Msgr. John P. Meier, a priest of the archdiocese who was professor emeritus of theology at the University of Notre Dame and author of a five-volume series of books on “The Historical Jesus,” died Oct. 18. He was 80.
Msgr. Meier was on the faculty of Notre Dame, 1998-2018, as the William K. Warren Professor of Theology. He continued to teach following his retirement from Notre Dame in 2018.
Msgr. Meier also served on the faculty at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., 1984-1998, as a professor of the New Testament, and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, 1972-1984, as chairman of the scripture department and professor of New Testament.
A Funeral Mass was celebrated Oct. 22 at St. Joseph’s Seminary, with Cardinal Dolan as celebrant. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, delivered the homily.
Msgr. Meier is known internationally as the author of about 80 articles and 18 books, including the five-volume series between 1991 and 2016, “A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus.” The five completed volumes were translated into Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese. He was writing a sixth volume at the time of his death.
Msgr. Meier received full fellowships from the American Theological Association and American Council of Learned Societies, which enabled him to write volume four during his 2002 sabbatical.
Earlier this year, Msgr. Meier delivered a lecture titled, “The Historical Jesus: An Overview,” at St. Joseph’s Seminary as part of the seminary’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
“The question of the historical Jesus turned out to be more complicated and recalcitrant than I ever expected,” said Msgr. Meier during that talk. “The real Jesus is not the historical Jesus and the historical Jesus is not the real Jesus.
“The total reality of this First Century Jew named Jesus of Nazareth is made up of everything Jesus said or did for the whole of his life.”
Born in the Bronx, he attended St. Rita of Cascia in the Bronx and Cathedral Prep and Cathedral College, both in Manhattan, before entering St. Joseph’s Seminary, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He earned a licentiate in theology from Gregorian University, Rome; and a doctorate in sacred scripture from the Biblical Institute, Rome.
Msgr. Meier was ordained to the priesthood at Vatican City in 1967 and was named a monsignor in 1995. He served as parochial vicar of St. Joseph, Bronxville, 1968-1969, and assisted at St. Barnabas, the Bronx, during his time on the faculty at St. Joseph’s Seminary.
Burial was in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne.