Daniel J. Harrington

For the Medal of Honor recipient see Daniel C. Harrington

Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. (July 19, 1940  February 7, 2014), was Professor of New Testament[1] and Chair of the Biblical Studies Department at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology).

A member of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Harrington served as editor of New Testament Abstracts from 1972 until his death. He also edited the eighteen-volume Sacra Pagina series of New Testament commentaries for Liturgical Press and wrote "The Word" column for America magazine for three years.[2] He was a teacher as well as a theologian and his areas of study included the interpretation of the Bible in antiquity and today, Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, biblical theology, biblical languages, the Synoptic Gospel, Pauline theology, and the book of Revelation. [2] He was a pastoral associate at St. Agnes in Arlington, Massachusetts, and at St. Peter’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. America magazine called him "one of the world's leading New Testament scholars".[1]

Harrington died of cancer in the New England Jesuit Infirmary in Weston, Massachusetts.[1]

Pauline Theology

Among his many writings, Harrington wrote and taught on the Apostle Paul. He has written two books including: Paul and Virtue Ethics and Meeting St. Paul Today. Meeting St. Paul Today was written during the Pauline Year proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. Harrington’s hope was to write a short book on Paul that might help introduce him and his writings to the general public. [3]This book is not intended to be a heavy historical or theological analysis of Paul, but rather serves to introduce the readers to Paul. Fr. Harrington is a very accessible writer and opens the door to show how Paul’s practical and pastoral advice to the early Christian community is applicable and useful to us today. He teaches ways to understand Paul, how to interpret his letters, and how to take away practical implications after reading the book.

Fr. Harrington uncovers who Paul was and what we can learn from him today. He discusses Paul as a pastoral theologian and one who collaborated with others to succeed in his ministry. [4] Harrington considers how Scripture can impact contemporary readers, particularly the letters of Paul. He discusses the authorship of Paul and ascribes to the traditional account that there are six letters that are disputed (meaning many scholars believe that Paul did not write them) and there are seven that are undisputed. He argues 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are the six disputed letters while 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Romans are the seven undisputed letters. While he does note that it is important to recognize that there are six letters that were most likely not written by Paul, he argues they should not be disregarded because “of course, both groups of letters are part of Sacred Scripture for Christians.” [5] Harrington discusses each letter in detail providing insights into how Paul is applicable to contemporary lives. He presents some helpful tools through literary, historical, and theological approaches and discusses the differences in translations and how it can be helpful to examine multiple translations to understand more fully the complexity of translations and the differences in meaning.

Harrington also discusses the importance of the “actualization” of the Pauline letters. He says this term “describes the process of reading ancient texts in new circumstances and applying them to the current situation of the people of God.” [6] He describes that this was an ancient practice that many Jewish communities participated in. He discusses the importance of the prayer practice, lectio divina, when reading Paul. Actualization and lectio divina can foster the growth of the Pauline texts and can allow God to work through the texts and bring out contemporary insights in ways that historical criticism or literary criticism cannot. Harrington argues that there are many specific elements that we can learn from Paul and use to assist us as Christians today. He says, “We can learn to recognize the prominence of women in Paul’s mission and ministry, and the high value that Paul placed on collaborative ministry.” [7]


Harrington wrote more than 40 books, including:


  1. 1 2 3 Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, R.I.P.. America. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  2. 1 2 "Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.". Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  3. Harrington, Daniel J. Meeting St. Paul Today: Understanding the Man, his Mission, and his Message. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008. p. vii.
  4. Harrington, Daniel J. Meeting St. Paul Today. p. 1.
  5. Harrington, Daniel J. Meeting St. Paul Today. p. 25.
  6. Harrington, Daniel J. Meeting St. Paul Today. p. 136.
  7. Harrington, Daniel J. Meeting St. Paul Today. p. 144.

External links

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