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In Memoriam: Erich H. Kiehl

Submitted by on August 2, 2012 – 9:26 am8 Comments

Dr. Erich Kiehl attended St. Paul’s College in Concordia, Missouri graduating in 1940.  He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1942, from which he also received a Master’s of Divinity degree in 1945, a Master of Sacred Theology in 1951, and a Doctor of Theology in 1959. Dr. Kiehl served as assistant to the Pastor at Timothy Lutheran Church in St. Louis in 1946. From 1948-1960 he was Director of Planning and Research for Church-Craft Pictures, Inc. Starting in 1960, he was editor of Weekday Materials for the LCMS Board for Parish Education.

In addition to numerous publications in the area of Christian Education, he authored Building Your Biblical Studies Library (1988) and The Passion of our Lord (1990; reissued by Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002). In addition, from 1971-1975 he revised the New Testament portion of The Holy Bible: An American Translation (1976), originally completed by William F. Beck in 1963.

As an undergraduate student, I first met Dr. Kiehl during his tenure as a professor at Concordia Lutheran Junior College, Ann Arbor, MI, from 1965-1974. During the traumatic years of the synodical controversy in the 1970s, Dr. Kiehl was called to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, where he was Professor of New Testament Theology until his retirement in June 1992. It was my privilege to study with him during those years, to assist with his publication of The Passion of Our Lord. I received my ThD under his guidance.

As significant as his leadership was in the seventies, Dr. Kiehl was pre-eminently a teacher. He was an innovator in the use of the latest classroom technology of his day. His overheads were legendary. But it was his ability to open up to students the world behind the text (geography, history, culture, archaeology) that was particularly noteworthy. The “Babylonian Chronicles” and Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts were fascinating to this young undergraduate. To this day, I cherish this legacy, even as I write these words overlooking the shore of the Sea of Galilee from the archaeological excavation at Hippos of the Decapolis. My students, my volunteers, and I benefit from the interests Dr. Kiehl inspired.

But Dr. Kiehl’s legacy is more than academic. A man of strong convictions, Dr. Kiehl repeatedly said in the classrooms of Concordia Seminary, “Gentlemen, we must be winsome.” Dr. Kiehl recognized that the gospel and the truths of scripture are not advanced with aggressive tactics and bald politics. By being winsome, gentle, and caring we bear witness to the good news which is at the heart of what Dr. Kiehl taught and we, his students, learned and, God willing, will imitate.

By Rev. Dr. Mark Schuler, Professor of Religion & Theology, Concordia University-St. Paul. 

Dr. Kiehl died on June 13, 2012, aged 91 years. An obituary was published on June 20 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

8 Comments »

  • Ben Dose says:

    When I attended Seminary in the late 90’s–early 00’s I don’t think Dr. Kiehl ever missed chapel, ever. He was faithful and winsome always. Thank God for the life of this man and what he was able to use him for in the formation of pastors.

    Blessings,

    Ben

  • Andrew Bartelt says:

    Teacher, churchman, scholar, pastor, and educator, with a care for his students and for all. “His overheads were legendary,” indeed! He bequeathed folders of them to this (then) young faculty colleague. Imagine what he would have done with the electronic technologies of today!

  • Dale Kleimola says:

    My years of preparation for public ministry took place between 1972 and 1979. For those familiar with that era, you can no doubt remember the crisis found not only in society, but the church as well — especially the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

    I had a hard time trusting people in positions of authority because of not only the visible conflict in the church and world, but also internal conflict from a variety of sources.

    In 1979, one of the requirements to receive a Diploma of Vocation (and the privilege to receive a divine call, was the dreaded “Theological Interview.” Keeping in mind what I wrote previously, I was quite overwhelmed by the idea of being interviewed by members of the faculty.

    I don’t recall who was on my panel except Dr. Kiehl. To my great relief, I successfully completed the interview. However, what has remained in my mind over these past 33 years was a brief encounter with Dr. Kiehl. I was in or near the library when Dr. Kiehl walked over to me, shook my hand and said something to the effect, “I thoroughly enjoyed your interview. You were candid and spoke well. I have to tell you that was the best Theological Interview I have participated in. I wish they were all like yours.” I found someone I could trust. He will be missed.

  • Dr. Kiehl’s wife used to do sewing, mending, etc. for incompetent seminarians like myself – for free, as I recall. And when she returned it to me, via Dr. Kiehl, she would always include some homemade goodies (cookies, brownies, etc.). And Dr. Kiehl always added a smile and a friendly word. What sweet couple!

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