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Longtime Harding theology professor Jack P. Lewis dies


Jack P. Lewis, a biblical scholar and founding faculty member of Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn., died July 24, 2018. He was 99. 

Jack P. Lewis

The longtime theology professor was known for pushing his students hard. 

“Those who studied under him soon learned that he had little patience for uninformed assertions, sloppy thinking or frothy sermonizing,” said John Wilson, professor emeritus of religion at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. “He called his students to hard work, clear thinking and a healthy respect for facts.”

Bruce McLarty, president of Harding University in Searcy, Ark., remembers taking multiple classes under Lewis. The theology school is a branch of the university.

“The thing I most appreciated about him was the way that this brilliant, highly credentialed, universally respected scholar had an absolutely child-like confidence in the biblical text,” McLarty said.

“I carry in my heart to this day the blessing of having had such a teacher.”

Lewis was born in Midlothian, Texas, and grew up in a farm family during the Great Depression. Those who knew him say the lessons he learned in that era served him well in his professional life. A lifelong student of the Bible, Lewis was known to say, “The best translation of the Bible is the one that you’ll read and live by.”

In 1953, Lewis completed a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard University. In 1962, he added a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Hebrew Union College to his credentials. 

“The thing I most appreciated about him was the way that this brilliant, highly credentialed, universally respected scholar had an absolutely child-like confidence in the biblical text.”

In 1958, Lewis was a part of the founding faculty of Harding Graduate School of Religion, now Harding School of Theology, and was eventually named professor emeritus of that institution. 

“As we look back over his long career, we can see that he was more than a scholar in the Churches of Christ; he was a scholar for the Churches of Christ,” Wilson said.

“He raised the bar for all those thousands of his students who wanted to be preachers or teachers of the Word. He wanted them to jump higher and further than they had ever thought they could.”

Lewis served as a Bible class teacher and elder of the Church of Christ at White Station in Memphis. He attended Sunday morning services with the assistance of caregivers until the last months of his life

Filed under: Milestones Obituaries People Top Stories Harding School of Theology Jack Lewis

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