Joseph Fitzmyer

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The Reverend Father
Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.
Ordination 15 August 1951
Personal details
Born 4 November 1920
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Nationality American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Occupation Biblical Scholar, Theologian
Alma mater Loyola University Chicago
Catholic University of Leuven
Johns Hopkins University
Pontifical Biblical Institute

Joseph Augustine Fitzmyer, S.J. (born 1920), is an American Catholic priest of the Society of Jesus and professor emeritus at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.. He specializes in biblical studies, particularly the New Testament, though he has also made contributions to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Jewish literature.[1]


Fitzmeyer was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1920. On 30 July 1938, he was admitted to the novitiate of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. After completing this stage of his formation in the summer of 1940, he was sent to study at Loyola University of Chicago, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree, then in 1945 a Master of Arts degree in Greek. He then studied theology in the Facultés Saint-Albert (Eegenhoven-Louvain), Belgium. He was ordained a Catholic priest on 15 August 1951. He was granted a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) there by the Catholic University of Leuven in 1952, a doctorate in Semitics from the Johns Hopkins University in 1956, and an Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L.) from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1957.

From 1958–1969, Fitzmyer taught New Testament and biblical languages at Woodstock College. Between 1969 and 1971, he taught Aramaic and Hebrew at the University of Chicago., then New Testament and biblical languages at Fordham University (1971–1974), at Weston School of Theology (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) (1974–1976) and finally in the Department of Biblical Studies at The Catholic University of America (1976–1986), as Professor of New Testament until his retirement in 1986. His publications cover Scripture, theology, Christology, catechesis and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was a co-editor of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and also served as president of the Catholic Biblical Association of America (1969–1970), of the Society of Biblical Literature (1979) and of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (1992–1993). Fitzmyer was Speaker's Lecturer at the University of Oxford in 1974–1975, was the 1984 recipient of the Burkitt Medal of the British Academy and served on the Pontifical Biblical Commission from 1984–1995.[2][3]

Fitzmyer is currently part of the Jesuit community at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C..


Fitzmyer has published a large collection of works largely pertaining to biblical commentaries including scholarship within the Jerome Biblical Commentary,[4] the New Jerome Biblical Commentary,[5] and the Anchor Bible Commentary.[6] His contribution to the Anchor Bible Commentary includes work on The Gospel of Luke (in two volumes), Acts of the Apostles, 1 Corinthians, Romans and Philemon. As such, Fitzmyer has been a large contributor to the scholarship of the New Testament and to the scripture scholar's understanding of the writings of St. Paul. Fitzmyer has published three commentaries on Romans: The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968), The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1989), and the Anchor Bible Commentary (1993). This last work is a massive work over 800 pages in length. From this last work came a very practical and spiritually accessible work, Spiritual Exercises Based on Paul's Epistle to the Romans.[7]

The Spiritual Exercises Based on Paul's Epistle to the Romans is a creative endeavor to link biblical commentary and exegeses with modern spirituality. Through it, Fitzmyer lays out his interpretation of Paul's letter to the Romans in a more condensed form from his larger work in the Anchor Bible. Through heavy use of historical and rhetorical criticism, Fitzmyer opens up Paul's epistle on Paul's terms. In other words, Fitzmyer doesn't force Paul's message into the 21st century, but rather attempts to understand the apostle in his cultural context of the first century and bring that message to light in the modern era. By doing so, we learn that Paul was greatly influenced by his Jewish background and Greco-Roman setting. We also learn that Fitzmyer sees a sort of coherency in Paul's message. Some scholars will argue that Paul's theology is strictly dependent on the context that Paul is addressing. For example, the first letter to the Corinthians was written as a result of a crisis that had emerged amidst the community. As such, some scholars see the situational nature of the letter to be less applicable to outside situations. Fitzmyer rather sees that the work in Romans can and should be applied to our modern context in a way that can be life giving.

Fitzmyer claims that the essence of Paul's gospel can be summed up in Romans 3:21,24. "But now...all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption which comes in Christ Jesus." Though this clearly has shortcomings and misses the many nuances of what Paul has to say in Romans, one can see this as a sort of epicenter to Paul's writings. God's grace is given to all gratuitously, if one accepts it through faith in Christ Jesus. Furthermore, St. Paul uses the phrase "but now" in an eschatological fashion. Paul does not see the time of this gratuitous grace to be a future event, rather, all Christians currently reside in the love of God. It is through Fitzmyer's extensive textual criticism of Romans and other works that readers are able to come to a deeper understanding of St. Paul, the epistle to the Romans, as well as the modern applications and understanding of such a work.

Select publications[edit]


  • Fitzmyer, Joseph (1964). The Historical Truth of the Gospels: the 1964 instruction of the Biblical Commission. Glen Rock, NJ: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-3253-9.  See "The Biblical Commission’s Instruction" below for earliest publication in English.
  • ——— (1967). The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefîre (2nd ed.). Rome: Pontificial Biblical Institute. ISBN 978-8-8765-3347-1. 
  • ——— (1979). The Semitic Background of the New Testament Volume II: A Wandering Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays. Biblical Resource Series (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-4846-8. 
  • ——— (1981). The Gospel According to Luke 1-9. Anchor Yale Bible. 28. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-3850-0515-9. 
  • Reumann, John Henry Paul; ——— (1982). Righteousness in the New Testament: Justification in the United States Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue. Philadelphia, PA & New York: Fortress Press & Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-2436-7. 
  • ——— (1985). The Gospel according to Luke 10-24. Anchor Yale Bible. 28A. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-3851-5542-7. 
  • ——— (1986). Scripture and Christology: a statement of the Biblical Commission with a commentary. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-2789-4. 
  • ——— (1989). Paul and His Theology: A Brief Sketch (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-1365-4419-7. 
  • ——— (1990). Brown, Raymond E.; et al., eds. The New Jerome Biblical commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-2256-6803-2. 
  • ———; Glanzman, George S. (1990). An Introductory Bibliography for the Study of Scripture (3rd ed.). Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico. ISBN 978-8-8765-3592-5. 
  • ——— (1990). The Dead Sea Scrolls: major publications and tools for study (Revised ed.). Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. ISBN 978-0-8841-4053-5. 
  • ——— (1991). A Christological Catechism: New Testament Answers (Second ed.). Glen Rock, NJ: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-3253-9. 
  • ——— (1992). Responses to 101 Questions on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Glen Rock, NJ: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-3348-2. 
  • ———; Kaufman, Stephen A. (1992). An Aramaic Bibliography: Part I: Old, Official, and Biblical Aramaic (Publications of The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon Project). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-4312-9. 
  • ——— (1993). According to Paul: Studies in the Theology of the Apostle. Glen Rock, NJ: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-3390-1. 
  • ——— (1993). Romans. Anchor Yale Bible. 33. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-3001-4078-1. 
  • ——— (1994). Scripture: The Soul of Theology. Glen Rock, NJ: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-3509-7. 
  • ———; Harrington, Daniel J. (1994). A Manual of Palestinian Aramaic texts: (second century B.C.-second century A.D.) (2nd ed.). Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico. ISBN 978-8876533341. 
  • ——— (1995). The Biblical Commission's Document "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church: Text and Commentary. Subsidia biblica. 18. Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico. ISBN 978-8-8765-3605-2. 
  • ——— (1995). Spiritual Exercises Based on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Glen Rock, NJ: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-3580-6. 
  • ——— (1997). The Semitic Background of the New Testament Volume I: Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament. Biblical Resource Series (Reprint ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-4845-1. 
  • ——— (1997). The Semitic Background of the New Testament: Combined Edition of "Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament" and "A Wandering Aramean". Biblical Resource Series (Combined ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-4344-9. 
  • ——— (1998). The Acts of the Apostles. Anchor Yale Bible. 31. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-3854-6880-0. 
  • ——— (1998). To Advance the Gospel: New Testament Studies. Biblical Resource Series (2nd ed.). New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0802844255. 
  • ——— (2000). The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins. Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls & Related Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-4650-1. 
  • ——— (2001). The Letter to Philemon. Anchor Yale Bible. 34C. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-3001-4055-2. 
  • ——— (2002). Tobit. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-1101-7574-5. 
  • ——— (2004). The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): a commentary (3rd ed.). Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico. ISBN 978-8-8765-3318-1. 
  • ——— (2007). The One Who is to Come. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-4013-4. 
  • ——— (2008). 1 Corinthians. Anchor Yale Bible. 33. New York: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-3001-4044-6. 
  • ——— (2008). Luke the Theologian: Aspects of His Teaching. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock. ISBN 978-1-5924-4959-0. 
  • ——— (2008). The Interpretation of Scripture: In Defense of the Historical-Critical Method. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-4504-1. 
  • ——— (2008). A Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature. Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls & Related Literature (Revised & expanded ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-6241-9. 
  • ——— (2009). The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-4615-4. 

Articles & Chapters[edit]

  • ——— (1964). "The Biblical Commission's Instruction on the historical truth of the Gospels". Theological Studies. 25: 386–408. 


  • M. P. Horgan and P. J. Kobelski, To Touch the Text: Biblical and Related Studies in Honor of Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. New York: Crossroad, 1989.


  1. ^ "The Dead Sea Scrolls". Alba House. 
  2. ^ Schiffman, Lawrence. "Joseph Fitzmyer: An Appreciation". 
  3. ^ Donahue, John (2013). "Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.: Scholar and Teacher of the Word of God". US Catholic Historian. 31 (4): 63–83. 
  4. ^ Brown, Raymond, S.S.; Fitzmyer, Joseph, S.J.; Murphy, Roland, O.Carm. (1969). The Jerome Biblical Commentary. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc. 
  5. ^ Brown, Raymond, S.S.; Fitzmyer, Joseph, S.J.; Murphy, Roland, O.Carm (1989). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Pearson. 
  6. ^ Fitzmyer, Joseph (1993). Romans: The Anchor Bible Commentary. Connecticut: Yale University Press. 
  7. ^ Fitzmyer, Joseph (1995). Spiritual Exercises Based on Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Maryland: Paulist Press. 

External links[edit]