Professor Emeritus A.B. Rhodes Dies
Louisville Seminary | Aug 21, 2002
Beloved professor and respected Bible scholar A.B. Rhodes dies
Louisville, Ky., August 23, 2002 - The Rev. Dr. Arnold Black Rhodes, who taught Old Testament for nearly four decades at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, died Thursday, August 15, 2002, at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Ky. He was 88.
Private services and interment of ashes were held on Sunday, August 18, in the Louisville Seminary Memorial Garden, named in honor of Lela N. Rhodes.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 28, 2002, at 2 p.m. at the Seminary’s Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel. The public is invited to attend. Seminary alumni/ae who studied under Dr. Rhodes, former faculty and colleagues are requested to participate in the service by processing in their academic or clerical robes. Participants may confirm their attendance with Ms. Dana Cormack at 800.264.1839, ext. 261, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Rhodes was the beloved professor to more than 1,500 seminarians between 1944 and 1981. “Invariably, when one thinks of Old Testament and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, one thinks of Professor A. B. Rhodes,” wrote Seminary alumnus Thomas L. Jones (MDiv ’55; ThM ’59, DMin ’77) upon Rhodes’ retirement in 1982. For almost 40 years, Rhodes dedicated his life to the teaching of Hebrew and Old Testament at the Seminary with an “unfailing loyalty” to Louisville Seminary, his colleagues, and his students.
Seminary President Emeritus Albert C. Winn (1966-1973) said of Rhodes that he considered it not enough for his students to learn the minutiae of Old Testament scholarship, but that they must learn to preach the life-giving gospel that is there.
“Dr. Rhodes was preeminently a friend and pastor to his thousands of students and colleagues,” said John M. Mulder, who became the Seminary’s seventh president just as Rhodes was retiring. “He constantly insisted that to be a prophet, one had to be a priest as well, and this was shown in his innumerable acts of kindness and care. He was also a scholar of the first order, and nothing second rate ever received approval in one of his courses. I will miss him.”
Dr. Rhodes came to Louisville Seminary following two pastorates: First Presbyterian Church in Lawrenceburg, Ky., and Hanover Presbyterian Church in Indiana. During his tenure on the faculty, he also served as curator of the Seminary’s archeological museum. Before he retired from teaching in 1982, the Seminary established the A.B. Rhodes Professorship in Old Testament, the first fully endowed chair in the Seminary’s history. Rhodes held the chair in his name for one year as professor and then from 1982-2002 as professor emeritus.
“He had a profound influence on just countless students, but probably more so out in the wider church, particularly in the Presbyterian church,” said Dr. W. Eugene March, who has occupied the A.B. Rhodes Chair in Old Testament since 1982.
Among thousands of pastors and lay persons, Dr. Rhodes is recognized as a prominent biblical scholar and inspiring teacher through his writing, preaching and lecturing. His most significant contribution was The Mighty Acts of God, which was published in 1964 and “summarized and popularized a whole movement in biblical studies at the time,” said March. The book was a best seller for John Knox Press for nearly 20 years, and by 1980 it was in its eleventh printing in English and had been translated into Spanish.
“Mighty Acts was studied by literally thousands of church members for at least two decades,” said Dr. March, who revised the book for Geneva Press in 2000.
Rhodes also served as associate editor of The Layman’s Bible Commentary, and wrote the Book of Psalms in that series in 1960.
He was a native of Rocky Point, NC, the oldest of five children. Raised in a rural setting, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with an A.B. in 1935 from Davidson College in Davidson, NC. He attended Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary from which he received a B.D. in 1941 and a Th.M. in 1942. After being ordained in the Presbyterian Church, he served two churches. He received a Th.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1947 and a Ph.D. with distinction from the University of Chicago in 1951. Both Centre and Davidson Colleges awarded him with honorary doctorates.
Dr. Rhodes is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lela Nelson Rhodes, also of Rocky Point, N.C.; three daughters and their husbands, Lessie Anne Rhodes and J. Linn Mackey, Priscilla Rhodes Schmitt and Carl H. Schmitt and Katharine Rhodes Henderson and Charles P. Henderson; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Expressions of appreciation and sympathy may be made to Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., or the Palliative Care Unit of Baptist Hospital East.