Krister Stendahl

The Right Reverend

Krister Stendahl
Bishop of Stockholm
Church Church of Sweden
Diocese Stockholm
Appointed Stockholm
In office 1984-1988
Predecessor Lars Carlzon
Successor Henrik Svenungsson
Ordination 1944
Consecration 1984
Personal details
Born (1921-04-21)21 April 1921
Sennan, Halmstad, Sweden
Died April 15, 2008(2008-04-15) (aged 86)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Nationality Swedish
Denomination Lutheranism
Spouse Brita Johnsson
Children 3

Krister Stendahl (21 April 1921 – 15 April 2008) was a Swedish theologian and New Testament scholar,[1] and Church of Sweden Bishop of Stockholm. He also served as professor and professor emeritus at Harvard Divinity School.


Stendahl received his doctorate in New Testament studies from Uppsala University with his dissertation The school of St. Matthew and its use of the Old Testament (1954). He was later Professor at the Divinity School at Harvard University, where he also served as dean, before being elected Bishop of Stockholm in 1984. Stendahl was the second director of the Center for Religious Pluralism at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. After retiring in 1989, he returned to the United States, and was Mellon Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the Harvard Divinity School. He also taught at Brandeis University. Bishop Stendahl was an honorary fellow of the Graduate Theological Foundation.

Stendahl is perhaps most famous for his publication of the article "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West".[2] This article, along with the later publication of the book Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, conveys a new idea in Pauline studies suggesting that scholarship dating all the way back to Augustine may miss the context and thesis of Paul. His main point revolves around the early tension in Christianity between Jewish Christians and Gentile converts. According to Stendahl, the main concern of Paul's writings on Jesus' role, and salvation by faith, is the problem of the inclusion of gentile (Greek) Torah observers into God's covenant.[3][4][5][note 1] He specifically argues that later interpreters of Paul have assumed a hyper-active conscience when they have begun exegesis of his works. As a result, they have suggested an overly psychological interpretation of the apostle Paul, that Paul himself would most likely not have understood at all for himself.[6]

Stendahl actively participated in The Villanova University Theology Institute founded by Professor Joseph Papin who directed the Institute and edited its publications between 1967 and 1974. In 1972, Stendahl offered this praise of the theological work of Fr. Papin in 1972: "It gladdens me that you will be honored at this time of having completed a quarter century of teaching us all. Your vision of and you dogged insistence on a truly catholic, i.e. ecumenical future of church and theology has been on the forces that have broken through the man-made wall of partition - "

Through his interest in the Jewish context of the New Testament, Stendahl developed an interest in Jewish Studies and was active in Jewish–Christian dialogue.

Stendahl is credited with creating Stendahl's three rules of religious understanding, which he presented in a 1985 press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in response to vocal opposition to the building of a temple there by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His rules are as follows:

  1. When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.
  2. Don't compare your best to their worst.
  3. Leave room for "holy envy." (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)

Bishop Stendahl participated in making a Mormon Message before passing away.[7] He also was a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.[8]

He died six days before his 87th birthday.

Selected bibliography

  • Stendahl, Krister. The school of St. Matthew, and its use of the Old Testament. Uppsala: C. W. K. Gleerup, Lund, 1954; 2nd ed. 1968.
  • Stendahl, Krister. Scrolls and the New Testament. NY: Harper, 1967; SCM Press, 1958. Reprint ISBN 0-8371-7171-7
  • Stendahl, Krister. The Bible and the Role of Women. Fortress Press, 1966.
  • Runyon, Theodore and Krister Stendahl. What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches: Essays. Hawthorn Books, 1975. ISBN 0-8015-8546-5
  • Stendahl, Krister. Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays. Augsburg Fortress, 1977. ISBN 0-8006-1224-8
  • Stendahl, Krister. Meanings: The Bible As Document and As Guide. Fortress Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8006-1752-5
  • Stendahl, Krister. Holy Week Preaching. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8006-1851-3
  • Stendahl, Krister. Final Account: Paul's Letter to the Romans. Augsburg Fortress, 1995. ISBN 0-8006-2922-1
  • Stendahl, Krister. Energy for Life: Reflections on a Theme: "Come Holy Spirit, Renew the Whole Creation". Paraclete Press, 1999. ISBN 2-8254-0986-3 ISBN 1-55725-233-5
  • Nickelsburg, George and George Macrae, eds. Christians Among Jews and Gentiles: Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl on His 65th Birthday. Fortress Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8006-1943-9
  • Horsley, Richard A., ed. Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation. Trinity Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56338-323-3
  • Stendahl, Krister. "The Role of the Bible in the Theology of the Future," The Dynamic in Christian Thought, Villanova Theological Symposium, Volume I, Ed. Joseph Papin (Villanova University Press,1970), pp. 44–51.
  • Stendahl, Krister. "On Earth as it is in Heaven - Dynamics in Christian Eschatology", The Escaton: A Community of Love, Villanova Theological Symposium, Volume V, Ed. Joseph Papin (Villanova University Press, 1971), pp. 57–68.
  • Stendahl, Krister, "A Letter in Honor of Dr. Papin", Transcendence and Immanence, Reconstruction in the Light of Process Thinking, Festschrift in Honor of Joseph Papin, ed. Joseph Armenti (The Abbey Press: St. Meinrad, 1972), p. 5.

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