We give thanks for the life of the Reverend Professor Dr. Helmut Koester, who died at home on January 1, 2016. He was 89 years old.
One of the nation’s foremost scholars of the New Testament and early Christianity, Helmut Koester began teaching at Harvard Divinity School in 1958, and continued to teach at both HDS and the Harvard Extension School through the fall of 2014. He received the Petra T. Shattuck Excellence in Teaching Award in 2005. From 1975 to 1999 he was editor of the journal Harvard Theological Review, and he served for many years as co-editor and chair of the New Testament editorial board of the Hermeneia series, a critical and historical commentary on the Bible published by Fortress Press. His books include the two-volume Introduction to the New Testament (New York: De Gruyter, 1982, second edition, 1995 and 2000), Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development (London: SCM Press and Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990), Paul and His World: Interpreting the New Testament in Its Context (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007); and From Jesus to the Gospels: Interpreting the New Testament in Its Context (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007).
At University Lutheran, Professor Koester, an ordained Lutheran minister, advised generations of pastors and lay leaders on Biblical interpretation and liturgical practice. He shared his knowledge at countless Morning Forums and campus ministry gatherings, and served as preacher at the Christmas Day worship service for many years. In 2011, he led members of UniLu on an archaeological tour of eastern Turkey, which was the experience of a lifetime for many. (That trip was documented in a photo exhibit, “The Wonders of Turkey, Ancient and Modern,” in the UniLu gallery.)
The funeral service took place on Saturday, January 16, 2016 at University Lutheran Church. Listen to or read Pastor Donald S. Larsen’s sermon from the service and read Professor Laura Nasrallah’s remarks.
A memorial service will take place on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 1 pm at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. A reception will follow in the Braun Room of Andover Hall on the Harvard Divinity School campus.
Visit the UniLu Remembers blog to share your memories of Helmut. For technical help, see Using the UniLu Remembers Blog. Or, send your comments to our webmaster, Susan Worst, at firstname.lastname@example.org for posting.
May the love that Helmut preached, the love that he was certain would carry him in death to “the next experience,” hold his wife Gisela; his children, Reinhild, Ulrich, Almut, and Heiko; his grandchildren; and his beloved UniLu community with grace, strength and peace.
Also of interest:
- Professor Koester’s final sermon at University Lutheran Church, preached in April 2015 for Good Shepherd Sunday.
- Harvard Divinity School obituary
- Harvard Gazette obituary
- Lexington Minuteman obituary
- God For Us by Bruce Brolsma, a cantata commissioned by University Lutheran in 2006 to commemorate Professor Koester’s 50th ordination anniversary and 80th birthday