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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Religious Studies

Donald L. Jones


Dr. Don Jones, professor of New Testament Studies in the Department of Religious Studies for over 45 years, passed away on Christmas eve 2012. Born in Xenia, Ohio, he graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with an A.B. in English and the Methodist  Theological School in Ohio with a M.Div. in New Testament.

In 1966, he received his Ph.D. in New Testament from Duke University and joined  the department in 1967 to teach Biblical courses using historical-critical methods of inquiry.   Dr. Jones worked mainly in the areas of Luke-Acts, New Testament Christology, and the Roman Imperial Cult (Emperor Worship) and its relationship to the spread of early Christianity. At the time of his passing, he had two major projects underway: one on Luke as the first Christian historian-theologian; the other on Christianity and the Imperial Cult in Roman Ephesus. A future work is planned on Christianity and the Roman Empire.

Donald Jones’s historical-critical approach to a variety of Biblical courses attracted such large numbers of students that Carl D. Evans was hired in 1974 to teach courses in Old Testament, making it possible for Jones to concentrate on the New Testament. Jones continued to attract eager students, both graduate and undergraduate, to his classes right up until the last years of his life.

He served as chair of the department from 1980 to 1989.  He also served the department at different times as graduate director, interim chair, Associate Chair, Tenure and Promotion Chair, Faculty Senator, and much else, including a term on the University Committee on Tenure and Promotion, which he chaired 1979-1980.  He retired from the department in 2008 but continued to teach courses through USC’s Continuing Education Evening School and to keep a close relationship with the department of Religious Studies.

He initiated the Nadine Beacham and Charlton F. Hall Sr. Visiting Lectureship in New Testament and Early Christianity along with the generous benefactor of the lectureship, Charlton Hall Jr. Dr. Jones was chair of the lectureship from its inception in 1995 bringing outstanding scholars in the field to speak on the University campus each spring. Seeking out the speakers with both established and promising careers, he built the lecture series into a nationally recognized venue for distinguished scholarship.

Dr. Jones served on the Classical Studies Committee, as adjunct faculty member in the Classics Program, and on numerous University and College committees during his tenure. He was co-founder of the South Carolina Academy of Religion and served as its President.

His areas of scholarship included Luke-Acts Christianity and the Roman Empire, New Testament Christology, The Historic Jesus, Johannine literature and Pauline theology.

A  longtime member of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church, Don became well known and well loved as he taught adult Sunday School classes at many Columbia area churches over the years. He served on the Board of Directors of the United Way Family Service Center, the Board of Directors of the Columbia Kiwanis Club, and the Richland County Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem Project, among a number of other community service activities.