Father Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., a leading Catholic biblical scholar, died Dec. 24 at Manresa Hall, a Jesuit infirmary in Philadelphia. He was 96.
A Funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 5 at St. Matthias Church in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., followed by a burial at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Pa.
The priest, who was born in Philadelphia and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1951, is well known for his contributions to the Anchor Bible Series and for co-editing “The Jerome Biblical Commentary.”
He earned a doctorate in Semitics from Johns Hopkins University and a licentiate in sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.
Father Fitzmyer was a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and also served as president of the U.S. Catholic Biblical Association.
An expert in the Aramaic language spoken by Christ and by many first-century Jews and Christians, the priest was noted for his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of Luke. He did some of the initial work in the 1950s to prepare a concordance to the scrolls and was one of the first Americans to have direct access to the documents.
Father Fitzmyer also worked on the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the two churches in October 1999 after extensive dialogue.
He founded the Institute on Sacred Scripture at Georgetown University; the institute is named for him. The priest also taught at the now-closed Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, Fordham University, the University of Chicago, Boston College and The Catholic University of America.—CNS