May 16, 2006

Jaroslav Pelikan, 1923-2006

Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale and perhaps the finest historian of Christian theology of the twentieth century, died over the weekend of lung cancer. You can read his obituary at the New York Times here (feel free to use member name "neotheolog" and password "neotheolog" to avoid registration). He was the author of some 40 books covering the gamut of Christian history, including two works that I have found indispensible in my study of historical theology--the five-volume series entitled The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine and Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of the Christian Tradition. In 2004, he was awarded the Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities and social sciences, considered by many to be the Nobel Prize for the humanities. The son of a Lutheran pastor and grandson of a Lutheran bishop, Dr. Pelikan converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in 1998. I'm saddened by his passing; I would love to have met him.

If you're not familiar with Dr. Pelikan or his writings, then I commend to you the profile written by Mark Noll in 1990 republished this week at Christianity Today, as well as Dr. Pelikan's own very fine essay, "The Predicament of the Christian Historian."

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