Helmut Heinrich Koester
|Died||January 1, 2016 (aged 89)|
|Occupation||Scholar of the New Testament and Early Christianity|
|Alma mater||University of Marburg, Germany|
|Thesis||Synoptic Tradition in the Apostolic Fathers (1954)|
|Institutions||Harvard Divinity School|
|Notable works||Introduction to the New Testament (in two volumes)|
Helmut Heinrich Koester (December 18, 1926 - January 1, 2016) was a German-born American scholar who specialized in the New Testament and early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School. His research was primarily in the areas of New Testament interpretation, history of early Christianity, and archaeology of the early Christian period.
Koester was born in Hamburg. He studied under Rudolf Bultmann at the University of Marburg, Germany, after being released from a POW camp there in 1945. He submitted his dissertation in 1954 and then became an assistant to Günther Bornkamm at the University of Heidelberg from 1954-1956. Koester began teaching at Harvard Divinity School in 1958 and became John H. Morison Research Professor of Divinity and Winn Research Professor of Ecclesiastical History in 2000. Koester was co-editor and chair of the New Testament editorial board of the commentary series "Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible" published by Fortress Press (Minneapolis). He served as the president of the Society of Biblical Literature (1991), was member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS) and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Koester was an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church. In 1953, he married Gisela Harrassowitz, with whom he had four children, named Reinhild, Almut, Ulrich, and Heiko. He had three grandchildren including Christopher, Lukas, and Alexander. He died on January 1, 2016, at the age of 89.
In his dissertation (published as Synoptische Überlieferung bei den Apostolischen Vätern, i.e. "Synoptic Tradition in the Apostolic Fathers"), Koester was able to demonstrate that much material in the so-called Apostolic Fathers that parallels elements in the Synoptic Gospels need not necessarily reflect dependence upon the written form of the Synoptics known to us. This was an extremely significant observation, and one with which all subsequent scholarship on early Christian gospel traditions would have to reckon. Among his numerous subsequent publications, his two-volume Introduction to the New Testament has become a standard reference work. Koester views the narratives of Jesus' virgin birth as having roots in Hellenistic mythology.
———, ed. (1995). Ephesos Metropolis of Asia: an interdisciplinary approach to its archaeology, religion, and culture. Harvard Theological Studies. 41. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International. ISBN 9781563381560. OCLC 33133132.