I have just learned of the passing of Prof. Francis T. Gignac, S. J., longtime chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America. During my time at CUA, I had the privilege of studying under Frank and witnessing firsthand his encyclopedic knowledge of ancient texts (especially Greek and Coptic), text-critical problems in NT manuscripts, and the history of the transmission of the NT.
Frank received his D.Phil. from Oxford University in Greek philology in 1964. His doctoral dissertation was published as A Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods, Vol. 1: Phonology (Istituto editoriale cisalpino-La goliardica, 1976). The second volume of a projected three volume grammar appeared in 1981. Frank always talked about completing the third volume, but by 2002 when I first met him, most people assumed it would never get finished. Sadly, they were correct. Many beginning Greek students (and all first year Greek students at CUA) were introduced to the language using Frank’s introductory grammar. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that during his career, Frank was among the most knowledgeable scholars of Hellenistic Greek teaching anywhere in the world. During his lengthy career he held teaching positions at Loyola University in Chicago, Fordham University, and the Catholic University of America. In 2008, Frank was honored with a Festschrift entitled, Studies in the Greek Bible: Essays in Honor of Francis T. Gignac (Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 44). You can see his CV here.
Frank was a a natural athlete; during his time in England he was on the Oxford rowing team and was always an avid runner. Even in his 70s Frank would run 20 to 30 miles at a time for various events and campus fundraisers. He was an incredibly warm individual and as such, was the perfect “face of the program” with which most students would make first contact at CUA. My last memory of talking to Frank was last year, when I realized he had retired and moved from Washington to live with his confreres due to health reasons. We had a brief email exchange. Prior to that, the last time I spoke to him was after asking him to contribute to the Frank Matera Festschrift back in 2010. In typical “Frank” fashion, he was flattered by the invitation, but since he always considered himself primary a philologist and rejected the idea that he was an exegete, he preferred to write a personal reflection rather than an essay. I always appreciated his scholarly humility. Even at the end of my dissertation defense he actually thanked me for citing one of his articles in a footnote and listing it as an authoritative resource on the subject I was discussing. He impacted so many students and colleagues over the years in such positive ways and his leadership of the department of biblical studies at CUA can only be described as “pastoral.” His loss will be deeply felt by many.