A. Thomas Kraabel

A. Thomas Kraabel
Born Alf Thomas Kraabel
(1934-11-04)November 4, 1934
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Died November 2, 2016(2016-11-02) (aged 81)
Decorah, Iowa, U.S.
Cause of death Parkinson's disease
Occupation Scholar, professor, pastor
Religion Lutheranism
Academic background
Alma mater University of Iowa
Luther College
Harvard University
Academic work
Discipline Classical, medieval[1]
Institutions Duke University
University of Minnesota
University of Oxford
Luther College
Main interests Hellenistic period, Judaism

Alf Thomas Kraabel (November 4, 1934 – November 2, 2016) was an American classics scholar and educator who worked extensively in Greek and Hellenistic Judaic studies.[2] He served as a faculty member in the classics department at the University of Minnesota from 1963 to 1983, and served as the Dean of Luther College in Iowa before retiring in 2000.

Early life

A. Thomas Kraabel was born Alf Thomas Kraabel in Portland, Oregon on November 4, 1934,[3] the first child of Alf M. and Marie (née Swensen) Kraabel,[4] both natives of North Dakota.[5] His paternal grandfather was Anton Kraabel, a Norwegian immigrant and politician who served as the Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota from 1912 to 1914.[6]

He attended schools in Oregon, Minnesota, and California, graduating from Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, California.[7]


Kraabel excelled in the study of Latin in high school and majored in classical languages and literature during his four years of study at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Following completion of the B.A. degree in 1956, he continued the study of classics at the University of Iowa for two years with the support of a Danforth Graduate Fellowship, earning the master of arts degree in 1958.

In the three years from 1958-61 Kraabel studied theology at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. During that time, he offered instruction in New Testament Greek for seminary students. On completion of the B.Th. degree in 1961, he was ordained as a Lutheran pastor and served as assistant pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis for two years.

In 1963, Kraabel began a doctoral degree program in New Testament and Early Christian Literature at Harvard Divinity School. Harvard University awarded him the Th.D. degree in 1968. While working on that degree he received a Rockefeller Doctoral Fellowship in Religion and the Harvard Divinity School’s Pfeiffer Fellowship in Archaeology. He also served as assistant in Greek and lecturer in New Testament at Episcopal Theological Seminary, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1966-67.

During his study at Harvard, Kraabel developed a special interest in Hellenistic Judaism. His research topics centered on the character of Judaism in the Roman Empire and its relevance for the understanding and description of early Christianity. His service as research assistant to Erwin R. Goodenough, a distinguished scholar in that subject area, both grew out of this interest and nurtured it. The interest continued in his experience as a field archaeologist, in 1966, for the Harvard-Cornell Archaeological Exploration of the site of ancient Sardis in Turkey. The ancient synagogue at that site became a major topic of his research both during and following that experience in the field.[8]


In the fall semester of 1967, Kraabel began his teaching career as a member of the faculty of the Department of Classics at the University of Minnesota.[9] He enjoyed the rank of full professor in that department from 1976–82, including three years (1978–81) as chairman of the department. He also served as chairman of religious studies from 1969-76. While on the University of Minnesota faculty, Kraabel spent the academic year 1977-78 as a visiting fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford University, England, and some months in 1981 as a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford.

In 1979, he collaborated with Estelle S. Brettman on the international panel "Diaspora Judaism Under the Roman Empire: Recent Archaeological Evidence," at the American Institute of Archaeology's Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.[2]

In January 1983, Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, named Kraabel vice-president and dean of the college, as well as professor of religion and classics. He continued in this position through the 1995-1996 academic year. Subsequently he taught religion and classics at the college until his retirement at the end of the 1999-2000 academic year. In 1988, Luther College named him to an endowed professorial chair, Qualley Professor of Classics, a position he occupied until his retirement.

From 1969-73 Kraabel was associate director, with Eric Meyers of Duke University, of the Joint Expedition to Khirbet Shema’, Israel, an archaeological project of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Institutional partners in the project were Duke, University of Minnesota, Harvard, Princeton, Luther College, Dropsie University, and the Smithsonian Institution.[8] He also served as pastor at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Minnesota from 1961 to 1963.[2]


Kraabel died on November 2, 2016, in Decorah, Iowa, after a twenty-eight year long battle with Parkinson's disease.[2]




See also


  1. "A. Thomas Kraabel". American Interfaith Institute. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Prof. A. Thomas Kraabel Memorial Service November 11 (First Lutheran, Decorah, IA)". International Catacombs Society. November 7, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  3. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940, November 1934. Central Lutheran Church, Portland, Oregon, United States.
  4. "Alf Thomas Kraabel". Prabook. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  5. "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VRTP-NJK : accessed 18 November 2016), Thomas Kraabel in household of Alf M Kraabel, Tract 20, Portland, Portland City Election Precinct 172, Multnomah, Oregon, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 37-238, sheet 3A, line 6, family 68, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3389.
  6. "Anton T. Kraabel (1862–1934)". Find a Grave. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  7. "A. Thomas (Tom) Kraabel". Decorah Newspapers. November 8, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  8. 1 2 Paul S. Kraabel.
  9. Bunge, Wilfred F.; Mary Lou Hull Mohr, and Dale Nimrod (2011). Transformed by the Journey: 150 Years of Luther College in Word and Image. Luther College Press. p. 203.
  10. "Immigrants, Exiles, Expatriates, and Missionaries". Brill Online Books and Journals. Retrieved November 16, 2016.

External links

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