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Raija Sollamo

Timo Veijola, Professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Helsinki, died on 1st August, 2005 in Hyvinkää at the age of 58. He was born on 25th April, 1947 in Oulu in the north of Finland. He graduated from the Oulu Lyceum (high school) in 1966, and studied theology at the University of Helsinki. His teacher in Old Testament was Professor Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen. Timo Veijola took his master's degree in 1970 and was ordained in Oulu in the northern diocese of Finland. He undertook postgraduate studies in Göttingen under the supervision of Professors Rudolf Smend and Walther Zimmerli. He defended his doctoral thesis in 1975 at the University of Helsinki. He was appointed Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Helsinki in 1980, and in 1985, at the age of 38, he became a full professor of Old Testament Studies.

The title of his doctoral thesis was Die ewige Dynastie. David und die Entstehung seiner Dynastie nach der deuteronomistischen Darstellung. He distinguished three redactional layers in the Davidic traditions. These were compiled by the history editor, the prophetic editor, and the nomistic editor. Veijola analyzed the picture of David in each layer. His second monograph, Das Königtum in der Beurteilung der deuteronomistischen Historiographie (1977), was also a masterpiece of redaction criticism. This time the attitude of the different layers towards the monarchy was the focus of his scrutiny. He demonstrated that the history editor had no problems with kingship, while the nomistic editor held the view that Yahweh was the only king of Israel. Thus, the monarchy in Israel was an institution that had no right even to exist. Later on, at the end of the exilic period, the Davidic theology gained collective characteristics: the promises given to David were democratized and understood to refer to the people of Israel within a theocratic framework. This interpretative process was illuminated by his study of Psalm 89, Verheissung in der Krise (1982). The Davidic traditions were also treated by him in a collection of articles entitled David. Gesammelte Studien zu den Davidüberlieferungen des Alten Testaments (1990). Step by step Timo Veijola gained the position of one of the top experts on the Deuteronomistic history in the world. In the Centre of Excellence in the Department of Biblical Studies he directed the project on Israelite historiography, and supervised his doctoral students.

In addition to Davidic kingship and redaction criticism, Timo Veijola was also interested in the history of law in Israel and in the Ancient Near East, and in Old Testament theology and hermeneutics. Tokens of this interest are the works Dekalogi. Raamatullisen etiikan perusteita (The Decalogue. Basics of Biblical Ethics, 1988, 2nd ed. 1993) and Moses Erben. Studien zum Dekalog, zum Deuteronomismus und zum Schriftgelehrtentum (2000). In English, he published the valuable article, "The History of Passover in the Light of Deuteronomy 16, 1-8," Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 2 (1996); and the edited volume, The Law in the Bible and in its Environment (1990). Recently, this scholarly orientation led him to the Book of Sirach. He translated the Hebrew text of Ben Sira into Finnish for the translation committee of the apocryphal or deuterocanonical books. His last great achievement remained the first part of his commentary on Deuteronomy, which was published in the series Das Alte Testament Deutsch in 2004. In it he still distinguished a late redactional layer, which he termed a covenant theological layer.

Professor Veijola wrote his main works in German, but his Finnish publications were also extensive. They consisted of textbooks, such as the aforementioned Decalogue and a book on exegetical methods (Johdatus eksegetiikkaan. Metodioppi, 1983, 2nd ed. 1986). He wrote on Old Testament theology in his Finnish publications, such as Vanhan testamentin tutkimus ja teologia (1990, 2nd ed. 2003) and Teksti, tiede ja usko (1998). For him the Old Testament was a book that concerned encounters between God and man, and the dialogue between them. The dialogue between God and man was a thread that ran through the whole Old Testament. For him theology was a matter of the whole of existence. With this seriousness he conducted Old Testament research, stressing its importance. Professor Veijola was entrusted with a number of tasks and duties as a consultant and expert, both in Finland and abroad. The general public and his students knew him above all as a fine lecturer. He delivered lectures on the books of the Old Testament, but also on themes of contemporary relevance. Recently his lectures dealt with the subject of depression as a theological and personal problem. His last lecture course at the University analyzed the prayers of the depressed in the Book of Psalms. The student association of the Faculty of Theology elected him teacher of the year in the spring term of 2005.

As a teacher and researcher Timo Veijola demanded much of himself. He was a top scholar and a good colleague. His commentary on Deuteronomy, being left unfinished, symbolizes the great loss that his premature death means for Old Testament studies and the scholarly community in general. In the end, unfortunately, the depression from which he occasionally suffered proved stronger than his hold on life. It is, however, a consolation to think that he left us a heritage in his outstanding publications. He will be sorely missed by family, friends, colleagues, and students alike.

Memorial ceremony
An academic memorial ceremony (Gedenkfeier) will take place on the 9th of September at 10 a.m. in the Small Festival Hall (die kleine Aula) of the University of Helsinki. The ceremony consists of music and speeches, given by Prof. Walter Dietrich, myself, and Prof. Veijola's newest doctoral student, Marko Marttila. The speeches and their English translations will be put on to the net after the ceremony.

International colleagues wishing to express their condolences are invited to send notes, in advance of this ceremony, where they will be acknowledged. Timo's wife Pirjo Veijola will take part in the ceremony. The notes can be sent to the Head of the Department of Biblical Studies:

Professor Raija Sollamo
Department of Biblical Studies
P.O.B. 33 (Aleksanterink.7)
FIN - 00014 University of Helsinki

Notes may also be sent to my email address as appendixes:

To be referred to in the memorial ceremony the notes should arrive by the 8th of September.

Raija Sollamo,University of Helsinki (with contributions from Bernard Levinson).

Citation: Raija Sollamo, " Timo Veijola in memoriam," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Aug 2005]. Online:


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