David Bartlett, Distinguished Preacher and Scholar, Dies at 76
October 13, 2017—Dr. David L. Bartlett, an ordained minister of the American Baptist Churches, USA who served parishes in Minneapolis, MN; Chicago, IL; and Oakland, CA passed away early Thursday morning. He was the J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor Emeritus of Christian Communication at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, CT and the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.
“Columbia Seminary is profoundly grateful for the life and ministry of David Bartlett,” said Dr. Leanne Van Dyk, president of the seminary. “The impact of his wise teaching, his gracious encouragement, his joyful humor, and his steady faithfulness is deep and wide in this community. We extend our love and sympathy to his family in this time of grief and loss.”
Cam Murchison, Professor Emeritus of Ministry and former Dean of Faculty recollected, “The things I treasure most about David Bartlett are his expansive generosity, his eloquent articulation of Christian faith, his masterful grasp of the New Testament, his boundless hospitality (along with Carol) for students, colleagues, and even passing acquaintances, his quickness and depth of mind, his indefatigable energy in work and play, his steadfastness in personal commitments, his pastoral compassion, his love of the arts, and his abiding joy in his family. He has been a colleague, a teacher, an adviser, a mentor, and a most dear friend. In the words of W. H. Auden, he has been for many: ‘… my North, my South, my East and West, /My working week and my Sunday rest.'”
Dr. Bartlett was born on February 16, 1941. He completed his undergraduate education at Swarthmore College in 1962, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts. He then attended Yale Divinity School where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity in 1967 and his Doctor of Philosophy from the Department of Religious Studies in New Testament in 1972. David Bartlett was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and a Roothbert Fellow for “those prompted by ‘spiritual motives’ and pursuing careers in teaching.”
Dr. Bartlett had long careers in teaching and preaching, holding both academic and pastoral positions. In addition to his remarkable tenure at Yale Divinity School and Columbia Theological Seminary, both of which honored him as professor emeritus, he served on the faculties of American Baptist Seminary of the West, Graduate Theological Union, The Divinity School of The University of Chicago, and Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA. He also served as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Yale Divinity School for eleven years.
For several years, Dr. Bartlett was on the Editorial Boards of works such as Interpretation and Preaching Great Texts. He was on the Board of Consultants for the Journal of Religion and the National Advisory Board for the Christian Networks Journal.
Along with Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, Dr. Bartlett co-edited the well-known Feasting on the Word commentary series. This twelve volume series provides pastors and educators a variety of views on scripture that can be utilized easily in worship and teaching. “The scope of the project was so vast that I could not imagine saying yes, but the prospect of working with David proved irresistible,” said Brown. “We were sitting in a restaurant near the seminary named ‘Feast’ when we decided to call the series Feasting on the Word. Twelve volumes later, David’s steady vision, ready humor, biblical genius, and vast network of friends had pulled us through. It was the hardest and happiest work I have ever done. The only thing that tempers his loss is knowing for sure how much better the world is because David lived in it.”
Dr. Bartlett’s most recent book is Christology in the New Testament (Abingdon Press, 2017), published just last summer. Dr. Bartlett also co-edited the Westminster Bible Companion with Dr. Patrick D. Miller, Jr. He also contributed to The Fourfold Gospel (London: SPCK, 2006; Philadelphia: Fortress, 2006) for which he wrote the section on Matthew. His Lyman Beecher Lectures, delivered at Yale Divinity School, were published under the title What’s Good About This News? (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2003). He wrote the study of I Peter for The New Interpreter’s Bible.
David Bartlett is survived by his wife Carol and their two grown sons, Jonah (and wife Elizabeth) and Ben. There will be a funeral service at 11:00 am on Wednesday, October 18 at Marquand Chapel, Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect Street in New Haven, CT. A reception will follow afterwards with a chance to share remembrances.
UPDATE: There will be a memorial service for Dr. David Bartlett on Monday, November 27, at 11:00 am at Trinity Presbyterian Church here in Atlanta (3003 Howell Mill Road). All welcome to come and both lament the death and celebrate the life of Dr. David Bartlett.
Baccalaureate Sermon 2013 by Dr. David Bartlett