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Old Testament scholar, theologian dies at 70

ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) — John Herbert Sailhamer, an evangelical Old Testament scholar who taught at two Southern Baptist seminaries, died Jan. 9, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body Dementia. He was 70.

Sailhamer also was president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2000.

Sailhamer’s work was characterized by a consistent focus on the Hebrew Bible and the compositional strategies of the biblical authors. The author of more than 15 books, various articles and essays, his writing centered on reading the Bible, the Pentateuch in particular, as a unified, coherent whole.

Sailhamer’s book “The Meaning of the Pentateuch,” published in 2009, was called his magnum opus and was listed among Amazon.com’s top 100 sellers. He served on the review and editorial teams for the New Living Translation and the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Sailhamer earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from California State University, Long Beach, and worked as a general assignments reporter for the Dallas Morning News before completing a master of theology degree in Old Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1974, a master of arts degree in Semitic languages from UCLA in 1976, and a doctor of philosophy degree in ancient Near East languages and literature from UCLA in 1981. He was ordained by the Evangelical Free Church of America in 1983.

His 36-year teaching career began in 1975 at Los Angeles Bible College and continued at Biola University, Bethel Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Western Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2006, he joined the faculty at Gateway Seminary (formerly Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary), where he served until his retirement in 2012.

Sailhamer is survived by Patty Engdahl Sailhamer, his wife of 45 years; his children David Sailhamer, Elizabeth Sailhamer Soukup and her husband Jason, John Christian Sailhamer and his wife Kelly, Peter Sailhamer and his wife Angela; eight grandchildren; and brother Paul Sailhamer and sister Claudette Miller. He is preceded in death by his parents Claude and Belva Sailhamer.

A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held Friday (Jan. 13), at 4 p.m. at the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, north campus, at 2904 N. Brea Blvd. in Fullerton, Calif. A private burial will take place near Sailhamer’s birthplace of Moline, Ill. at Kingsbury Country Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Compassion Fund or Disability Family Fund and the First Evangelical Free Church.

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  • Katherine Chute