Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury Chair of New Testament Theology

Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury
Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury

Internationally renowned theologian appreciates Seminary education

Although he is a New Testament scholar who has lectured in South Africa and been published in Korea, Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury says his theological seeds were planted closer to home as a student at Concordia Seminary St. Louis.

“I had some great professors, and they had an influence on me,” said Kingsbury, who received a Master of Divinity degree from the Seminary in 1959 and has written 12 books on the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) that have been translated and used worldwide.

“My aim was for my books to be helpful for students at colleges and seminaries, and for pastors,” said Kingsbury who established the Seminary’s Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury Chair of New Testament Theology.

New Testament, strong preaching

Raised in a Lutheran home and a graduate of the now-defunct California Concordia College in Oakland, Kingsbury arrived at Concordia Seminary with plans to serve as a parish pastor.

He excelled at his studies and soon discovered the relationship between “understanding the New Testament stories in the Gospel and Acts and how they promote strong preaching and teaching.”

To improve his German, Kingsbury studied in Tübingen and, later, returned to Europe to attend the University of Basel in Switzerland, where he received a Doctor of Theology.

Kingsbury focused on the parables of Matthew in his dissertation, laying the groundwork for some of his best-known future work – including Matthew As Story (Fortress Press, 1986), which, over the years, has been reprinted, translated and published in Italian, Korean, Chinese and Indonesian.

Following his ordination by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 1968, Kingsbury attained his original goal of serving in parish ministry, as assistant pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minn.

Around the same time, Luther Seminary in St. Paul called him to join its faculty as a professor of New Testament.

“These years at Luther were valuable in that they enabled me to mature as a teaching scholar,” said Kingsbury, who, in 1977, accepted a call to what is now Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va., where he was named the Aubrey Lee Brooks Professor of Biblical Theology and served until his retirement in 2001.

Known for narrative approach

In addition to teaching and mentoring doctoral candidates, Kingsbury has been a prolific writer. Several more of his books – including Conflict in Mark: Jesus, Authorities, Disciples (Fortress press, 1989) and Conflict in Luke (Fortress Press, 1991) – also have been published internationally.

That’s notable “because there are so few New Testament scholars whose books foreign publishers have requested permission to translate,” said Kingsbury, who, following the death of his wife, Barbara, lives today in Wilmore, Ky.

An expert on the Synoptic Gospels, Kingsbury is known for his narrative approach – a method that works well, he says, with the story-like flow of the Gospels and Acts, which unfold according to a plot with a beginning, middle and end.

“I wanted my books to function as a tool for students, seminarians and preachers,” said Kingsbury, who has written more than 70 articles for scholarly journals and has served in an editorial capacity for numerous theological journals.

A longtime member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS) – the International Society of New Testament Studies – Kingsbury has been a popular speaker at conferences and conventions, universities and seminaries in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Over the years, Kingsbury has delivered numerous addresses at annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature. In 1999, his fellow scholars honored him on his 70th birthday with a volume of essays commemorating his achievements.

Other accolades include a 1981 fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies for research in the canonical Gospels and, in 1997, the Joseph A. Sittler Award for Theological Leadership from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio.

Lasting gift

When Dr. James W. Voelz was installed in 2015 as the Kingsbury chair’s first occupant, Voelz called Kingsbury “among the few true giants in the field of New Testament studies.”

In turn, this “giant” says he is thankful he will continue to strengthen Seminary graduates to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ even after he is no longer lecturing and writing.

“This is my way of making a lasting gift,” Kingsbury said.