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Jesuit Father Daniel J. Harrington, Renowned New Testament Scholar, Passes Away

February 9, 2014 — Jesuit Father Daniel J. Harrington, a professor of New Testament at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, the longtime editor of New Testament Abstracts and one of the world's leading New Testament scholars, died on Feb. 7 in Weston, Mass., after a four-year battle with cancer. He was 73. 

Fr. Harrington was born on July 19, 1940, in Arlington, Mass. He won a full scholarship to Boston College High School, where Jesuit Fathers Leo Pollard, John Waterbury Kelley, Frank Krim and John Whitney Sullivan had a strong influence on his decision to become a Jesuit.

Fr. Harrington joined the New England Province Jesuits in 1958. As a novice, Fr. Harrington took a Greek New Testament course, and reading the Gospel of John in Greek interested him in the study of the New Testament. In 1962 Fr. Harrington studied philosophy at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Massachusetts. Jesuit Father John J. Collins, then editor of New Testament Abstracts (NTA), tutored him in Hebrew and enlisted his help in doing abstracts and book notices for NTA. Fr. Harrington would be associated with NTA for over 50 years. He would become the editor of NTA in 1972 and served in that role until his death.

After philosophy studies Fr. Harrington studied ancient Near Eastern languages at Harvard University. He worked most closely with Professor John Strugnell, who was an editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls. After finishing doctoral studies Fr. Harrington began theological studies at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in 1969. He was ordained a priest in 1971.

After ordination Fr. Harrington taught for a year at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. The following year he joined the faculty at Weston (which would later become Boston College School of Theology and Ministry), where he would teach for over 40 years.

Fr. Harrington was admired as a clear and concise lecturer. He wrote over 60 books during his teaching career, and he also edited the 18 volume “Sacra Pagina” series of New Testament commentaries for Liturgical Press and wrote “The Word” column for America magazine for three years.

At his home parish, St. Agnes in Arlington, Mass., Fr. Harrington celebrated the 5 p.m. Mass on Sunday  for over 42 years, and at St. Peter’s in Cambridge, Mass., he celebrated the noon Sunday Mass for over 21 years.

In 2009, Fr. Harrington was diagnosed with a serious case of prostate cancer. On Nov. 21, 2013, he was honored at Boston College for his distinguished scholarly career. Jesuit Father James Martin, a former student of Fr. Harrington’s, said at the event, “I feel like I see the Gospels through Dan’s eyes. What I mean is that I see the Gospels with both the eyes of faith and a critical mind.”

Fr. Harrington moved to Campion Center in Weston, Mass., for the final months of his life, before passing away on Feb. 7. [Sources: New England Province, America magazine; Boston College]

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