Dear Friends and Colleagues of Bob Jewett,
It is with deep sadness that I share the news of my father’s passing in early December. Because of the restrictions of Covid, we were not able to invite you personally to celebrate his life together during this winter. But we sincerely hope to schedule memorial services for the fall of 2021.
Events will take place at St. Marks Methodist Church in Lincoln, NE (as soon as it is considered feasible) as well as at the Society for Biblical Literature meeting in San Antonio, TX from November 20-23, 2021.
Please don’t hesitate to share any thoughts and/or photos with us by email and we will archive them for a celebration of his life and work next fall.
With all the best wishes,
Ellen and Husam
Robert L. Jewett
12.31.1933 - 12.04.2020
Robert L. Jewett December 31, 1933 - December 4, 2020
Robert Jewett was born in Lawrence, Mass. to Walter Jewett, a
Methodist clergyman and Elizabeth (Bailey) Jewett, a schoolteacher. Robert was the 3rd of four children. The Jewett family
moved to Nebraska after the Second World War. Walter Jewett served as minister in several Nebraska
towns including Sidney and Beatrice, and in Sun City, AZ.
A celebrated theologian and educator, he received his
education at Nebraska Wesleyan University, B.A. in 1955; University of
Chicago, B.D. in 1958; and Doctor of Theology from University of Tübingen
in 1966. He served in many institutions of higher learning, including as
professor of Religious Studies from 1966-1980 at Morningside College in Sioux
City, IA; and as Theologian-in-residence at the American Church in Paris,
France in 1973. Robert Jewett was a professor
of New Testament interpretation from 1980-2000, and was the Harry R. Kendall
professor from 1987-2000 at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston,
IL. He was also a coordinating faculty
member in the joint Garrett/Northwestern Ph.D. program in Religious and Theological
studies from 1982-2000. He was a visiting lecturer for many summer programs
including Wesley Theological Seminary, University of Montana, Iliff School of Theology,
and the Vancouver School of Theology.
In his retirement, he served as a visiting Senior Scholar in
Religion and Conflict at Union College, NY, as a guest professor of Biblical
and Historical Studies at University of Wales, Lampeter and in the department
of Philosophy and Religion at Peking University. He was a guest professor
of New Testament at the the University of Heidelberg and at the Heidelberg
Center for American Studies in Germany for many years. In his final years he
was theologian-in-residence at St. Marks Methodist Church in Lincoln, Ne.
Robert Jewett was a member of the Society of Biblical
Literature, Society of New Testament Studies, American Academy of Religion,
American Interprofessional Institute, American
Association of University Professors, Nebraska Annual Conference of
United Methodist Church, Chicago Society of Biblical Research and Phi Kappa
Author of over 200 essays and 25 books, his writings have
been translated into Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and German. In addition
to his serious theological Pauline studies and writings, his more popular work examines
American culture and contemporary American beliefs and behavior in socio-theological
terms through the lens of religion and mythology.
He loved hiking, sailing, carpentry, music and travelling.
He is survived by his daughter, Ellen Jewett and her husband, Husam Suleymangil
who reside in Istanbul; his partner Heike Goebel who resides in Germany; his
former wife, Janet Jewett who lives in Lincoln, NE and many nieces and nephews.
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Ellen’s thoughts from Dec 6th,
A scholar with endless curiosity, he was always dad for me. Some of my earliest memories were playing under his writing desk, and spending summer months without shoes running all around the Lake Okoboji Methodist Camp, swimming and sailing on our small boat. He would put me on the bottom side of the sailboat in strong winds, skimming the water and about ready to capsize, and we would laugh and laugh.
Born to a high-school teacher and wood-pattern maker turned minister, they moved to Nebraska when dad was young. He certainly inherited an optimistic and humble spirit but I believe he also cultivated patience and kindness. He was happiest outdoors, and in addition to our thrilling sailing experiences (also later in Chicago on Lake Michigan where we shared a boat moored close the Bahai Temple and gardens), we spent 100’s of hours on long walks- on the Morningside College and Northwestern University campuses, in Switzerland, France, Germany, New York and most lately in Turkey. These walks/hikes were most often unhurried explorations, a chance to rehash current and historical events, our own personal projects (with all the accompanying failures and successes), hopes, fears and dreams. We were always dreaming- about building straw bale houses situated off the grid, about building secluded practice/writing cottages nested in the woods, about a world without nuclear weapons, about building a Roman-era sailing vessel…
During the time I grew up and whenever we were recently together, we shared breakfast and dinner every day possible. Almost every shared film, article, meal or concert was followed by discussions about our reactions and interpretations- whether spontaneous, informed or not. Dad was always careful and insistent with his questioning, and helped me to look from as many sides as possible- and he was passionate about what he called the ‘hermeneutical arch’ i.e., making an interpretive and meaningful link from any historical event into our times. He loved music- we sang together at home (with a bust of Beethoven behind the piano) and at church, in the car, around the campfire and at large family gatherings or gatherings with his students and colleagues. He came to every concert possible, from my childhood days in the Suzuki method up to my professional concerts. He came to a number of our festivals at Klasik Keyifler (KK) in Cappadocia, Turkey where he most often sat in the front row (and our students watched like mother birds over him as he teetered and tottered on the stone paths). He accompanied me to a festival in northern Denmark in 2014 where we continued after concerts to read chamber music until 3-4 am, and he didn’t miss a minute of the fun (but he never imbibed as heavily as we musicians did!).
Dad was always ready for adventure, and his curiosity regarding the chronology of Paul’s (the early Christian missionary) life led him to make repeated summer trips to Turkey with different groups of scholars. In 1999 I joined him and met their guide Husam; and my life has been intertwined with Turkey ever since then. My dad led our wedding ceremony in Montreal in January 2004 under -30 degree weather. Anyone who has spent time with Husam and I will know the “The Beep and the Beep and the Holy Beep” story…
The last few years, when dad returned to the US from Germany, I was able to spend more time with him as he settled in. He watched US politics with mixed fascination and shock as projections articulated in his writings regarding the dangers of “American zealous nationalism” manifested in multiple ways.
He fought Parkinson’s disease for almost 20 years, but passed away less than a week after testing positive for Covid 19.
I am eternally thankful for the many full and rich years we shared together. I am also very thankful for all my cousins in Lincoln, NE who helped tremendously over these years, and continue to show what family-ties really mean. Also my thanks go pastor Wayne Alloway and the community of St. Marks Methodist church in Lincoln for their heartfelt support.
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More photos from his life are in this Flip Book link
Requested by my father to be read at his memorial sevice:
John Henry Newman, 1833
Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.