Menachem Mendel

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Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006)

Courtesy of Cliopatria, I just saw that one of the greatest historians of religion in our age, Jaroslav Pelikan, has passed away. Pelikan was the author of dozens of books and articles which influenced many students of religion, one of his last being Whose Bible Is It? : A Short History of the Scriptures (one can read an article about the book here). Pelikan criticized the “amnesia…of Christians about their Jewish heritage,” and also mentioned that he and Abraham Joshua Heschel were planning on writing a book together about “the unrecognized intellectual exchange that has taken place in both directions between Judaism and Christianity as two children of Abraham, as well as between both of them and the Greek and Latin traditions, as well as between both of them and Islam as the third child of Abraham which only historical analysis can uncover,” with Heschel’s death in 1972 preventing it from coming to fruition. One can also read his short article “Jesus as Rabbi”. You can also see here for the question as to why the death of this eminent historian has gone unnoticed by many major newspapers.

2 Responses to “Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006)”

  1. 1

    I too have wondered at the sparse and belated obituaries. Clearly the “minority report from the past” that Pelikan championed throughout his life has few subscribers in the trenches of today’s journalism. Today’s Washington Post shoved this eminent scholar’s obituary, 2 days late, in a corner below a big splash for some deceased nightclub performer/acrobat. That tells you all you need to know about the intellectual caliber there.

    This man was a big deal right here in Washington, from the Kluge Prize to the Library of Congress to the Jefferson Lectures to Clinton’s committee. Yet in death he gets the back of the hand.

    ‘Church history’ has a musty smell to the current generation. The Washington Post abhors skewing ‘old’, even if its readership does so skew.

    Pelikan’s commitment to dialogue with Judaism was real. I am Jewish and had the privilege to be a student of his during the 1970s. We compared medieval Jewish and Christian exegeses of the Exodus narratives, Rashi and Nicolaus of Lyra. He also wrote me letters partly in Hebrew, which I have kept.

    He was a gem, a wonderful human being and a peerless scholar, and there will be no replacing him. Yehi zichrono livracha.

  2. 2
    Jesus the Rabbi « Menachem Mendel:

    […] Jaroslav Pelikan (also see this post), ‘‘To the Christian disciples of the first century the conception of Jesus as a rabbi was […]




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