The Very Rev. Msgr. Patrick William Skehan, 70, professor-emeritus of scripture and ancient Near Eastern languages at Catholic University and an authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls, died of cardiac arrest Tuesday at Providence Hospital.
Msgr. Skehan first went to Catholic University in 1933 as a student. He earned the degree of doctor of sacred theology in 1938, became a faculty member, and remained at the university for the rest of his life. He was made professor-emeritus at his retirement last spring.
At the time of his death, Msgr. Skehan was working on the books of Isaiah, Psalms and Exodus in connection with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The first scrolls were found in cave near the Dead Sea in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd. They predate other biblical texts by several hundred years.
The Scrolls have had an important impact on the study of biblical texts.
Msgr. Skehan was an expert on the Aramaic and ancient Hebrew languages, in which the Scrolls are written. From 1954 to 1956, he was at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, first as a visiting professor and then as director. He spent much of his time there studying the Scrolls.
Msgr. Skehan also was vice chairman of the editorial board of the "New American Bible," which was published in 1970 by the Catholic Bishops of America. From 1965 to 1971, he was a consultor of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the official church group that advises the pope on matters relating to the Bible. In 1969 and 1970, he was a visiting professor at the Pontifical Bible Institute in Rome. He was a charter member of the Catholic Bible Association.
From 1947 to 1956, Msgr. Skehan spent several periods as a visiting professor at the Oriental Seminar at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
At the time of his death, he was collaborating on a new translation of the Book of Sirach from the Bible.
Msgr. Skehan was born in New York City. He earned a bachelor's degree from Fordham University there in 1929 and then went to St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. He was ordained a diocesan priest in 1933 before beginning his career at Catholic.
He received the Bene Merente Medal from Pope Paul VI for his work at Catholic.
Msgr. Skehan's survivors include a sister, Margaret Skehan, of New York City.