Necrology 2007 (Updated)

The year 2007 seems to have hit the world of biblical and theological scholarship particularly hard. Here are the names of five six scholars who have died during this year, and to whom I owe a very great debt of gratitude on account of the innumerable benefits that I have derived from their work. For each, a link to an obituary or suitable memorial site is given.
Metzger was the Master Pedagogue that introduced generations of would-be New Testament scholars to the field, and put in their hands anything from two critical editions of the Greek New Testament to a handbook on the history of the Bible in translation to the standard English translation of the Bible for classroom use, and everything in between. Our debt to him is simply not quantifiable. Kline was a truly venerable teacher of the redemptive-historical hermeneutics and biblical theology usually associated with Westminster Seminary, and along with Vos, Ribberbos, Clowney and Gaffin he helped to shape my thinking in those subjects in more ways than I could possibly account for. I met Webber at a time when I had been awakened to the need of grounding worship and theology in the organic, living experience of the historical Christian Church; without his ancient-future program for liturgy and dogma, I’m not altogether certain that I would be Orthodox today. The sheer amazement at the idea (and the possibilities!) of reading the Bible as the Church’s Scripture that I discovered in Brevard Child’s commentaries on Exodus and Isaiah has not worn off after a number of years, and I’m hoping that it never will. To read Harold O. J. Brown’s work on orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity was to immerse myself in an unknown world, but one which I immediately knew I wished to inhabit from then onand which, indeed, I have never left since. And no amount of words will suffice to sing the accomplishments of the great C. F. D. Moule, or his influence. Moule’s Idiom Book of New Testament Greek revolutionized my conception of how Greek (and language, in general) functions, and I still keep it quite close at hand when reading my Greek Testament; and who can neglect his Origin of Christology, where he argues (with the full strength of his great intellectual powers) that a ‘high’ Christology is not merely an invention of the later Church, but rather is enshrined in the New Testament itself?

The scholarly world at large has also registered some notable loses, among them:

Of these, the only one without a suitable obituary is Manfred Kerkhoff, the facile princeps of philosophical kairology. He lacks one, of course, because he taught for 40 years at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, an institution that routinely snubs and humiliates the truly great scholars in their midst, while showering all manner of accolades upon hacks, cretins and other undeserving lowlifes.

Kerkhoff studied classical philology at Tübingen under Wolfgang Schadewaldt, whom he called “the Nestor of German classical philology.” At Schadewaldt’s suggestion he went on to Münich to continue his studies, where he “somewhat unexpectedly” changed his Hauptfach to philosophy. It is rumored (for the details of his biography are the stuff of legend) that at some point he had been a Roman Catholic seminarian; he is also said to have mentioned, shortly after the last Papal election, that he once was a student of Pope Benedict XVI (but it is unclear at what point this could have happened). He possessed a rare gift for languages, and gained mastery in 14 ancient and modern ones in all; by the end of his life, he lamented that his proficiency in Sanskrit had sunk to its lowest ebb due to a lack of opportunity to regularly make use of the language. A wonderfully methodical pedagogue, he prepared with the utmost care outlines and anthologies of philosophical texts for use in his classes in the history of philosophy, poring over each selection to fine tune even the least details of each translation. In class, he would masterfully trace the notion of καιρός (kairos) through each of these choice texts, for this was the organizing center of his philosophical reflection (or “his hobby,” as he often put it). Kerkhoff maintained a wide range of academic friendships around the world, and it seemed as though nearly every book in his immense library had an inscribed dedication from the author. Most notably, he was a friend of Jacques Derrida for many years, and received an early invitation from him to lecture at the Collège international de philosophie, which he did in 1986.

Like a true disciple, Kerkhoff had wanted to follow Schadewaldt’s example by offering as his academic swan song a graduate course on Pindar’s Odes. This pleasure, to which he was abundantly entitled, was denied him by his lessers in the Bureaucracy. Perhaps they feared that the blazing light of his impeccable scholarship would expose their own pathetic incompetence.

To have studied under him was an incomparable privilege, and I only regret that I’ll never have the chance to do so again. Requiesce in pace, magister illustrissime!


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