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Remembering Dr. Norman K. Gottwald

Remembering Dr. Norman K. Gottwald

The Rev. Dr. Norman K. Gottwald, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, died on March 11, at the age of 95. Dr. Gottwald was an Old Testament scholar who pioneered the use of social theory and method in biblical studies. He was known worldwide for his teaching and writing, most notably, The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250-1050 B.C.E. (1979), a celebrated study of the origins of ancient Israel as an indigenous peasant uprising. 

Born in Chicago in 1926, Dr. Gottwald received an A.B. from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in biblical literature from Columbia University. He taught at several renowned institutions over the course of his career. From 1953 to 1955, Dr. Gottwald taught at Columbia University, followed by 10 years teaching at the Andover Newton Theological School. He arrived in Berkeley in 1966 on a joint appointment with the GTU and Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (now Berkeley School of Theology), where he taught until 1973. Teaching at the Graduate Theological Union until 1982, Dr. Gottwald taught at the New York Theological Seminary from 1980 to 1994.

Dr. Gottwald was an ordained minister of American Baptist Churches USA. An advocate of popular biblical study committed to social change, he founded The Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice. A prolific writer, some of his other writings include The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction, The Hebrew Bible in Its Social World and in Ours, The Politics of Ancient Israel, and The Bible and Liberation: Political and Social Hermeneutics (co-author). He was a world-wide lecturer on the critical relevance of the Bible to contemporary social struggles and a citizen activist in numerous civil rights, anti-war, and pro-labor movements and organizations.

After retirement from New York Theological Seminary, Dr. Gottwald and his spouse, Laura, returned to Berkeley. They joined First Baptist Church of Berkeley, and Dr. Gottwald taught occasionally as an adjunct professor at Pacific School of Religion.

Tributes for Dr. Gottwald can be written at the Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice: https://clbsj.org/news/2022/03/15/tributes-to-norman-gottwald/.