Robert Harry Smith, 73, a biblical scholar who was dean of a Lutheran seminary in exile in the early 1980s, died of complications from leukemia March 16 at his home in El Cerrito, Calif.
Smith was one of 40 faculty members from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's Concordia Seminary in St. Louis who walked out in 1974 in a theological dispute that ended with the ousting of Concordia's president, the Rev. John Tietjen.
Tietjen, who disagreed with a literal reading of the Bible, led the seminary in exile formed by Smith and the other dissenting faculty members.
Formally called Christ Seminary-Seminex, it operated in classrooms provided by Jesuit-run St. Louis University and Eden Theological Seminary. Smith served as Seminex's dean from 1981 until 1983, when the school merged with the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
In 1983, Smith joined the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, one of nine independent theological schools in Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union. He taught classes on the New Testament and Greek, and wrote a textbook, "Read Greek by Friday," published in 2004.
Known for his engaging style, he was popular among students, particularly for the Greek dinners he often held at his home.
Born in 1932 in Holyoke, Mass., Smith earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at Concordia Seminary.