Lockman Foundation president Robert Lambeth dies
Robert “Bob” Lambeth, president for 38 years of the Lockman Foundation and donor for each of the Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries, died suddenly on Tuesday, July 11. He was 81.
The Lockman Foundation is a nonprofit, interdenominational ministry dedicated to the translation, publication and distribution of the New American Standard Bible (NASB), Amplified Bible, and other biblical resources. Lambeth served as the foundation’s president from 1979 until his death, having been connected with the ministry since the 1950s through his relationship with founders Dewey and Minna Lockman.
“We mourn this giant’s passing,” says Research Professor of Systematic Theology Malcolm Yarnell, who worked with Lambeth as part of the translation team for the updated version of the Amplified Bible. “The work that Bob Lambeth led on the New American Standard Bible, as well as the Amplified Bible, was and remains very important. While the NASB established the standard for more literal yet readable English translations in the past, it will also become the standard for future orthodox translations.”
Born on March 16, 1936, Lambeth became a Christian at the age of 11. He attended the University of Southern California on a football scholarship, and he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. After graduation, Lambeth became a Certified Public Accountant. He used his management skills to further the work of Lockman Bible Ministries while he was also developing his own CPA and business management firm in Anaheim. Elected to Lockman’s Board of Directors in 1975, he became the foundation’s third president four years later.
Under Lambeth's leadership, guidance and supervision, the Lockman Foundation continued to promote the vision of Dewey Lockman: to translate, publish and distribute the Bible throughout the world. The NASB is now available in such languages as Mandarin Chinese, mainland Chinese, Hindi and Korean.
“Bob never wavered on the truth and never allowed the NASB to be caught up with faddish peculiarities,” Yarnell says. “His wife, Phoebe, was an integral part of his ministry, has spent countless hours in tedious editing work at her husband's side, and is one of the most precious human beings who has ever blessed us. We mourn with Phoebe and her sons, and we trust that Phoebe and [their son] Pike will continue to shepherd the NASB revision and the Amplified Bible, in both of which I am greatly privileged to participate. We rejoice in the translation ministry of Bob Lambeth.”
Dean of Southwestern’s School of Preaching David Allen, who also worked on the Amplified Bible, says, “I know of no man who loved the Word of God, who longed to see it faithfully translated, and who labored to bring the NASB to bless the church more than Bob Lambeth. But I think I can hear Bob saying, as he echoes the words of Martin Luther, another Bible translator, ‘I did nothing; the Word did it all.’”
The Lockman Foundation began giving a leather-bound NASB to each graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1992 while Paige Patterson—the current president of Southwestern— was president there. The following semester, the foundation began presenting the Bibles to graduates of each of the six Southern Baptist seminaries. This tradition has continued now for more than 20 years.
When Patterson came to Southwestern, Lambeth developed a special interest in the ministry of the seminary and its graduates. This led him and his wife to create the Phoebe Nan Wiley Lambeth Women’s Auxiliary Scholarship and contribute funds to, among other things, Bibelseminar Bonn in Germany, the Horner Homemaking House, Dressed for Service ministry, the School of Preaching, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible exhibition, and the construction of MacGorman Chapel.
Located in the chapel is the Lockman Foundation Lobby, which includes a collection of Bibles, a picture of the original Lockman home and working copies of the translation of Hebrews, as well as other hand-written translation notes. During the lobby’s dedication, Lambeth said of Southwestern, “We were impressed to see the emphasis on the fulfillment of the Great Commission as expressed in Matthew 28:19-20 and the impact of Southwestern’s worldwide outreach. Southwestern graduates are changing hearts and lives around the world.”
For their ministry partnership, the Lambeths received the B.H. Carroll Award in 2011. “These are people who are very special to the work of the Lord in general,” said Southwestern President Paige Patterson, “but then, specifically, they have become very special to those of us who labor in this ministry here at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
“We’re both honored and humbled,” Lambeth said upon receiving the award. “From our point of view, to see all the activity, ministry, and outreach and lives that are touched, it’s a wonderful blessing to see Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary develop the way it has and to continue in this ministry, and we hope that we can be a small part of that.”
Lambeth is survived by his wife, Phoebe; their two sons, Pike and Todd; two daughters-in-law; and five grandchildren. The memorial service will be held at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, Calif., on Saturday, July 29, at 3:00 p.m.