Thursday, January 10, 2013

René Kieffer (1930-2013) R.I.P.

René Kieffer, Professor emeritus of Uppsala University, has passed away on 8 January at the age of 82. He was born in Aumetz in France and raised in Luxembourg. After studies in Paris and Germany he felt a call to become a priest and theologian in the Dominican order in Paris. This process started with eight years of studies in philosophy and theology. Because of his interest in the Bible, Kieffer was sent to the École Biblique in Jerusalem for two years of special education in order to become a professor there, but he felt isolated in this environment and longed for a pastoral work.

Eventually he came to Sweden in 1965 where he settled down. After further studies in exegesis he received a doctoral degree at Uppsala University in 1968 for his thesis Au delà des recensions?: l'évolution de la tradition textuelle dans Jean VI, 52-71 (Coniectanea Biblica New Testament Series 3; Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1968) in which he used Colwell's quantitative analysis and other qualitative methods to test received hypotheses on different text-groups (recensions).

During 1972-1989 he was Professor at Lund University, and from 1990-1995 at Uppsala University. After his retirement he moved back to Lund and continued with research and was very active in the New Testament research seminar in Lund.

His major publications include:
  • Essais de méthodologie néo-testamentaire. ConBNTS 4; Lund: Berling 1972.
  • Le primat de l'amour: commentaire épistémologique de 1 Corinthiens 13. Paris: Cerf 1975.
  • Nytestamentlig teologi. Lund: Verbum 1977.
  • Foi et justification à Antioche : interprétation dʹun conflit (Ga 2, 14-21). Paris: Cerf 1982.
  • Existence païenne au début du christianisme : présentation de textes grecs et romains (with Lars Rydbeck). Paris: Cerf 1983.
  • Die Bibel deuten - das Leben deuten : Einführung in die Theologie des Neuen Testaments. Regensburg: Pustet 1987.
  • Le monde symbolique de Saint Jean. Paris: Cerf 1989.
  • Jésus raconté: théologie et spiritualité dans les évangiles. Paris: Éd. du Cerf 1996.
  • La main de Dieu: Die Hand Gottes (with Jan Bergman). Tübingen: Mohr 1997.

Kieffer has also published several works in Swedish including the following bible commentaries:

  • Johannesevangeliet 1-10. KNT 4a. Stockholm: EFS-förlaget 1987.
  • Johannesevangeliet 11-20. KNT 4b. Stockholm: EFS-förlaget 1988.
  • Filemonbrevet, Judasbrevet och Andra Petrusbrevet. KNT 18. Stockholm: Verbum 2001.

The first chapter of his Evangeliernas Jesus: myt och verklighet (Örebro: Libris 2001) is self-biographical. Kieffer provides a shorter biographical and bibliographical account in English in the first part of his article "From Linguistic Methodology to the Discovery of a World of Metaphors," Semeia 81 (1988): 77-93.

I first contacted Kieffer when I became interested in New Testament textual criticism around 2000. We had a long conversation and he encouraged me to pursue doctoral studies, although he declined to be my supervisor, since by then he had already retired. However, he wrote a letter of recommendation and continued to give me his support through the writing process and provided helpful comments in the research seminar at Lund University. Further, he was on the board of examiners for my thesis and subsequently wrote a very favorable review of it in Journal of Theological Studies.

Apart from being a first rate scholar, René Kieffer was a gentle and warm friend. I miss him very much.

The funeral will be held in Sankt Thomas kyrka, Lund, on Thursday 24 January, 1PM.


  1. Unlike the ad-spammers preceding this meesage, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet Prof. Kieffer while in Lund for Tommy's doctoral examination.

    I was especially thrilled to receive from him a personal copy of his Au delà des Recensions? at that time. He will be missed.

  2. Thanks Maurice, I have removed the ad-spammers' comments.