Tuesday, March 31, 2015

R.I.P. Harold Greenlee

On 21 March, Jacob Harold Greenlee passed away at the age of 96. The following is an obituary written by his son, David Greenlee:

May 12, 1918 – March 21, 2015

Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς ὁλοτελεῖς, καὶ ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα ἀμέμπτως ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τηρηθείη. πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς, ὃς καὶ ποιήσει. 

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. (1 Thessalonians 5: 23-24)

Jacob Harold Greenlee was born in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 12, 1918, the first child of Jacob Andrew and Ethel Edith Jarrett Greenlee. He graduated from Charleston High School in 1935. He holds the degrees of A.B., Asbury College, 1939; B.D., Asbury Theological Seminary, 1943; M.A., University of Kentucky, 1944; Ph.D. in Biblical and Patristic Greek, Harvard University, 1947. He was a Senior Fulbright Fellow, Oxford University, 1950–51, where his work on reading an ancient palimpsest—an erased Greek NT manuscript—led to further palimpsest studies and the publication of a book.

On December 10, 1949, he married Ruth Bernice Olney. He was professor of New Testament Greek at Asbury Theological Seminary, 1944–65, and at Oral Roberts University, 1965–69. He and Ruth have been missionaries of OMS International (now One Mission Society) since 1969, teaching in Bible schools and seminaries throughout the world. Through those years he was also an international translation consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translators, participating in Bible translation workshops in many lands, and contributing to the translation of the New Testament into more than 125 languges. They also served from time to time on the first three Operation Mobilization missionary ships with their son David.

Dr. Greenlee was an ordained United Methodist minister of the West Virginia Conference. He is the author with wife, Ruth, of a book about their ministry travels, and he has published 12 books dealing with the Greek language of the New Testament and more than 160 published articles. He is listed in more than twenty-five biographical volumes.

During his years as professor of New Testament Greek at Asbury Seminary, he wrote two books. His Concise Exegetical Grammar of NT Greek (1953) was on the market for 60 years, translated into six other languages, and is now offered on the Seminary’s First Fruits internet project. His Introduction to NT Textual Criticism (1963) is still on sale after 50 years and has recently been translated into Korean.

During his 21 years at the Shell Point Retirement Community, Fort Myers, Florida, he continued contributing in New Testament Greek studies, co-teaching a Village Church Sunday school class, assisting with the Wednesday morning Men’s Bible Study, and singing in the Shell Point Singers and the Village Church choir for over fifteen years. As a part of the Shell Point Academy, he co-led the Anatomy of a Word class until a month before his death.

Family members include his wife Ruth Bernice; daughters Dotty Morrison (husband Bill Morrison, deceased), Lois Stück (husband Dr. Jim Stück; children Philip, Michael, and David and wife Ellie), and son, Dr. David Harold Greenlee (wife Vreni; children Rebekka, Jonathan, and Sarah); and sisters Rayma Gene (husband Clarence Hutchens, deceased), and Catherine Mae (deceased, husband Reid Feather).

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to One Mission Society (formerly OMS International), P.O. Box A, Greenwood, Indiana 46142-6599 designated for seminary student scholarship funds.


  1. Thanks Tommy,

    For some idea of J.H. Greenlee's published work (between 1947 and 2005) in three major areas: a) NT textual criticism; b) NT grammar and syntax; c) Bible translation, see the really helpful bibliography (with links to many pdfs): http://www.theologicalstudies.org.uk/theo_greenlee.php

    1. Thanks, friends, for honoring my father.
      If any of you would like his complete bibliography, feel free to contact me.
      davidg [at] swissmail [dot] org

      David Greenlee (son)

  2. On aspects of NT textual criticism:
    J.H. Greenlee, The Gospel Text of Cyril of Jerusalem (SD 17; Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1955
    J.H. Greenlee, ‘A Corrected Collation of Codex Zacynthius (Cod. Ξ)’ JBL 76 (1957), 237-241.
    J.H. Greenlee, ‘Some Examples of Scholarly “Agreement in Error” ’ JBL 77 (1958), 363-64.
    J.H Greenlee, ‘A Misinterpreted Nomen Sacrum in P[9]’ HTR 51 (1958), 187.
    J.H. Greenlee, ‘The Catena of Codex Zacynthius’ Biblica 40 (1959), 992-1001.
    J.H. Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964; Peabody, Hendrickson, 1995, rev ed.)
    J.H. Greenlee, Nine Uncial Palimpsests of the New Testament (SD 39; Salt Lake City: Uni Utah Press, 1968).
    J.H. Greenlee, ‘Codex 0269, a Palimpsest Fragment of Mark’ in Studies in New Testament Language and Text (FS G.D. Kilpatrick; ed. J.K. Elliott; NovTSup 44; Leiden: Brill, 1976), 235-38.
    J.H. Greenlee, Scribes, Scrolls and Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Cumbria: Paternoster, 1985). Revised Edition: The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2008; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012)

  3. I regret your loss David. Thank you Peter for the bibliography.

  4. I have received the very full bibliography of J. Harold Greenlee, and with the kind permission of David Greenlee I have posted it in our Resources area. The direct link is here: https://app.box.com/s/jgyrqik6a5e3uqs15v1k

    1. I shall hopefully have a go at fixing the Greek font at some point.

  5. Condolences to the members of the Greenlee family. Thank you Tommy for posting David's fine obituary, and David and Peter for providing access to the excellent bibliography.

  6. Dave Black (who edited the Festschrift for J.H. Greenlee) commented on his "blog":

    Just a quick note to say that I was blessed to have attended Harold Greenlee's memorial service in Ft. Myers, FL, this weekend. Harold held a Harvard doctorate, was a professor of New Testament and Greek for many years, and a scholar who put his considerable erudition at the feet of Jesus in service to the nations. That the latter point should be worth mentioning is in itself a remarkable thing because all of us so-called New Testament scholars should be about the Father's main business. I want to thank David Greenlee for his invitation to attend. If ever a man accepted the demands of life with grace and humility, it was Harold. Simply put, he lived for others. May the Lord make His face to shine upon Harold's widow Ruth and bring sunshine and peace to their household every day.


  7. I knew Dr. and Mrs. Greenlee when he was a guest professor and Greek at Taylor University. I was also impressed by his commitment to Jesus and by his humility. We hadn't known of his academic reputation until we heard a rumor that he was considered one of the top ten Greek scholars in the world. When we confronted him about that, he thought for a minute. and replied, "Well, there are about nine that are really superlative, and maybe I'm the tenth."

  8. I was a young assistant pastor at Shell Point Village from 1993 to 1995 and Dr. and Mrs. Greenlee were members of the church. I was personally in awe of Dr. Greenlee having read his New Testament Textual Criticism during my undergraduate time and struggling to wrap my mind around it. His heart for scholarship was only surpassed by his heart for people. I recall him sharing of a trip to Africa he was going on to teach at a Seminary and I was humbled by his passion to train the next generation of pastors from around the world. He was so gracious to me when he asked me about something I said when I had opportunity to preach. Even though he knew the Greek language better than I understood English, he was patient and interested in the things that I said. I recall several conversations we had on topics I was interested in in which he had extensive knowledge. I am a better man and a better pastor for having crossed paths with him.