Paul Minear, biblical scholar, dies at 101
By Frank Brown
Assistant Director, Publications
Paul Sevier Minear, Winkley Professor Emeritus of Biblical Theology at Yale Divinity School, died Feb. 22 at his home in Guilford, CT, just days after his 101st birthday on Feb. 17.
Minear, the author of over 25 books and a key translator of both the Revised Standard and New Revised Standard versions of the Bible, had a career spanning the better part of the 20 th century that established him as one of the world's leading New Testament scholars.
"He was creative...He was clearly acquainted with trends and so on but he went his own way," recalled former YDS Dean Leander Keck, who studied under Minear at the Andover Newton Theological School and eventually was named the Winkley Professor after Minear's retirement. "He was very much interested in the use of language and imagery. Where other people were worried about myths, he would say, 'OK, it's a myth but what is being communicated here?'"
Minear was a prolific writer and lecturer. A number of his more popular works are still in print. Others have been reprinted. They include Christians and the New Creation: Genesis Motifs in the New Testament (Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), The Good News According to Matthew: A Training Manual for Prophets (Chalice Press, 2000), and The Golgotha Earthquake: Three Witnesses (The Pilgrim Press, 1995).
In the foreword to a 2002 reprinting by Abingdon Press of Minear's The Bible and the Historian: Breaking the Silence About God in Biblical Studies , former student J. Louis Martyn summed up Minear's approach as a theologian. "For well over half a century he has been directing his attention to the text of the Bible, especially that of the New Testament, while being keenly aware that, all the while, that text has been directing its attention to him. And he has been writing honestly and engagingly about the fruit that ripens precisely along the interpretive path that bears traffic in both directions."
After teaching at YDS from 1957 to 1971, Minear moved to Guilford with his wife of nearly eight decades, Gladys. The Minears were active in the town's First Congregational Church, where senior minister Kendrick Norris, who earned an M.Div. from YDS in 1977, has served for 30 years.
"He was a presence but never an overbearing presence," said Norris. "He commanded authority, but it was always very gentle. Forget all his stellar scholarly achievements. He was just a wonderful person who really lived his Christian faith."
Norris recalls delivering his first sermon to the Guilford congregation in the late 1970s and being concerned about how Minear might react: "I was scared to death. He always had his head down. I remember the first sermon I preached-on Paul-and I saw him sitting there with his head down. I thought 'Oh my God. What have I done?' At first I took it personally. But over 30 years it never changed. He was just really into his worship."
At the Society of Biblical Literature, Executive Director Kent Richards marveled at Minear's sheer stamina as a scholar. "So many people get to whatever the retirement age is and that is the end. You don't hear from them, only occasionally. But Paul was deeply engaged for his entire long wonderful life. That is really an extraordinary characteristic," said Richards, a professor of Old Testament at Emory University. "A week before he died, Paul was sending out copies of lectures to people who he thought hadn't seen them."
Minear's ashes are to be interred in the First Congregational Church's Memorial Garden. A memorial service is planned for this spring. He is survived by wife Gladys, sons Richard and Larry, daughter Anita Fahrni, and six grandchildren.