I was saddened to hear the news of Larry Hurtado’s leukemia reactivating after having been in remission for 9 months. I pray his strength in the Lord as he explores whatever options for care that he has, but I wanted to take a moment to note my appreciation for him and his work.
It’s no secret that I’m a lover of books and that I have a decent sized personal library. But there was a time when my library consisted of a single KJV Bible, an NIV Bible, and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. This was what I had for the first 3.5–4 years of my salvation. And then in 2006 I purchased Brenton’s Septuagint, a New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, Robert Letham’s The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship, and Simon Gathercole’s The Preexistent Son.
Letham and Gathercole were both springboards into various streams of scholarship in trinitarian theology and early Christology. I had been studying these doctrines in Scripture, researching them on the internet, and debating them with detractors in chatrooms but I hadn’t really been exposed to academic books on these subjects. And then on July 21, 2006 I printed out an article from a website called For an Answer by L. W. Hurtado. This article was entitled “What Do We Mean by ‘First-Century Jewish Monotheism’?.”
I gleaned a lot from this article while having no idea who its author was. And then in my reading of Letham and Gathercole I saw the name Larry Hurtado referenced several times throughout their books. I looked at their bibliographies and then took to Amazon. I purchased Larry W. Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity and gave it a careful and slow reading. This book would change the way I thought about, argued in favor of, and defended early Christology.
I proceeded to spend years getting my hands on all of the Hurtado resources that I could find. I have a folder on several hard drives (in the even that any one of them crashes) filled with articles that he has written and most of the books that he has authored (save a few of his more recent volumes) and have read them all with great profit.
On three separate occasions I have emailed Professor Hurtado and three times he graciously responded. The first time was a question concerning a claim about Matthew 28:19 not being original. At the time he was preparing for a 3 week lecture trip to Australia and Singapore and passed my question along to Paul Foster who replied promptly. The second time was a note of appreciation, which I will reproduce along with his response below. The final time was to run a few of my disagreements with James McGrath’s The Only True God by him and see if they held weight (he thought that they did). But I’ve said all this to say that even being as big a name in the field as he was, he always took the time to offer a response to a nobody like me.
And while I don’t find Hurtado’s arguments as substantial now as I once did I still have the greatest appreciation for his work and the paths it led me down. My library grew by leaps and bounds from reading his footnotes and bibliographies. My thinking about the importance of actual real life worship practices wouldn’t be what it is without him. I’d take a lot more issue with his work these days than I did in those days but I’d still argue that it’s necessary reading and has to be dealt with by anyone talking about early Christology and Christian origins.
I will be praying for him and his family as he deals with his health issues and I invite you to join me in doing so.
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Below is my email in appreciation of Prof. Hurtado and his response. I’ll note that he responded to me on July 4, which is my birthday.
July 3, 2009, 1:59 PM
Hi Prof. Hurtado,
My name is Nick Norelli and I’ve emailed you a couple of times in the past to ask questions and you’ve always graciously responded; for that I am thankful. I was writing now, not to ask any questions, but rather to express my appreciation for your work.
Having come to Christ in mid-2002 in a small Pentecostal church in New Jersey I wasn’t immediately exposed to works of scholarship. I was of the ilk who thought that the best that Christianity had to offer could be found on the Trinity Broadcastng Network with the likes of Benny Hinn and T. D. Jakes. It wasn’t until I really got interested in learning more about the doctrine of the Trinity that I was exposed to what I’d consider ‘real’ scholarship. I noticed your works One God, One Lord and Lord Jesus Christ cited in the footnotes and bibliographies to the books I had been reading so I dutifully got a copy of LJC. It was life changing in terms of the way I argued for a divine Christology and understood the New Testament. It’s also the book that got me interested in Biblical studies as much as I was interested in theology. And I also credit LJC with giving me an appreciation for historical inquiry into Christian origins.
Since then I’ve tried to get my hands on everything that you’ve written (articles and books) and I can’t tell you how encouraged I’ve been by your work. I consider you the top scholar in the field, and I do so after having read the work of many of your peers. I just wanted to write this note to let you know how appreciative I am for all that you’ve done for me without even knowing it. May God continue to bless you and your work.
All the best,
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July 4, 2009, 7:41 AM
Dear Mr. Norelli,
I’m very grateful for your taking the effort to send me your encouraging words. It is very heartening for a scholar to be read at all, and for me especially so by readers beyond one’s circle of fellow academics. It is even more encouraging that my works communicate clearly and effectively to you and others.
So, thank you again for your encouragement. It is really appreciated.