Ollenburger to retire after 31 years of service

Published: December 20, 2018

By Marlys Weaver-Stoesz for AMBS

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — After nearly four decades of teaching the Old Testament to college and seminary students, Ben C. Ollenburger, Ph.D., will retire from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) on Dec. 31, 2018.

Ollenburger has taught Old Testament and biblical theology for 31 years at AMBS, also serving as director of Master of Arts programs since 1997. He was previously an assistant professor and instructor of Old Testament at Princeton (N.J.) Theological Seminary (1980–87) and an instructor of religious studies and philosophy at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas (1975–77).

Along with his biblical and theological expertise, Ollenburger’s leadership and teaching have been shaped by his skillful and poignant storytelling. At an Oct. 27 birthday/retirement party for Ollenburger at the seminary, AMBS President Sara Wenger Shenk, Ed.D., praised his way with words.

“His stories are fit to slay you,” she said. “He draws you in … in rapt attention, and astonishment at how it is precisely our human foibles that reveal the love of God.” She observed that Ollenburger is “a master at judicious choice of words” and that his “benevolent kindness and unfailing wit remind us that there is a God, and God is love.”

AMBS Vice President and Academic Dean Beverly Lapp, Ed.D., also noted the power of Ollenburger’s stories.

“Generations of students and colleagues have been inspired and had their faith strengthened by Ben as an accomplished scholar teacher and as a delightful storyteller,” she said. “We are deeply grateful for his service and legacy.”

Ollenburger has authored multiple books, including Zion, the City of the Great King: A Theological Symbol of the Jerusalem Cult (Sheffield Academic, 1987) and Old Testament Theology: Flowering and Future (Eisenbrauns, 2004). (The latter was included in 101 Books on Biblical Theology, an annotated bibliography released by Zondervan Bibles in 2018 and created in conjunction with their new NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible.) He has contributed to several academic journals and served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Theological Interpretation (2012–present) and Biblical Interpretation (1992–2011) and on the editorial council of Theology Today (1984–2003).

Safwat Marzouk, Ph.D., associate professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at AMBS, praised Ollenburger’s work for consistently bringing biblical texts’ “vibrant theological message to the life of the church.”

“His research, publications and teaching in the areas of Old Testament theology, biblical interpretation and creation theology have prepared his students to courageously lead the church in its witness to God’s reconciling mission in the world,” he said.

Ollenburger earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from California State University, Long Beach, in 1973, then earning his master’s degree in Old Testament from Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California, in 1975. He received his doctorate in Old Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1982. He attends Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart.

This January and February, Ollenburger will teach the online short course Biblical Foundations for Creation Care through the AMBS Church Leadership Center. He is also looking forward to the release of a book in March edited by two of his former students, Ryan D. Harker (M.Div. 2015) and Heather L. Bunce (M.A.: Theological Studies 2012), titled The Earth is the Lord’s: Essays on Creation and the Bible in Honor of Ben C. Ollenburger (Penn State University, 2019). The volume contains essays by current and former faculty colleagues, professional colleagues and former students.


Ben C. Ollenburger, Ph.D., AMBS professor of biblical theology, is retiring Dec. 31, 2018. (Credit: Peter Ringenberg)

Ben C. Ollenburger, Ph.D., AMBS professor of biblical theology, and his wife, Janice Ollenburger, at Ben’s retirement/birthday celebration on Oct. 27 at AMBS. Ben is retiring Dec. 31, 2018. (Credit: Perdian Tumanan)

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