Longtime Bangor theologian dies at 87

Posted Jan. 04, 2009, at 8:10 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The Rev. Burton Throckmorton, a 35-year veteran theologian at Bangor Theological Seminary and an author who dedicated much of his long life translating Scripture into inclusive language, died Saturday.

Throckmorton was 87.

“Burt was undoubtedly one of the leading New Testament scholars of his age,” the Rev. James Haddix, pastor of All Souls Congregational Church who teaches part-time at the seminary, said Sunday. “He was world-renowned for his ‘Gospel Parallels’ that still sits on the shelves of most ministers today. It remains just a beautiful piece of work.

“His courses at the seminary were always fully subscribed,” the minister added. “His students adored him.”

One of those students was the Rev. Elaine Hewes, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bangor. She took classes from Throckmorton in the early 1990s when she was a student at the seminary. She has been asked by his wife of 57 years, the Rev. Ansley Coe Throckmorton, to speak at his funeral.

“He was a brilliant teacher,” Hewes said Sunday, “because he saw the word of God in an expansive sort of way. He was a dancer before he was a theologian, so he brought to his teaching an understanding of Scripture and faith as well as an ability to weave it with an artistic and creative impulse so that it just came alive.

“Sometimes, when you’re raised in the church, [Scripture] can feel kind of flat,” Hewes said. “When I took his classes, for first time it just came alive for me. His artistic impulse and creative presence in presenting it made it something you hungered for. I feel enormous gratitude for how he taught me.”

Throckmorton worked his way through college as a professional vaudeville dancer with his sister, and met his wife while a young teacher at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she was his student. They married in 1951.

The Throckmortons came to Bangor in 1954 when he took a position at BTS as the Hayes Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, a post he held for more than 3½ decades. After retiring from BTS in 1989, Throckmorton taught in the University of Maine honors program until 2001. He also was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

In addition to “Gospel Parallels: A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels,” first published in 1949, Throckmorton also is known for his many works translating the Scriptures into inclusive language. In those, he and other scholars replaced or rephrased English that contained negative or stereotypical references based on race, gender or physical disabilities.

Throckmorton is survived by his wife and two sons, Hamilton Throckmorton, a minister, and Timothy Throckmorton, a longtime sportscaster for WABI-TV 5 in Bangor.

His funeral is tentatively set for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Hammond Street Congregational Church.

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

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