Fr. Thomas Tobin
Fr. Thomas Tobin
Tom had a deep love for the intellectual life and for passing on the tradition to the next generation of scholars, students, and believers.
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Fr. Thomas Tobin

August 31, 2020 — Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of  Fr. Thomas H. Tobin, SJ, who died on August 30, 2020 at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Hospital Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. He was 74 years old. May he rest in peace.  

Tom was born on November 6, 1945, in Chicago. Before entering, he graduated from Quigley Seminary South in Chicago and studied for two years at Niles College Seminary. Tom entered the Society of Jesus on August 12, 1964 at Milford, Ohio. He was ordained on June 7, 1973, and he professed final vows on November 1, 1992, at Madonna della Strada Chapel on the campus of Loyola University Chicago.

Tom earned a BLitt in classical languages and English literature from Xavier University (1967); an master's degree in theology from Loyola University Chicago (1973); and a PhD in New Testament and Christian origins from Harvard University (1980). He also studied rabbinic literature for a year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1976-77).

During regency, Tom taught theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati (1969-1970). After earning his PhD, Tom spent forty years teaching Theology (including New Testament and Early Christianity) at Loyola University Chicago. In Spring 2020, Tom retired from Loyola University to devote more of his time to research and writing.

Tom, a true scholar and writer, was a gift to the intellectual apostolate of the Society of Jesus. Tom's facility with languages—he knew nine languages—greatly helped his research and scholarship. He was a specialist of Philo of Alexandria, the intertestamental period, St. Paul, and New Testament studies. He was the author of four books: The Creation of Man: Philo and the History of Interpretation; Timaios of Locri, On the Nature of the World and the Soul; The Spirituality of Paul; and Paul's Rhetoric in Its Contexts: The Argument of Romans. He also edited Of Scribes and Scrolls: Essays in Honor of the Sixtieth Birthday of John Strugnell and wrote a number of scholarly articles. His areas of interest were the letters of Paul, Hellenistic Judaism, Hellenistic philosophy, and Gnosticism. Before his death he was writing a two-volume commentary on Philo's treatises Legum Allegoriae 1-3.

Tom was a wonderful Jesuit, a man of great integrity. He was a serious scholar and a dedicated professor and colleague. Tom was a man of prayer, a devoted priest, and an outstanding homilist. He had a deep love for the intellectual life and for passing on the tradition to the next generation of scholars, students, and believers. Tom considered helping a freshman learn how to properly write a paper equally as important as helping a doctoral student finish a dissertation.

Although Tom preferred to stay at home or write in his office, he kept in touch with—and kept up-to-date with the accomplishments of—former students and colleagues no matter where in the world they lived. He greatly enjoyed good, lively conversation— ranging from serious intellectual discussions about church, politics (especially local, Chicago politics), culture, or the life of the university to the friendly banter and repartee of academic gatherings, Jesuit living rooms and community dining rooms. He was brilliant— you didn't want to contradict him if you didn't have your facts right—but he also was a kind and humble man. With his keen intellect, his penchant for observation, and his ability to turn a phrase, he provided excellent advice to superiors and provincials.

Tom was a man of deep faith and great love for the church and the Society of Jesus. He always trusted that God would lead him in the correct direction. When celebrating his 50th Jubilee of entrance, Tom expressed God's care this way: "Through all of them [i.e. changes] I have felt God's guidance, although I must admit I didn't always, or even often, recognize it at the time. But in the end I've ended up somehow near where I ought to be—in God's good pleasure." Although Tom is in "God's good pleasure" now, he will be greatly missed by his friends.


Thursday, September 3, 2020
4:00 p.m.
Madonna della Strada Chapel
Loyola University Chicago
6453 N Kenmore Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660


Thursday, September 3, 2020
5:00 p.m.
Madonna della Strada Chapel

Note: The Mass will be live streamed.

In Memoriam
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August 31, 20207:22 PM
Very sad to learn of the passing of Tom. He was a great scholar and a very gracious gentleman. His priestly, Jesuit, and scholarly vocations were in total harmony. – Brendan Byrne, SJ (ASL)

September 01, 20208:07 AM
It was my pleasure to have met Tom in Jerusalem, during his year of studies there in 1976. We had occasion to travel together on a tour of Galilee where we stayed at some religious house of hospitality. While trying to fix a toilet he (accidentally) stepped into the toilet, leading me to nickname him Tanglefoot. I agree that he was a great scholar, who actually did like fine scotch, but mechanically, he was a disaster. May God give my friend eternal rest. – Fr. Lawrence Hummer

September 03, 202011:41 AM
Tom Tobin and I lived together at John La Farge House when we were both pursuing Harvard doctorates in the seventies. He became not just a colleague but also a good friend. He listened carefully and commented on any issue with bulls-eye precision. He never said more than is, and never denied what was not: in short, he was a man of Truth, which was always conveyed with sharp wit and a saucy humor. He was an iconic Jesuit. More of the same, please. – Joseph Roccasalvo

September 03, 20202:59 PM
Fr Tobin. My southside buddy. We shared many conversations, events, academic occasions, but only a Chicago southsider would understand the connection in sharing our hometown stories. Rest In Heaven, Fr. Tobin. – MARIANNE WOLFE

September 03, 20206:29 PM
When I came to Loyola about ten years ago, Tom welcomed me with a bright smile. He told me several stories about Chicago, with an earnest face, claiming that I definitely needed to know how Chicago works (I didn't understand them at first, and I didn't know about Tom's passion for Chicago politics). And then he would laugh out loud. He was always there when I sought his advise, and he was a big part of the Loyola community, especially the Theology Department. Tom, we will miss you. Rest in Peace. – Hille Haker

September 03, 20209:13 PM
It's been over 30 years since I took 2 of Fr. Tobin's theology courses at Loyola, and I still remember his intelligence, kindness, and wit. I'm so sorry to hear of his passing, and thank God for his time here. – Mary McAuliffe

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