Funk, an academic, sought to promote research and education on what he called biblical literacy. His approach to hermeneutics was historical-critical, with a strongly skeptical view of orthodox Christian belief, particularly concerning the historicity of Jesus.
Funk had bachelor's of divinity and master's degrees from Butler University and its affiliated Christian Theological Seminary in 1950 and 1951, a PhD in 1953 from Vanderbilt University and was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Senior Fulbright Scholar.
He taught at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, was chairman of the graduate department of religion at Vanderbilt University and executive secretary of the Society of Biblical Literature. He was founder and first executive director of Scholars Press (1974-1980).
Dr. Funk is survived by his wife, Char Matejovsky, and two daughters.