Biblical Archaeology Review 43:2, March/April 2017

Strata: Milestones: Thomas (Tom) Kraabel (1934–2016)

By Eric M. Meyers

Tom Kraabel passed away on November 2, 2016, after a heroic 28-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

Tom graduated with a doctor of theology (Th.D.) from Harvard Divinity School in New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Archaeology in 1968. Prior to Harvard, Tom studied for his bachelor’s degree at Luther College, where he majored in Classical languages, an interest and strength that stayed a major part of his academic career for his entire life. After Luther, Tom earned an M.A. in Classics at the University of Iowa on a Danforth Fellowship. He then went on to study for the ministry and theology at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Tom’s lifelong interest in archaeology began at Harvard, where he met a number of scholars who were involved with the emerging field of the archaeology of early Judaism and Christianity: Helmut Koester, G. Ernest Wright and George M.A. Hanfmann, who was codirector of the excavations at Sardis with Henry Detweiler of Cornell. Among Hanfmann’s special interests was the synagogue at Sardis, and Tom joined the Harvard-Cornell expedition to Sardis in 1966 as a field archaeologist. Koester was then beginning to explore the New Testament world outside of Syria-Palestine, assemble images of all the important sites and impress upon his students the relevance of material culture. At the same time, Wright wanted to expand the purview of Biblical archaeology to include more Classical sites, especially those that informed the nature of early Judaism and Christianity.

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