Remembering Sam Schnaiter: A Gifted Man, A Gift to BJU
On Thursday, March 17, 2022, Sam Schnaiter bowed down and then looked up into the face of the One who was the passion of his life. No doubt, he heard the words, “Well done!” from the Lord Jesus. Sam was 80 years old, but was instantly made new that day, all physical injuries and illnesses gone forever; not an unimportant fact for a man who knew what it was to suffer physically, sometimes severely in this life. Early as a young husband and father, he suffered a major car accident that left him in a body cast, with both arms and legs broken, for weeks. Those who knew this history were daily reminded of it by his limping gait which he carried throughout his life from that experience, while he walked at an energetic pace from place to place on campus.
A Man with Joy
Those of us who knew and served with Sam over many years can never think of a grimace that clouds the face of a man in pain when remembering him, though he was often in pain. A smile, a good-natured chuckle, and that invariable, irrepressible humor, often in the form of witty puns — that’s what comes to mind immediately when thinking of our friend Dr. Schnaiter. And as the eulogies of family members at his recent, well-attended memorial service bore out, that cheerfulness and good humor were true at home as well as at work. He had a happy disposition, a personality trait beautifully enhanced by the daily work of the Spirit in his life. All who knew him benefited from that.
A Man with a Disciplined and Productive Mind
Born on February 11, 1942, in Martinsville, Indiana, at the mid-point of World War II, Sam Schnaiter eventually found his way to Bob Jones University by way of South Florida — Coral Gables in Dade County. His intellectual strength showed itself early. He achieved the title of Chess State Tournament Champion at 17 in 1959 while a student at Dade High School.
During his post-high school education at BJU, he completed a BA in Humanities (’66), an MA in Bible (’68), and a PhD in New Testament Textual Criticism (’80). He began his 48-year ministry career at the University in 1971, teaching Bible and Greek every semester until his retirement in 2016.
Beginning in 1980, he served as the head of BJU’s ancient languages department, teaching Koine Greek on the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels, whether in grammar courses or instructing through books of the New Testament, paragraph by paragraph. He regularly produced articles for the School of Religion and Seminary theological journal, Biblical Viewpoint; chaired doctoral dissertation committees; wrote articles for other Christian periodicals; and authored a major work on the authority of Scripture titled Bible Preservation and the Providence of God (Xlibris Press, 2002). He was meticulous in his evaluation of the work of his students. I experienced this firsthand while he served as the chairman of my PhD dissertation committee, a labor of love by him for which I grew in appreciation as that same work eventually fell within the scope of my own responsibilities in the Seminary.
A Man Who Loved God
Sam was a godly man, manifested by his consistent obedience to God through His word, in both disposition and behavior. Others recognized these qualities in him. He served as an elder at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, South Carolina, for many years. For five years, he was the co-director of BJU’s Western Canada summer mission team. He also often witnessed to and counseled inmates at the Greenville County Detention Center, seeking to lead men to Christ who had been incarcerated for their crimes. Sam’s love for God led to service to others.
Most important, Sam’s love for God was lived out at home before his wife Marilyn, his sons Stephan, Jonathan, and Michael, and his daughter Lisa. His eldest son Stephan movingly bore testimony to Sam’s family godliness in his eulogy at Sam’s recent memorial service. Sam’s fervent and joyful testimony for Christ extended to his eight grandchildren. After one of them learned of his grandfather’s death, he said, “I want Jesus to come back so Granddaddy can come back with Him.”
We have all been made better by knowing and serving with Sam. In one sense, it is good that life is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Life’s brevity gives us all the sure hope that we will soon be with him in the presence of Christ, worshipping and serving together, again.
by Steve Hankins, former dean of BJU Seminary