This is the 30th year of my friendship with Larry Hurtado, Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology at New College, the University of Edinburgh. Larry died at home from cancer this past Monday.
It was, indeed, in the spring of 1990 that Larry and I spent two long phone calls during which he persuaded me to leave my post at Northwestern College, Iowa—where fair spouse and I had just put a deposit down on our first house—and head 500 miles north to the University of Manitoba. That department would prompt many, many more long conversations between us over the ensuing eight years.
I agreed to come. Larry was a hard man to out-argue. And he and his spritely wife Shannon put us up in their basement while we transitioned. They then readily entertained us that summer and fall. I recall recordings of “Beyond the Fringe” figuring largely in more than one such occasion.
When the academic round resumed, we strapped on our armour, took up our shields and cudgels, and went to work together in the wacky world of a department that has prompted me more than once to write a roman à clef about its shenanigans, in the category of “you can’t make up stuff like this.”
We finally endured an annus horribilis in the mid-1990s, getting outvoted in three crucial department meetings that indicated a terrible decline in academic rigour, and we both started for the door. Larry was first, heading to Edinburgh, and I soon afterward left for Regent College.
But we had a pretty good time over those eight years nonetheless. Larry introduced me to the faculty club—in its last, financially fraught years—and to the campus Christian faculty fellowship. He offered me sage counsel in negotiating our very odd department and then stout comradeship during the preposterous, frustrating, and often hilarious departmental battles.
Indeed, Larry would frequently stop by my office for a quick word…that usually ended in us laughing (a sound not typical of our department). And sometimes the word wasn’t quick. I’ve never had a friend so enjoy telling stories that even when one made it entirely clear that one had heard the story before, perhaps several times, Larry would grin, twinkle, and press on regardless. And it was always fun to hear it again.
Larry set an excellent example of campus leadership, not least in founding and directing the Institute for the Humanities at the university, and of scholarly networking and accomplishment. I am sure he has been badly missed at the annual meetings of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, and he is now missed at the Society of Biblical Literature. Latterly, he wrote a weblog that was chock-full of interesting, reliable fact and interesting, provocative opinion in equal measure. And the books poured out of him once he got to his high post in Scotland—but I was there when they were gestating on Manitoba’s fertile plains!
Larry was a prince of a fellow, an exemplary scholar, and a fine big brother in the profession. I miss him, many do, and because I share his faith we look forward to our next reunion—likely over something delicious, in a room filled with laughter.