The Rev. John Stek considered Bible translation a never-ending work, once noting, "Even the most durable words take on different nuances as culture changes."
Stek attended diligently to those nuances, serving for nearly 45 years on the translation committee for the New International Version – the most popular modern English-language Bible.
Stek died June 6 following a lengthy illness. He was 84.
His work on the NIV and a related study Bible was widely respected, said the Rev. James De Jong, retired president of Calvin Theological Seminary.
"John was an acknowledged leader among evangelical Bible translators," De Jong said. "He stood head and shoulders above just about everyone else in that crowd."
Stek also was an "unusually careful and precise theologian" as a professor of Old Testament at Calvin Seminary, where he taught for 30 years, said De Jong, a former student.
Whether teaching or translating, the Rev. Stek always was focused on worship, said his daughter, Ruth Paauwe. "Everything that he did was ultimately dedicated to the furtherance of God's church and God's people," Paauwe said.
An Iowa native, Stek pastored a Minnesota church before teaching at Calvin. In 1965, he was appointed to a translation committee charged with producing a contemporary language Bible. The NIV New Testament was published in 1973, and the complete Bible in 1978.
Stek later chaired the committee that in 2002 produced Today's New International Version – which was criticized by some conservatives for gender-inclusive language – and edited a best-selling study version of the NIV.
"He just knew things inside and out, and was able to translate those into real solid learning for the man on the street," said Mike Vander Klipp, associate publisher on the Bible team for Zondervan, the NIV's publisher. "It changed people's lives."