Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reuben J. Swanson (1917-2009), RIP

I have just heard, via W. Willker's Textual Criticism discussion list that Reuben J. Swanson has just passed away.

Reuben J. Swanson, born 15 April 1917, was Emeritus Professor of Western Carolina University. He had his S.T.M. and Ph.D. degrees in New Testament Studies from Yale. He was professor of Biblical Studies at Grand View Seminary and Lenoir Rhyne College, where he was chairman of the Department of Religion and Philosophy, prior to his tenure at Western Caroline University.

He also served on the faculties at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, and St. John's Seminary at Camarillo, California. He was an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and served congregations in Michigan, Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina and Californa.

In the area of New Testament textual criticism Swanson was known above all for his series New Testament Greek Manuscripts. Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines Against Codex Vaticanus.

A film about his life produced by his grandson Erik very recently is available on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/ib37_D1u1SI?t=48s. (The film start about 50 seconds into the clip.)

Here is a list of books authored by Swanson.

His visitation will be on Thursday, March 26th at 6 pm at Holy Cross Lutheran Church
5071 Winton Rd Fairfield, OH 45014.

We invite readers to share their memories of Reuben J. Swanson in the comment section.


  1. Memorial Gifts in Honor of Reuben J. Swanson may be given to:
    Holy Cross Lutheran Church
    5071 Winton Rd.
    Fairfield, OH 45014

  2. The funeral will be held on Thursday, March 26, 2009 at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 5071 Winton Rd, Fairfield, Ohio. Bishop Callon Holloway, Jr. will preside. The funeral service will begin at 7 pm. Visitation time with friends and family will begin at 6 pm.

  3. I never met Reuben Swanson but I doubt that a week goes by without my consulting one of his books. They have a good way of displaying a vast amount of complex data and must have taken many hours of essentially rather tedious work. Of course I always double check with other available sources if I need the information for publication.

  4. Gary Dykes has some interesting reflections here:

  5. I remember calling Prof Swanson about ten years ago when I was trying to track down his book on Acts, and finding him helpful, warm and gracious. He must by then have been well into his 80s and was speaking with enthusiasm about the work he was doing on the Pauline letters, which issued in his volumes on Romans, 1 Corinthians and Galatians. Thanks be to God for a gracious Christian gentleman and scholar!

    1. amen brother... he has blessed us.. to God be the glory for the gracious spirit of Dr Swanson.

  6. Two and a half years ago I tried to check a point in one of Swanson's books at the British Library, London. I couldn't find them so I asked a librarian for help, assuming that I must be missing some procedural cue. I think the librarian thought I was making things up and/or that the work was obviously not responsible or worthy of the Library. Then he saw that it had a British publisher and was listed in many prestigious libraries. He realized that the British Library had made an oversight and promised to rectify things and order the books. I trust that they are there now.

    Some of the manuscripts that Swanson used (or facsimilies thereof) are housed in that Library.

  7. Randall: the same thing goes for Sweden. There was not a single copy of Swanson's works on GNT MSS in the libraries in Sweden, including the major university libraries in Lund and Uppsala, until I bought a large bundle for my seminary in Örebro.

  8. I think distribution of his books has always been a bit of a problem. As far as I know I have a complete set, but they are the sort of books you always have to go to a fair bit of effort to find and buy. I notice that Tyndale House just had about five volumes in the New Books shelf.

  9. The Society of Biblical Literature is distributing his books now. See http://www.sbl-site.org/Publications/Books_NTGM.aspx for the page dedicated to his NT Greek Manuscript Series.

  10. Please note that Dr. Swanson's New Testament Greek Manuscripts can now be purchased from SBL at: http://www.sbl-site.org/publications/Books_NTGM.aspx
    Some of his other works, including the NTGM are available at www.missionbooks.org. Also, look for his upcoming Synopsis of the Gospels from Codex Vaticanus.

  11. Several years before Reuben's passing, I had several postal communications with him, during which he sent me some rough-draft samples of the research he was doing, most particularly samples of textual variations whereby it was difficult to discern what the original passages may have been. I have Reuben's rough drafts somewhere amongst my clutter (at most a half-dozen typed pages), and it was interesting stuff, somewhat reminding me of the research of Bart Ehrman.

  12. Dr. Swanson was one of first professors of religious studies at WCU. He was a fantastic teacher, and started me along my path to a BA in religious studies (from UNCC). He had a radio show at the university, and he was always singing songs from the good old days, even in class sometime. He gave me a ride to Asheville at least once. We talked about the New Testament, music, Lutheranism, and many other subjects. He had a bummed knee that hurt sometimes, but he didn't let that slow him down at all. He was a wonderful person. I'm so glad I had the chance to meet and study with him. What a guy!
    What a scholar!!!

  13. Dr. Swanson taught me New Testament studies at WCU circa 1980. He was a fantastic teacher, and a hoot to be around. He had a radio program that broadcast from the campus station. I remember bumping into him in the hall. He knew I was interested in music, and he sang an old song for me that he liked to serenade his Misses with. It was something from the 40s, I just stood back in awe. I rode to asheville with him once, and we talked about religious studies (which I went on to major in at UNCC), music, and many other things. He had a bum knee which gave him some problems, but he never let it slow him down. What a scholar!!! What a guy!!! RIP dear friend and mentor. Peace and Happiness

  14. The video was not easily found through the link above. A more direct link can be found here: https://youtu.be/ib37_D1u1SI?t=48s (I am looking for the software which Dr. Swanson used to compare texts horizontally...) Bless you. I don't remember meeting him, but I wonder if I had passed him in the hallways or in a morning meeting when I worked in Pasadena years ago. I have copies of his works.

  15. I had the privilege of having Dr. Swanson for three religion classes @ WCU in the early 1970s. We stayed in touch during the rest of his life through very sporadic phone calls and the yearly letter he sent out at Christmas time to family and friends. Shortly before his death, my wife and I stopped in Fairfield and took Dr. Swanson and his wife to dinner. It was so nice to visit with him again, and relive some of the memories from that era in my life. I was quite surprised that he could remember so many details of happenings in class from so long ago. I've kept a photo of him and his last wife in my bookcase for years to remember the great influence he had on my life.