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Dr. Benjamin Merkle established as M.O. Owens, Jr. Chair of New Testament Studies

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BY LAUREN PRATT   10/27/2021

On October 26, 2021, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) faculty, staff, and students celebrated the installation of Dr. Benjamin L. Merkle to the M.O. Owens, Jr. Chair of New Testament Studies.


Endowed chairs are a special opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate faculty contributions to academic scholarship. These endowments also honor the lives after whom the chair is named in their service and ministry to the Church. Generous donors of SEBTS make it possible to create endowed chairs that secure faculty funding and lower tuition costs for students as they seek to train for Great Commission work. Previously, Dr. David Alan Black, Senior Professor of New Testament and Greek at SEBTS, held this title until his retirement earlier this spring. Merkle follows in his footsteps in carrying on the great legacy that Owens has left with Southern Baptists, and more specifically, with SEBTS.  

“M.O. Owens, Jr. was a godly and faithful pastor who never wavered on the authority and inerrancy of God’s Word,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. “David Alan Black honored well Dr. Owens as the initial occupant of the New Testament chair that bears Owens’ name. Now Ben Merkle will hold this distinguished chair and is the perfect person to carry on and honor Owens’ legacy. I am so grateful that faithfulness to the Holy Scriptures characterizes the lives of all three of these wonderful men.” 

Benjamin Merkle received his PhD with a focus in New Testament Studies from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). Merkle currently serves as Professor of New Testament and Greek at SEBTS, where he has taught since 2008. He is the author or editor of more than 30 books, including “40 Questions about Elders and Deacons”, “Why Elders?”, and more. Merkle is also the Editor of the Southeastern Theological Review and the “40 Questions” series. He and his family served as International Mission Board missionaries for seven years in Southeast Asia prior to teaching at SEBTS. He is married to Marian, and they have four children. 

M.O. Owens, Jr. served in Southern Baptist ministry for over 70 years. He wrote or co-wrote commentaries, including, “Encouraging the Saints” and “The Word Made Flesh.” He also served as the published editor for The Watchman, a regular publication for Christian leaders. Owens attended Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, where he sensed God’s call to pastoral ministry. He later enrolled at SBTS in 1936, and after graduation in 1939, Owens became pastor of First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach. He went on to serve at churches in Florida and Georgia. In September 1960, Owens moved his family to Gastonia, where he became pastor of East Baptist Church. In 1963 a new mission of East Baptist was established, which grew into Parkwood Baptist Church. Owens became pastor of Parkwood in March of 1964, and he served in that capacity until December 1980. During that time, he founded Gastonia Christian Schools, and even in his retirement, Owens served as an interim pastor at over 15 churches. On May 21, 2019, at 105 years old, Owens went home to be with the Lord yet has left a legacy for of faithful, Great Commission service for Southern Baptist to follow.  

Owen’s daughters, Mary Lancaster and Linda Owens Russ were in attendance for the chair installation service. After chapel, a lunch was held for Merkle and his family in which Drs. Akin and Jonathan Six, Director of Financial and Alumni Development, gave their reflections and remarks on the significance of the endowed chair of Dr. Owens.   


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