeier was preceded in death in 2002 by his first wife, Dr. Elizabeth Rice Achtemeier, to whom he was married for over 50 years. He is survived by his second wife, Dr. Sandra M. Levy; a son, Dr. P. Mark Achtemeier and his wife, Dr. Katherine Achtemeier of Dubuque, IA; a daughter, Marie A. Finch, and her husband, Paul Finch, of Norfolk, VA; five grandchildren; two stepsons and their families; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held at noon on Wednesday, February 6, 2013, at the historic St. John's Episcopal Church, Richmond, VA.