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Professor Dieter Georgi died unexpectedly on March 1, 2005 in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, at the age of seventy-five, after having fought several life-threatening diseases. He leaves behind his wife Barbara, five children and many grandchildren. Thus, the world of New Testament scholarship has lost one of its most innovative and stimulating scholars and teachers.

Dieter Georgi was born June 6, 1929 in Mittelsommern in Thuringen, Germany, as the son of a Lutheran minister. From 1939 to 1947 he was educated at the humanistic gymnasium in Frankfurt. He happened to be in Dresden in 1945, when the allied forces bombed and destroyed the city that was filled with refugees; 300,000 people perished in that attack. This experience left a deep impression on him, which formed much of his later thinking. From 1947 to 1953 he studied theology at the Universities of Mainz, Gottingen, Heidelberg, Marburg, and Edinburgh, passed his first theological examination in 1953 and his second examination, qualifying for ordination, in 1955. After a brief stay as a tutor in Heidelberg, he served as a minister at the Andreaskirche in Frankfurt from 1955 to 1957, then moved to Heidelberg as a research and teaching assistant, where he completed his dissertation that was published in German and later in English translation as The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians: A Study on Religious Propaganda in Antiquity. After submission of a second thesis, published in English translation as Remembering the Poor: The History of Paul's Collection for Jerusalem, he taught as an assistant professor in Heidelberg from 1962 to 1966.

An invitation as visiting professor to Harvard Divinity School in the year 1964/65 brought him to the United States, where he then moved in 1966 to a permanent position at San Francisco Presbyterian Seminary in San Anselmo. In 1969 he followed a call to Harvard Divinity School as the Frothingham Professor of the History of Religions, a position he occupied until 1984. During those years, he was a most influential teacher, supervisor of doctoral dissertations, and stimulating and constructive member of a team of New Testament professors (consisting of him, George MacRae, John Strugnell, and myself). He was also active in the Society of Biblical Literature and in the Boston Theological Institute. Moreover, he and his wife Barbara were honored by the town of Arlington, MA, where they resided, for the promotion of soccer in the town—Dieter was a certified soccer coach.

But he could not resist an invitation to the university of his home city Frankfurt in 1984, where it became his primary task to transform the small department of the Study of Religion into a Faculty of Theology. From 1987 to 1989 he served as the Founding Dean of the new Faculty. He was instrumental in establishing a Martin Buber Chair of Jewish Studies at his university, and he organized several inter-religious conferences on the question of "law and religion." After his retirement in 1998 until his death he remained active in teaching at his university as well as at a theological seminary in the Philippines. His untiring efforts were also serving his church, for which he regularly conducted seminars for ministers and lay leaders in exegesis and preaching.

Dieter Georgi will be missed by all who have known him as a teacher, fellow scholar, advisor, mentor, colleague, and friend. As we remember him, we will not forget his unwavering commitment to critical historical scholarship, his insistence that our scholarship must always remain committed to the study of theology and religion as a whole, and his devotion to our social, political, and ecclesiastical responsibilities.

I mourn the death of a close friend of half a century, from whom I have learned more than from anyone else, excepting only our common teacher Rudolf Bultmann.

Helmut Koester
Harvard University, The Divinity School
10 April 2005

Citation: Helmut Koester, " Dieter Georgi 1929-2005," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited April 2005]. Online:


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