Reginald H. Fuller, former VTS professor, dies at 92

April 17, 2007

Reginald H. Fuller, a prominent New Testament scholar and former professor of New Testament at the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) died April 4 in Richmond, Virginia from complications of surgery for a broken hip. He was 92.


Fuller was born in Horsham, England, on March 24, 1915. After graduating from Peterhouse College at Cambridge, he studied at the University of Tübingen in Germany. He returned to England and was ordained an Anglican deacon in 1940 and a priest in 1941.

He was a curate, or a vicar's assistant in England from 1940 to 1950, and lectured at the University of Birmingham for the latter half of that decade. From 1950 to 1955, he taught Hebrew at St. David's College in Lampeter, Wales.

In 1955, he became a professor of New Testament at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He taught at Union and VTS, from which he formally retired in 1985.

In addition to expounding on his biblical criticism in about 20 books, Fuller translated works by the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed in a concentration camp in 1945, accused of having had a role in a plot to kill Hitler. Fuller helped translate the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and wrote books on liturgical priorities and theology.

In his long scholarly career, he dissected the Bible, which he saw as a series of books and teaching traditions with multifarious layers. His interest lay not in archaeology, psychology, philosophy and other disciplines that are now part of Bible scholarship, but in the sacred text itself.

This emphasis grew out of the year he spent in Germany after graduating from Cambridge in 1937. He studied the critical analysis being done by German Bible scholars, who saw the Resurrection and biblical miracles as mythological.

"I've tried to combine an honestly critical approach to the Bible and the New Testament with a firm commitment to the orthodox teachings of the church," he said in a 2001 interview with The Richmond Times-Dispatch. "There's always a tension between these things, but one has to live in that tension."

Fuller is survived by his wife, the former Ilse Barda; his daughters, Caroline Sloat of Pomfret, Connecticut, and Sally Fuller of Northampton, Massachusetts; four grandchildren; and five great-grandsons.

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