On Dec. 24, 2016, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., died at the Jesuit Manresa Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was recognized as one of the premier Biblical scholars of his generation.
At the age of 18, he entered the Jesuit Novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, to begin the long course of studies leading to ordination as a Jesuit priest. This traditional preparation involved heavy emphasis on the Classical languages and literature, as well as philosophy and theology, and he received master’s degrees in all of these areas. He completed his formal theological studies at a Jesuit school of theology in Egenhoven, Belgium, where he was ordained a Jesuit priest (1951) and completed a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.).
By the mid-20th century, Catholic Scripture scholars were studying at major secular universities—despite resistance to critical studies of the Bible by Vatican authorities. In 1953, Fitzmyer began the direct preparation for a lifetime of Scripture study at Johns Hopkins University under the renowned Biblical scholar and archaeologist William Foxwell Albright (1892–1971), where he received his Ph.D. in 1956 with a dissertation on the Aramaic texts found in Egypt. He then matriculated at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, where he received a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L.). After receiving a fellowship at the American School of Oriental Research (ASOR) in Jerusalem, he joined a team at the Palestine Archaeological Museum in East Jerusalem—now called the Rockefeller Museum—and worked in preparing a concordance to the Dead Sea Scrolls.