Dr. Rowan Greer

By Michael A.G. Haykin

One of my scholarly heroes, Dr Rowan Greer, has recently passed away. Here is the official notice, which does not mention the book that deeply shaped the way that I approach Patristic exegesis, The Captain of Our Salvation, his ground-breaking study of the exegesis of Hebrews.

On March 17, 2014, The Rev. Dr. Rowan A. Greer III, Walter H. Gray Professor of Anglican Studies at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, died after several years of on-and-off illness. He was 79. Greer taught at Yale for nearly 35 years, and he is remembered for his generous and devoted service to his students.

Although he rarely attended academic conferences, Greer is widely known for his pioneering work in the study of Antiochene Christology, patristic exegesis, and early Christian pastoral ministry, and for his translations of early Christian texts. Greer's Theodore of Mopsuestia: Exegete and Theologian—published four years before his 1965 Yale Ph.D.—is still regarded as a seminal work. His treatment of patristic exegesis in Early Biblical Interpretation (Westminster, 1986, with James Kugel), was for many years a rare introduction to early Christian hermeneutics. And his volume on Origen for the Classics of Western Spirituality Series remains a treasured and much-used book.

Greer’s scholarship was characterized by an approach that integrates theological and social concerns, well before such interdisciplinarity became de rigueur. Building on early works from the 1960s and 1970s, the fullest expression of Greer's approach came in his monograph Broken Lights and Mended Lives: Theology and Common Life in the Early Church (Penn State, 1986), which ranges from classical soteriology to the practicalities of family, hospitality, and Christian politics. Greer’s Christian Hope and Christian Life: Raids on the Inarticulate (Crossroad, 2001), a study of Christian eschatology in Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, John Donne, and Jeremy Taylor, won the Association of Theological Booksellers’ 2001 Book of the Year. In recent years he published two volumes of translations, The “Belly-Myther” of Endor: Interpretations of 1 Kingdoms 28 in the Early Church (Brill, 2007, with Margaret Mitchell), and Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Commentaries on the Minor Epistles of Paul (Brill, 2010). With the assistance of J. Warren Smith, a final work-in-progress will appear later this year as One Path for All: Gregory of Nyssa on the Christian Life and Human Destiny (Cascade).

A memorial service will be held at Yale Divinity School sometime this fall.


Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.