Stendahl received his doctorate in New Testament studies from Uppsala University with his dissertation The school of St. Matthew and its use of the Old Testament (1954). He was later Professor at the Divinity School at Harvard University, where he also served as dean, before being elected Bishop of Stockholm in 1984. Stendahl was the second director of the Center for Religious Pluralism at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. After retiring in 1989, he returned to the United States, and was Mellon Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the Harvard Divinity School. He also taught at Brandeis University. Bishop Stendahl is an honorary fellow of the Graduate Theological Foundation.
Stendahl is perhaps most famous for his publication of the article "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West." This article, along with the later publication of the book Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, conveys a new idea in Pauline studies suggesting that scholarship dating all the way back to Augustine may miss the context and thesis of Paul. His main point revolves around the early tension in Christianity between Jewish Christians and Gentile converts. He specifically argues that later interpreters of Paul have assumed a hyper-active conscience when they have begun exegesis of his works. As a result, they have suggested an overly psychological interpretation of the apostle Paul, that Paul himself would most likely not have understood at all for himself.
Stendahl is credited with creating Stendahl's three rules of religious understanding, which he presented in a 1985 press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in response to vocal opposition to the building of a temple there by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His rules are as follows:
(1) When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.
(2) Don't compare your best to their worst.
(3) Leave room for "holy envy." (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)
- Stendahl, Krister. The school of St. Matthew, and its use of the Old Testament. Uppsala: C. W. K. Gleerup, Lund, 1954; 2nd ed. 1968.
- Stendahl, Krister. Scrolls and the New Testament. NY: Harper, 1967; SCM Press, 1958. Reprint ISBN 0-8371-7171-7
- Stendahl, Krister. The Bible and the Role of Women. Fortress Press, 1966.
- Runyon, Theodore and Krister Stendahl. What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches: Essays. Hawthorn Books, 1975. ISBN 0-8015-8546-5
- Stendahl, Krister. Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays. Augsburg Fortress, 1977. ISBN 0-8006-1224-8
- Stendahl, Krister. Meanings: The Bible As Document and As Guide. Fortress Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8006-1752-5
- Stendahl, Krister. Holy Week Preaching. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8006-1851-3
- Stendahl, Krister. Final Account: Paul's Letter to the Romans. Augsburg Fortress, 1995. ISBN 0-8006-2922-1
- Stendahl, Krister. Energy for Life: Reflections on a Theme: "Come Holy Spirit, Renew the Whole Creation". Paraclete Press, 1999. ISBN 2-8254-0986-3 ISBN 1-55725-233-5
- Nickelsburg, George and George Macrae, eds. Christians Among Jews and Gentiles: Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl on His 65th Birthday. Fortress Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8006-1943-9
- Horsley, Richard A., ed. Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation. Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl.Trinity Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56338-323-3
- ^ Krister Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.
- Obituary from Harvard Divinity School, including picture
- Profile of Stendahl on Shalom Hartman Institute website, including lengthy statement about him by Rabbi Prof. David Hartman
- "Why I Love the Bible. Beyond distinctions of intellect and spirit, an ever-transforming affair of the heart," by Krister Stendahl
- Writings of Krister Stendahl, from Harvard Divinity School Faculty Writings File
- Personal reflections about Bishop Stendahl and his ministry