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George W. Coats, former professor at McMurry College and at Lexington Theological Seminary, died in Houston on April 6, 2006. Dr. Coats was well known among scholars of the Hebrew Bible especially for his work on the Pentateuch. He was author of several books: Rebellion in the Wilderness (Abingdon, 1968), From Canaan to Egypt (CBA, 1976), Genesis, with an Introduction to Narrative Literature (FOTL I, Eerdmans, 1983), Moses: Heroic Man, Man of God (JSOT Press, 1988), The Moses Tradition (JSOT Press, 1993), and Exodus 1-18 (FOTL IIA; Eerdmans, 1999). Furthermore, Dr. Coats and Dr. Burke O. Long edited a volume of essays entitled Canon and Authority (Fortress, 1977), and Dr. Coats also edited a volume called Saga, Legend, Tale, Novella, Fable: Narrative Forms in Old Testament Literature (JSOT Sup. 35, 1985). In addition, he published numerous scholarly articles. A Biblical Itinerary: in Search of Method, Form, and Content: Essays in Honor of George W. Coats (ed. E.E. Carpenter; Sheffield, 1997), a collection of essays produced by his scholarly colleagues, is a tribute to him and his work.

Born in Knox City, Texas on August 13, 1936, he received a B.A. degree from McMurry College, a seminary degree from Perkins School of Theology (SMU), and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University. He taught briefly at McMurry and went on to a distinguished teaching career at Lexington Theological Seminary. He also studied with Walther Zimmerli and Gerhard von Rad and lectured in Heidelberg and Hamburg Universities in Germany and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Neurological complications from emergency brain tumor treatment in the 1950s forced his early retirement from teaching in 1992. His children moved him back to Texas and cared for him as he fought the ever increasing effects of his neurological difficulties.

Dr. Coats is survived by a son George Andrew Coats and daughter-in-law Kirsten, by a daughter Charissa Sebesta and her husband Chris, and by grandchildren Wesley and Jennifer Coats and Braden and Sarah Beth Sebesta. He is also survived by two nieces, one nephew, and their children.

Memorials may be sent to the George W. Coats, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund at McMurry University, McMurry Station, Box 938, Abilene, Texas 79697.

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Citation: Roy F. Melugin, " George W. Coats 1936- 2006," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited March 2006]. Online:


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