Gunnar af Hällström was born in Turku, Finland in May 1950. He is a Finnish professor of Theology and the firstborn son of judge Harald af Hällström and singer Eva Summanen.
After spending his first five years on the eastern riverside of the Aurajoki river in Turku, the family moved to Helsinki, where Gunnar spent his youth and attended a Swedish school. On May 1969 he graduated High School and later in the summer he enrolled in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki. His first academic dispute took place during the first semester over a passage in Genesis 3 at a introductory course on Hebrew language.
Two years and a few months later he got the Master of Theology degree (called Candidate of Theology in those days), at the University of Helsinki, in 1971. His main field was systematic theology, New Testament exegesis being the minor subject. The Master’s thesis dealt with the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner’s eschatology. Among the fellow systematic theologians there was also Ms. Marjatta, born Markkanen, his future wife and companion.
Soon after their marriage in 1971, Gunnar was sent training to become a military pastor at Dragsvik garrison, Ekenas. A short training for the church ministry followed in 1972 and ordination to the ministry in June 1972, after a few months wait in order to get the required age of 22. Bishop John Vikström accepted his request to go on with doctoral studies. In July, his oldest son Benedict af Hällström was born (4th of July).
1974-1975 followed studies at the university of Manchester under professor Richard P. Hanson. The scholarship was granted by the World Council of Christian Churches. A special permission from WCCC was required to get his wife and child to England.
The Licentiate in Theology was granted in 1977. The dissertation dealt with aspects of the theology of Origen of Alexandria. At first, the supervising professor warned that Origin was a heretic, but did not turn the choice of topic down. One year later (April 16th) a second son, Dominic, was born to the family, which was now living in Espoo.
The oral defence of the doctoral dissertation took place in April, 1984 at the University of Helsinki. The faculty opponent was the philologist in Greek language, professor Heikki Koskenniemi.
Within the next few years (1984, 1985) he got the less lucrative positions of “docent”, i.e. senior lecturer, in patristics at the University of Helsinki and Åbo Akademi University, as well as senior lecturer of early Christian literature at the University of Turku.