Dietmar was born to Isaak and Frieda Neufeld in Filadelfia, Paraguay, and moved to Canada at the age of eight. After studying at the University of Winnipeg, and the Mennonite Seminary, he received his Ph.D. at McGill University in 1991. Diet spent most of his academic career at UBC, attaining the rank of Full Professor.
Although Dietmar’s scholarly range was extensive, his particular area of expertise was Social-Scientific Criticism of Christian Scriptures. This is where he established a world-wide reputation. Not only was he the scholar selected to compile the major entry on “The Social Sciences and the New Testament” for Oxford Bibliographies on Line, he also spearheaded two widely successful volumes on Social Scientific Approaches: The Social Sciences and the Translation of the Bible (2008) and, with Richard DeMaris, Understanding the Social World of the New Testament (2010). The Spanish translation of the latter appeared in 2014. To these must be added over twenty articles and book chapters and, most recently, his seminal book on mockery in the New Testament, Mockery and Secretism in the Social World of the Gospel of Mark (2014). In addition, he was the author of Reconceiving Texts as Speech Acts: An Analysis of I John (1994), the jointly authored And So They Went Out. The Lives of Adam and Eve as Cultural Transformative Story (2010), and the jointly edited Not Sparing the Child, a tribute to his colleague Paul Mosca (2015).
Dietmar’s success as an educator was no less impressive. He was a natural instructor who excelled in engaging and intriguing his classes. He did his utmost to meet his students where they lived and to challenge them to think ever more deeply about the modern world by means of their encounters with the ancient world. His success was attested by several richly deserved awards for teaching excellence, including the Alma Mater’s Just Desserts Award, and the highly esteemed UBC Killam Teaching Prize.
Latterly in his career Diet also served as an administrator. After several terms as the Associate Head the Head of CNERS, he became department Head in 2012. His insightful, warm, and collaborative leadership style was much admired, and it came as no surprise that he was urged to return for a second session. Diet also served as an administrator nationally; he was the President of the Canadian Society for Biblical Studies when he passed away, having also served as Treasurer for many years.
Besides being an exemplary scholar, educator, and administrator, Diet was an unforgettable person, famed for his friendliness, his sense of humor, and his compassion for others. His contagious warmth, enthusiasm, and joie de vivre inspirited everyone he met, so that not only did he exert a profound impact on generations of students, he also continually inspired his colleagues to aim for excellence in all they did. In short, he imparted light and life to everyone he met: his family, his friends, his students, his acquaintances—we are all a little bit diminished by his loss.
Those interested can make donations to a Memorial Fund established to continue Diet’s remarkable legacy by supporting the study of Christian Scriptures at UBC.