SBTS alumnus and longtime prof, Tate, dies at age 87

Communications Staff — November 17, 2012

Marvin Embry Tate Jr., an alumnus and longtime professor of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Nov. 16, 2012 at age 87. He was a professor of Old Testament interpretation from 1960 until 1995, and then a senior professor until 2003.

Born May 2, 1925 in Hope, Ark., Tate grew up in Washington, Ark., where he attended Washington Elementary and High School. In 1944, he enrolled at Ouachita Baptist University, from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1947. Tate then attended Southern Seminary, earning a divinity degree in 1952 and a doctorate in 1958. An Old Testament scholar, Tate’s doctoral dissertation is A Study of the Wise Men of Israel in Relation to the Prophets.

While finishing his education, Tate served as the pastor of Goshen Baptist Church in Glen Dean, Ky., where he met and married Julia Moorman, one of 11 children in a Methodist family from Western Kentucky. Tate and his new wife then spent three years pastoring a church in Tulsa, Okla., while he finished his dissertation. After Tate graduated, the couple moved to Texas, where he taught at Wayland Baptist College. He joined the Southern Seminary faculty in 1960.

In 1965, Tate, who became known by students for his quick wit, signed the seminary’s most important founding document, the Abstract of Principles, the signing of which is historically significant in the life of Southern Seminary. In 1992, Tate took an endowed position as the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament — a chair he held until his retirement from full-time teaching in 1995. This chair, intended to preserve Old Testament scholarship at the seminary, is one of Southern Seminary’s oldest and highest honored endowed professorships, held first by John R. Sampey from 1938 to 1943 and currently by Duane Garrett.

Tate authored numerous books and articles, including two works in the Word Biblical Commentary series: Psalms 51-100 and Job. He and Southern colleague, Clyde T. Francisco, published a translation of Exodus, and he helped with Hebrew translation for the New International Version of the Bible. Tate was also editor of Review and Expositor, the seminary’s academic journal now called Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

Tate leaves behind his wife of 55 years and his five children, Sarah McCommon, Martha Kent, Betsey Tate, Andrew Tate and Virginia Phelps, and five grandchildren.

A memorial service honoring Tate will take place Tuesday, Nov. 20 at Buechel Park Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., at 11 a.m. A public burial will immediately follow the funeral at Cave Hill Cemetery.

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