Clifton Black Retires After 25 Years at Princeton Theological Seminary - Princeton Theological Seminary
Professor Clifton Black

Black photo courtesy of James D. Ernest

After twenty-five years of dedicated service, Dr. Clifton Black is retiring from his position as Princeton Theological Seminary’s Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology, leaving behind a legacy of wisdom, humor, scholarship, and profound impact on the lives of students and colleagues alike.

An ordained elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, Black holds an MA in theology from the University of Bristol, an MDiv from Emory University, and a PhD from Duke University. As a professor at Princeton Seminary, Black offered a broad array of courses introducing the New Testament, Mark’s Gospel, the parables of Jesus, biblical theology and the practice of ministry, as well as doctoral-level seminars and specialized courses on the biblical and Shakespearean visions, faith and film, prayer in the New Testament, and more. Reflecting on his humble beginnings in Thomasville, North Carolina, Black marveled at the unexpected trajectory that led him to Princeton, remarking, “Nobody from Thomasville ended up living a block away from Einstein’s home. How did this happen? It beats me.”

While his research interests concentrate on the New Testament’s Gospels, particularly Mark, he is published in many fields, from New Testament rhetoric to the history of biblical interpretation. He is the author, editor, or collaborating author of 20 books, and has published more than 200 essays, articles, and reviews. In 2022, he was elected president of the American Theological Society. His next book, Biblical Theology: Essays Exegetical, Cultural, and Homiletical, will be published this fall.

Throughout his tenure at Princeton Seminary, Black remained deeply committed to his role as an educator, supervising two master’s theses, two DMin projects, and eight doctoral dissertations. “Over time, I developed a kind of pedagogy that never goes out of style—it just looks ridiculous year after year,” he quipped. “What’s important is that I’ve been privileged to walk beside thousands of young people, occasionally standing at their crossroads. They’ve entrusted to me pieces of their lives, as though I were their pastor, their uncle, their grandfather. The conclusion of many of our conversations was that, yes, life is a mess, but we wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”

Though Black’s journey into retirement will see him bidding farewell to campus life, the Seminary community will remember his commitment to scholarship, passion for teaching, and unwavering humor. “My happiest memories involve students,” he says, “teaching and learning, guiding and being led, listening and chatting, singing and dancing, goofing around in an oh-so-serious place.”