A Tribute to Larry Hurtado: Scholar, Doktorvater, and Friend

Michael J. Kruger

Posted on

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.

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.

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