Morreu o biblista Larry Hurtado (1943-2019)

Larry Hurtado, notável estudioso do Novo Testamento, professor emérito da Universidade de Edimburgo, Reino Unido, morreu de câncer no dia 25 de novembro de 2019.

Em seu blog, ele diz de si mesmo:

I’m a scholar of the New Testament and Christian origins, with posts in higher education since 1975. In August 2011, I retired from my post as Professor of New Larry Hurtado (1943-2019)Testament Language, Literature & Theology (University of Edinburgh) in which I served from 1996. Prior to that, I was in the Department of Religion, University of Manitoba (Winnipeg). My own research over the decades has focused mainly on the origins and development of “devotion to Jesus” in earliest Christianity, and also on textual criticism and the study of earliest Christian manuscripts as informative artefacts of ancient Christianity. In retirement, I reside in Edinburgh, and continue to pursue my research interests in the area of New Testament & Christian Origins.

No dia 25 de agosto de 2019 reproduzi neste blog um texto dele sobre As origens da devoção a Jesus.

Começo assim: Larry W. Hurtado escreve, em 23 de agosto de 2019, em seu blog, sobre as origens da devoção a Jesus nos primórdios do cristianismo. Um tema no qual ele é especialista.

A seguir algumas homenagens de pessoas que conviveram com ele.


A Tribute to Larry Hurtado: Scholar, Doktorvater, and Friend – Michael J. Kruger: Canon Fodder – November 26, 2019

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 (continua)


Remembering Larry Hurtado, Leading Researcher of Early Christian Worship – Holly J. Carey: Christianity Today – November 27, 2019

(…) Larry died of cancer on Monday at the age of 75. He was a remarkable New Testament scholar, and he was my mentor, PhD supervisor, and friend.

Larry’s impact on biblical scholarship was far-reaching. He started his academic career at Regent College, in Vancouver, British Columbia, before moving to the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg. He was appointed Professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology at the University of Edinburgh in 1996 and established the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins there, focusing on the first three centuries of Christianity.

Larry wrote landmark studies of the Gospel of Mark, and on how ancient Christians manuscripts matter for understanding the New Testament and the early church.

His most groundbreaking work was done on early Christian worship of Jesus. His focus was not only on what Christians believed about Jesus, but on what their actions indicated about their views of Jesus’ divine status. He looked at prayers to Jesus and the use of Jesus’ name to understand how the early church’s worship of Jesus was compatible with Jewish worship of one God (continua)


Professor Larry Hurtado (1943-2019) – Helen Bond: The University of Edinburgh – 28 Nov, 2019

Founder of the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins

Larry arrived in Edinburgh in the summer of 1996 to take up the post of Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology. From the first, he impressed staff and students alike with his enthusiasm for the subject and his natural gift for communication. He had an insatiable curiosity and a flair for historical reconstruction that captured the imaginations of those who took his courses. Students would repeat some of his anecdotes and hypothetical discussions of what Paul and Timothy might have said to one another over breakfast – fascinated by the new worlds he was opening up, but slightly worried by his irreverence.

One of the most striking things about Larry was his humility. Despite his glittering academic career, he never forgot his humble roots in Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a BA in Biblical Studies (with highest honours) in 1965 from Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. From there he enrolled in Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and earned a M.A. in New Testament (cum laude) in 1967. He continued his studies at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio), receiving his Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis in New Testament and Christian Origins in 1973. He taught at Regent College, Vancouver, and the Department of Religion at the University of Manitoba, before crossing the Atlantic to take up his position at Edinburgh. Here he served as Head of Department, Postgraduate Director and Dean, besides founding the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins in 1997. At a more national level, his services to the discipline were honoured by a term as President of the British New Testament Society.

Larry belonged to a bygone era of scholars who could turn their hands to almost anything. His first love was text criticism, which he studied under the supervision of Eldon J Epp. He went on to publish a short yet highly insightful commentary on Mark’s Gospel, a book on monotheism, and another on early Christian worship. His ‘magnum opus,’ however, was Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (2003), a distillation of decades of research and discussion with friends and critics of an early, high Christology (ie. the idea that Jesus was worshipped as a God from very early on). Despite its length, the book was listed number two in the Academy of Parish Clergy Top Ten Books of 2004 and among the ‘Books every preacher should read in 2004’ in Preaching. A more popular and condensed version was published under the classically ‘Larry-esque’ title How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? (2005). In 2006 he was invited by the Smithsonian to assist in coordinating an effort to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Freer collection, biblical manuscripts of the New Testament and Greek Old Testament dating from the third to fifth centuries CE. His interest in early manuscripts as the earliest Christian artefacts resulted in a further book, and most recently he set himself to explain Christianity’s growth in the ancient world, with yet another eye-catching title, Destroyer of the gods (2016).


Larry was a man of strong personal faith, and this sustained him through his final illness. Those of us who knew him are privileged to have shared in something of his zest for life and learning. We’ll raise a glass of malt whisky in memory of his friendship, knowing that he’ll be sorely missed.

Professor Larry W. Hurtado, 29 December 1943 – 25 November 2019.


Early High Christology and the Legacy of Larry Hurtado (1943–2019) – Greg Lanier: TGC – December 2, 2019

His first blog post—before academic blogging was a thing—featured 18 humble words: “As time permits, I hope to offer some worthwhile comments on early Christianity and perhaps other subjects too” (July 5, 2010). As of today, his blog has more than 2 million pageviews. His name is Larry Hurtado, and on November 26 he went to be with the Lord.

He’s one of the most influential New Testament scholars you’ve probably never heard of.

Hurtado wrote mainly for an academic audience, expressing his views on early Christianity through monographs, articles, and scholarly conferences. (Only in 2018 did he write his first truly popular-level book, Honoring the Son.) I remember the frustration I felt when, long after masters-level studies, I was just discovering his writings. I wondered, Why hadn’t anyone mentioned this guy before? While it’s unfortunate that Hurtado wasn’t more widely accessible to lay audiences, his ideas have still made their way from the academy to the pew through hundreds—if not thousands—of students, scholars, professors, and pastors deeply influenced by his work.

Profound Influence

Despite being born and educated in the Midwest, Hurtado’s academic career began in Canada (1975–1996, Regent College and University of Manitoba) and ended in Scotland (1996–2011, University of Edinburgh). He helped make New College at Edinburgh a powerhouse of biblical studies. He published around a dozen books (as author or editor) and was particularly prolific in shorter, technical writings. Upon his retirement he was named emeritus professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology.

In October 2018, Hurtado announced he’d been diagnosed with AML, a form of leukemia. Initially the treatments seemed effective, but this past summer it returned aggressively. I was one of likely several people whom Hurtado informed that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill some writing-project commitment—for he only had weeks, at most months, to live. Though he remained engaged in writing incisive pieces on his blog as late as a week ago, the University of Edinburgh announced that he died in his sleep on November 26, at the age of 75.

Others who knew Hurtado personally, such as Mike Kruger and Tommy Wasserman, have reflected on their warm relationship with him. I only knew him professionally, and in a limited way. But like many others who knew him from afar, he profoundly influenced me. I wish to reflect on his legacy from that perspective as a way to summarize his effect on scholarship as well as on scholars—both of which will linger for decades to come.

Effect on Scholarship

It’s nearly impossible to summarize more than 45 years of scholarly work for someone as prolific as Hurtado. But there seem to have been three main themes in his work, each of which substantially advanced New Testament (NT) scholarship.

1. Textual criticism and manuscripts

Many familiar with Hurtado are surprised to learn he made contributions to biblical textual criticism ever since completing his PhD in 1973. His main work can be summarized along two lines. In terms of understanding the NT’s wording, Hurtado pushed to re-evaluate long-held positions (e.g., the “Caesarean” text type) and to engage more deeply the textual data. Hurtado was also a pioneer in studying manuscripts as artifacts through which, as a kind of window, we can peer into the early church. He developed important theories about nomina sacra (an abbreviation system for certain words such as “Jesus,” “God,” or “Lord”) and how the early Christian preference for the codex (versus the scroll) may have been shaped by the early church’s worship practices and beliefs. Due to Hurtado’s labors, the case for the integrity of the process by which the NT was copied and passed on has been strengthened.

2. The Gospels and Paul

While not typically considered an exegete or biblical commentator, Hurtado did write one well-received commentary on Mark and has, ever since, been a major voice in Markan studies. His work on the “Son of Man” has been particularly important. But he’s probably made an even larger difference on the study of Paul’s epistles. Though he never, so far as I am aware, picked a side in the New Perspective vs. Old Perspective debates—he was not one to think in terms of “sides” anyhow—Hurtado was nevertheless pivotal in one area. Coming out of an era in which many Pauline scholars saw the apostle as an innovator who, more or less, cloaked pagan concepts in Christian garb, Hurtado pushed strongly in the other direction. Paul, he argued, was less of an innovator and more of a proclaimer of the Hebrew Scriptures, now reoriented around Christ. Hurtado, then, was often viewed as a founding member of a new kind of “history-of-religions” (religionsgeschichte) school of thought, which argues we can only really make sense of Paul (and the Gospels) if we understand his Jewish background and formative influences. This reorientation—which of course isn’t fully attributable to Hurtado, though he was a key voice—has had a comprehensive effect on NT scholarship in recent decades.

3. Early Christology

Hurtado is most famous for his work on “early high Christology.” In an age when many NT scholars believe the idea of Jesus’s divinity evolved rather late in the game, Hurtado was trenchant—for decades!—in his view that it emerged quite early. But he took a different tack on the question: rather than going around in circles about the concepts of early Christians, he focused on their behaviors. Did the early church, and even the apostles, worship Jesus as fully God? Hurtado’s mountain of scholarship on this subject yields one main conclusion: yes, they did. For him, this Christ-shaped pattern of religious devotion not only pushed Christianity beyond Judaism—in his words, it was a kind of “binitarian” mutation of monotheism—but it also shook up a pagan world growing bored with the Caesar cult and pantheon of antiquity. For Hurtado, worship of Jesus is the key sign that what Nicene language later expresses has roots stretching back to the beginning. In the NT guild, this was—and still is—groundbreaking.

Influence on Scholars

A common refrain one hears about Hurtado is that he was respected by NT scholars across the board, even those who disagreed with him. But I want to reflect on his legacy from a slightly different angle. Nearly every NT scholar I know in their 30s or early 40s would, if asked, list Hurtado as one of their top five influences, even if they didn’t know him personally. Why? I can think of four reasons.

1. He’s a godfather of this generation’s work on Christology and textual criticism.

If you follow academic publishers, you’ve likely noticed the seemingly unending stream of dissertations defending—or critiquing—the early roots of divine Christology. And each will invariably interact with the same two scholars: Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado (continua)