Biblical Scholar Walter Brueggemann ’55 to Receive Niebuhr Medal

September 30, 2015 | by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Elmhurst College will award its highest honor, the Niebuhr Medal, to the Reverend Walter Brueggemann ’55, widely known as the foremost Christian scholar of the Hebrew Bible.

Rev. Brueggemann will be the first Elmhurst College alumnus ever to receive the Niebuhr Medal, which was established in 1995 to recognize extraordinary service to humanity. The Niebuhr Medal reflects the values of esteemed Elmhurst graduates Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr, two of the 20th century’s most influential theologians.

Elmhurst College will host two public events to mark the occasion. On Friday, October 23, he and Elmhurst College Chaplain H. Scott Matheney will discuss the legacy of the Niebuhrs—in particular, their impact on Brueggemann’s life and work, and on the life of the College—during “Reflections with the Chaplain.” The event will begin at 4:00 p.m. in the Prospect Room of the Frick Center. The event is free and open to the public.

On Sunday, October 25, Rev. Brueggemann will preach at both the 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.  services at Fourth Presbyterian Church (126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago).

Walter Brueggemann is a widely published author—no scripture scholar in America sells more books or informs more sermons than Brueggemann. A United Church of Christ minister, he is professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.

After graduating summa cum laude from Elmhurst College, Brueggemann went on to study at Eden Theological Seminary in Missouri and completed his doctoral work at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Reinhold Niebuhr served on the faculty. Brueggemann taught at Eden for 25 years, then at Columbia, and wrote a substantial library of books.

As both a scholar and a believer, Brueggemann views his task as not only to illuminate the text of the Old Testament, but also to help the text illuminate the way of his fellow believers. “I decided early on who I was going to be writing for,” he has said. “I was going to be a scholar for the church.”

In practice, this means that Brueggemann’s most devoted readers are not his fellow academics but his fellow ministers. His work occupies a place of prominence in the libraries of pastors because it renders the otherwise remote and inaccessible world of the Old Testament timely and pertinent.

The Niebuhr Medal first was awarded on April 2, 1995, to Nobel laureate and political activist Elie Wiesel. The medal also has been given to Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, archbishop of Chicago; Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Lech Walesa, the first democratically elected president of Poland; Millard and Linda Fuller, co-founders of Habitat for Humanity International; historian and author Arthur Schlesinger; and Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian theologian regarded as the father of Liberation Theology.

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