I woke up today to the very sad news that my Doktorvater and friend, Larry Hurtado, had passed away after a long bout with cancer. So, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the impact he had on my life.
In the fall of 1999, I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to begin my Ph.D. work in New Testament and Early Christianity. My move was motivated in part by the great history of the divinity faculty at New College, but primarily by the desire to study with one particular scholar, Larry Hurtado.
Although I was already aware of Larry’s excellent scholarship (that’s why I came, after all), I came to learn how deep and wide his learning really went. Moving effortlessly from textual criticism, to early Christian worship, to Christology, Larry was more than an able guide as my doctoral advisor for the next several years.
We would meet regularly together to discuss my research (often at the Jolly Judge pub around the corner), and Larry introduced me to a whole new world of early Christian literature, especially New Testament manuscripts, scribal habits, the use of the nomina sacra, and the early Christian preference for the codex. He had a tremendous influence on my own thinking and scholarship.
On a personal level, Larry was incredibly generous and kind with his time. He was always happy to meet, eager to process complex academic issues, and was quite willing to push me to do better at every turn. He was all that a Ph.D. student could wish for in a Doktorvater.
But, we didn’t only discuss my work. We also discussed his. During my years in Edinburgh, he was busy writing Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Early Christianity (Eerdmans, 2005), which I still believe is one of his most significant academic achievements. We used to sit around for hours, kicking around ideas related to early “Jesus books” and beyond.
In the years since I graduated and left Edinburgh, Larry continued to be a faithful friend, mentor, and encouraging voice. We would see each other nearly every year at SBL. And I was pleased he could contribute to the volume I edited (with Chuck Hill), The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford, 2014). And I was honored to contribute to his Festschrift, edited by Chris Keith and Dieter Roth, Mark, Manuscripts, and Monotheism (T&T Clark, 2015).
It is an understatement to say Larry will be missed. Not only will he be missed by many personally, but he is a great loss for the guild of New Testament scholarship. He was a rare breed of scholar who commanded respect from all sides (whether they agreed or disagreed), was even-handed and fair with his historical analysis, and was even willing to push back against some more strident versions of critical scholarship.
Well done, my friend. Rest in peace.
Siegfried Wall says
Thank you for your tribute to Larry. He was a significant contributor to our city of Winnipeg during his tenure at the U. of Manitoba. I read his articles in the Winnipeg Free Press with interest. I’ve followed his blog as well in recent times. I continue to follow your own and found your link with Larry intriguing. Small world. Regards, Siegfried Wall
Raymond Collins says
RIP. I profited so much from his work and equally as much enjoyed it.
Tony Costa says
Thanks for this tribute Michael. I did not know Larry Hurtado was your Doktorvater but am happy to hear he was. I am indebted to Larry’s scholarship which was the catalyst for my own doctoral work. Larry also wrote an endorsement for my published doctoral dissertation for which I was extremely thankful. May he rest in peace and enjoy the presence of the Lord of glory.
James Leonard says
Thanks for taking the time and effort to honor Dr. Hurtado. He will continue to influence many of us for the decades to come.
Simon Barrow says
Thank you for these appropriate words. I knew Larry because we attended the same church, St James’s Episcopal, in Edinburgh. I greatly valued his scholarship in relation to my own professional theological interests, as well as his hugely generous spirit. I will miss Larry’s wisdom, his learning, his intellectual even-temperedness, his attention to necessary detail, and his commitment to a faithful but open and socially engaged form of Christianity. RIP-RIG, Larry.
David Bissett says
Gracious words for a great scholar and brother.
Thank you for the wonderful tribute to my wonderful uncle!
Diana Osborn says
Thank you all for your wonderful words . Larry is my brother, and is loved very much ! There is a great void in my heart now. He was the last member of my growing up family. As my Mother, Father and my other brother and now LARRY have passed. I know they are all together now. Thank you all again.
Bradley J Malkovsky says
It was only a few years ago that I discovered Larry Hurtado’s work on Jesus, and I have found it incredibly helpful for my own work at Notre Dame in comparative theology, i.e. on doctrinal comparisons of Christianity with Islam and Hinduism. I saw him give a response at the SBL a few years ago to a new book by Bart Ehrman and was so impressed by what he said that I looked him up. That’s when I discovered his wonderful blog, which has been so helpful for scholars like me who are not New Testament exegetes. I was shocked and saddened to learn of his passing away a few days ago. I felt like I knew him, although I had never met him. May he now fully enjoy the peace and glory of the Lord!
Professor Hurtado seemed to take a distinctive stance in Christology, if I understand him correctly.
To his view, on the one hand, the texts of the NT show that Jesus was not God incarnate, but God’s agent (he adamantly steered clear of orthodox Trinitarian language); on the other hand, the NT shows that Jesus was worshipped together with God, almost immediately after His death, because God exalted Jesus to divine status, communicated this status to the believers and commanded them to worship Jesus. I enjoyed reading Professor Hurtado’s engagement with Dr. Richard Bauckham on this issue, and asked him for clarification on his views. He graciously answered my pointed questions at his blog.
Are there scholars who are currently devoted to the study of early Christian worship, or has Professor Hurtado written the last word on the subject, given the data available so far?
Phillip S Marshall says
Wonderful tribute, Mike. We enjoyed having him here to speak at HBU several years ago. Always the Christian scholar and gentleman.