Bethel Mourns the Loss of Biblical Scholar

Professor of Old Testament and Scholar-in-Residence Eugene Carpenter, Ph.D., passed away July 2, 2012, while fishing by himself in Michigan. He was 69 years old.

Visitation will take place on Friday, July 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Everest/Rohrer Auditorium on Bethel’s campus. The funeral service will be held on Saturday, July 7 at 11 a.m., also in the Everest/Rohrer Auditorium. Friends may visit one hour prior to the service.

“Gene was like the many giant oak trees that dot Bethel’s campus in that we never expect them to fall. But this one has, and the entire Bethel family will greatly miss the shade of his influence in our lives,” says President Steven R. Cramer, Ph.D.

Carpenter taught at Bethel for 26 years, during which time he served as chair of religion and philosophy and director of graduate studies. Most recently, he was scholar-in-residence and director of the master of ministries/master of arts in theological studies programs. He graduated from Bethel in 1970 with a B.A. in Biblical Literature and English Literature with a minor in Greek. He earned a Master of Divinity in 1973 from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries (AMBS) and a Ph.D. in Old Testament and Semitic Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1979.

In addition to teaching at Bethel, Carpenter served on the faculties of Wheaton College and Graduate School and Asbury Theological Seminary. He also taught at AMBS, Fuller Theological Seminary and Lexington Theological Seminary.

Carpenter’s scholarly writing includes some 21 published volumes (nine translations of biblical books and 12 other works); major contributions to two study Bibles (New Living Translation; The Wesley Study Bible); and numerous dictionary, encyclopedia and journal articles. Recent titles include a commentary on the Book of Daniel (Tyndale), a commentary on Deuteronomy (New Illustrated Bible Background Commentary Series: Zondervan) and a searchable electronic translation of the prophet Ezekiel for the Lexham English Bible Project.

Carpenter was involved in church ministry nearly all of his life in various ways, including positions as youth ministry director, assistant pastor and senior pastor. He did missions work in the Dominican Republic and regularly served as a guest teacher in Sunday schools across different denominations. He repeatedly led academic study trips to Jerusalem University College in Israel for undergraduate, graduate and adult students. His hobbies included woodworking, travel, hiking, fishing, reading, writing and weight training. His wife, Joyce D. Carpenter, served as an adjunct professor of ceramics and pottery at Bethel College for six years; she continues as an artist, working primarily with clay. She too is a graduate of Bethel College (B.A.) with a major in art.

19 Responses to Bethel Mourns the Loss of Biblical Scholar

  1. Pastor Barney Lewis says:

    I remember when I first had a class with Dr. Carpenter, I was blown away by not only his intellect but how well he made the bible come alive. I went home thinking I hate his class, but strangely I was so excited to get there each day. He really challenged my mind. I love him as much as a man can love a man and still be a man. I will miss his dearly…Still praying

  2. Linda Hartman says:

    Dr. Carpenter’s class on Interpretation of the Old Testament was the first class on my schedule for my masters in ministry in 2008. I dreaded that class, because I knew very little about the Old Testament and it’s relevance. Dr. Carpenter brought those books so much alive that it changed my life. At the conclusion of the class, Dr. Carpenter gathered all of us in a circle and prayed God’s blessings over the areas we were to minister in. I am honored to have sat under his ministry. His humbleness was indeed a blessing. My only regret is that I was not able to go on one of his Jerusalem trips.

  3. Jeff Aupperle says:

    Shocked and saddened by the loss of Dr. Carpenter. A few months ago I asked him to be a reference for me as I pursued graduate school, his response:

    “You have much to offer in ministry. Let me know how you progress. Great to see you moving on,” Dr. Carpenter

    Those words meant a lot to me then…they continue to encourage me today.

    I loved my Ceramics class with Joyce, and have great memories serving as a TA for Dr. Carpenter, dinner at their home, and running into him often in the weight room. Dr. Carpenter’s passion for the Old Testament and Hebrew language has left an indelible mark on my life and ministry.

    “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” Deuteronomy 6:4-5.

    Thank you Dr. Carpenter.

  4. As others have articulated, Dr. Carpenter impacted my life as well. Off and on for the past 32 years he has been someone I’ve looked to as a professor, wise counselor, and advocate. As a very young believer, one of my first classes at Bethel in 80/81 was with Dr. Carpenter and included some ladies that were from his Sunday School class. I was amazed at how he could challenge people from such a wide background and have carried that lesson forward in my own teaching. I know where he is today, but I am sad anyway.

    Randy Smith

  5. John Haas says:

    Gene was a great man. I spent many fond hours (but not enough!) fishing with him, and always loved talking with him: his knowledge, wisdom and humor were legendary. He was always sharing things he was learning, and he never lost his enthusiasm or good cheer. Theology, for him, was never dry or pedantic: It was a route to clarifying our thoughts about God, and sowas not only supremely important, it was an occasion for joy and wonder. He could be a wild man at the wheel of his truck, however, and now I will recall that fondly, too.

  6. Kevin Chupp says:

    Dr. Carpenter contagiously spread his fascination with Scripture. He introduced me to the Apostolic Fathers in English even though he was convinced that to truly understand them I would need to read them, as he did regularly, in their original languages. He inspired me to think critically about the challenges of my day and to embrace the way of peace. I was equally intimidated and encouraged by him. I am blessed to have known him.

  7. Hermalena Powell says:

    My fondest memory of class with Dr. Carpenter in the Masters of Ministries program was once during his teaching he began preaching and he said, “WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD, we’ve been grafted in.”
    That statement of Truth sunk in for me that day in very personal way. It has stuck with me, and that is for my good.

    Hermalena Powell

  8. Jody Healey says:

    I remember fondly my freshman year going to Greek class, fearing the late Dr. Carpenter… As freshmen we viewed him as the Darth Vadar of the biblical studies dept. But oh, how we were wrong… As my years at BC progressed so did my true understanding of Dr. Carpenter. I eventually learned what I perceived as harshness was only His passion and pursuit for God and His Word. I fondly remember those private Hebrew tutorals at his home, where he gently and patiently taught a bubbling student the Hebrew language. I laugh as I remember Dr. Carpenter and I tossing the shot-put in his backyard. He chose to invest in me personally and for that I am eternally grateful. He truly was a great man. Until we meet again my friend…

  9. Karen Redman says:

    Dr. Carpenter had a significant influence on my professional and spiritual journey. He diligently drove to Fort Wayne once a week to teach graduate classes to several of us at The Chapel. He never complained about the drive and always taught with wisdom and amazing intellectual vigor, challenging all of us to dig deeper!

    But what I remember most was his passion and desire to know and serve Yahweh! He helped us understand and fall in love with the Old Testament. I will forever be thankful to have had the opportunity to know and to learn from him.

  10. James W. Carlson says:

    Dr. Carpenter was quite simply my favorite professor of all time. I can hardly even begin to share the profound influence he had on my life. I began studying at Bethel College in the Fall of 1996, where I had Dr. Carpenter for Beginning Hebrew and OT Prophets. Because of him, I fell in love with the Hebrew language. I have studied Hebrew at two other schools since then, and hands down he was the best Hebrew professor I’ve ever had or even personally known. Other professors would compliment me on my Hebrew and I would tell them it was because I had such an excellent teacher in the first place. I know that Dr. Carpenter would say that his own proficiency (in part) was due to the excellent Hebrew professors he studied with at Fuller for his PhD (Lasor, Hubbard, & Bush – as a student Dr. Carpenter contributed to their standard OT Survey and he is mentioned in the preface of this work if you read it carefully, quite an accomplishment for a graduate student then), during what he often referred to me as the “hey-day” of their OT program. There is so much more that could be said of him. He was my mentor and a good friend. During the end of my studies at Bethel, I went through a brief crisis in my life, and Dr. Carpenter was there for me as a support. What a profound loss for the Bethel community! I love you, Dr. Carpenter, my professor, mentor, friend, and brother in Christ, and I look forward to seeing you in heaven someday where we can read the Hebrew Bible together again and parse verbs and decline nouns. Please know that you forever left an indelible mark on me and I will never forget you. All my love.

  11. It really is impossible for me to divulge the impact Dr. Carpenter had on me as a student at Bethel. He was willing to cross the student/professor divide and enjoy lunch speaking of normal, everyday life situations with us. He’d employ us to mow his yard when fishing or traveling was too heavy for him to do so himself. He made the Bible come alive and instilled in any willing student a deep appreciation for the lovely God who would give us such a gift. He drove a big truck and liked monster movies, and I don’t know if any of us knew how to handle that… If you wandered into his office you may find yourself there longer than you intended, but you’d leave better for it. It was breath stealing to hear of our losing him, and I can only hope that the unity and faith that he was enabling among the “People of God” (as he proposed to us endlessly that we are) would be grow as his students and friends share the learned message on and on. Dr. Carpenter remains an academic and spiritual hero to me, and though it will be impossible for Bethel to replace him, I trust in the God he loved and shared- that His redeeming plan will be realized, and the , haha, “meta-narrative” will always be of the highest good. I thank God for his life and the privilege to have witnessed it.

  12. Mark S. Gerig says:

    Gene was such a great person! And he was so passionate about fishing. Our loss and heaven’s gain. Michelle and I will keep Joyce and the Bethel community in our thoughts and prayers during this time of grief!

  13. David Cramer says:

    Can’t believe this news, which I received hours before taking my final language test of graduate school. Dr. Carpenter was my first college language professor, and I spent many hours in and outside of class studying Hebrew with him. Last year when he heard I had to take German and French for graduate school, he graciously gave me some study material for each language. I will cherish those gifts.

  14. Jim Hughes says:

    I first came to know Gene as a fellow student at Bethel in the late 60’s. We had several classes together and I remember the distinct difference between our academic prowness. He exceled in the classroom and in life. Gene was a good friend and I remember a project we took on together along with another fellow student to make extra spending money. We painted a house. I am not surprised by the profound impact Gene had on so many lives. He was truly a man who loved the Lord with all his heart, mind and soul. Although the Lord took us down different paths of life and we rarely crossed paths, I always have considered Gene my friend. The Lord chose to take Gene home, but his life and ministry will live on for generations to come. Men of God like Gene come along few and far between. Well done, my friend. Enter now into the kingdome of our Lord. We’ll meet again.

  15. Norm Fuller says:

    I was a student with Gene at Bethel and at the Mennonite Seminary. We both graduated from Bethel in 1970. I remember that Gene was the only one in our Greek class who could ask intelligent questions of our prof. He was a real student while most of us just attended class. We attended the Mennonite Seminary together. In our class on Luke the prof told Gene to get his final term paper published. It was that good. Gene could not fit the Hebrew class in to his schedule so he bought the books for the class and read them over Christmas break and tested out of the class. He had one of the sharpest minds I have ever known. Well done good and faithful servant. We will miss you here. You got to heaven before us.

  16. G. Kevin Duval says:

    The only class that I took in the Master of Ministries at The Chapel in Fort Wayne was Old Testament Survey that Dr. Carpenter taught. His insights and knowledge of the Old Testament reminded us that while there was a history to remember, there was still a relevant message to be lived today. His love for the Word of God and his students was evident and everyone who had the opportunity of learning from him received a great blessing!

  17. Justin says:

    I took Old Testament 1 with Carpenter as a Biblical Studies major. The guy was a biblical stega-thesaurus. We would ask Him, “Hey Dr. Carpenter, where does the Bible say ______.” He was right on the ball every time.

    Bethel was blessed to have such a God-driven and Bible-soaked man to train up a new generation of biblical scholars. He lived and died not only as a fisherman but a fisher of men.

  18. JR Rohrman says:

    Dr. Carpenter was my favorite teacher in graduate school. Not only because of his vast knowledge of God’s Word but because of his humility that he modeled. He was very approachable and always had a positive word to share. He died doing what he loved doing, fishing. I remembered many times when he and I would share fish stories. His eyes would sparkle and he would have that youthful grin. His passing is a shock. I will, like many others, miss him dearly.

  19. Marilyn Taylor Yoder says:

    As the daughter of Stanley and Dorothy Taylor, both deceased, I can imagine the heavenly conversation about Bethel College and the joys of serving there among those “oaks” of Bethel. Sympathies to Joyce.
    Marilyn Taylor Yoder class of “65

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