Remembering Larry Hurtado, Leading Researcher of Early Christian Worship
The Edinburgh New Testament professor modeled faithful scholarship with his work on historic devotion to Jesus.
I went to Larry Hurtado’s office at the University of Edinburgh immediately after I defended my doctoral dissertation. There he was—a scholarly giant, a celebrity in our world—chatting with my husband and nervously bouncing my baby boy on his knee. That’s how Larry was. Hospitable. Approachable. And committed to service, with both his life and his scholarship.
Larry died of cancer on Monday at the age of 75. He was a remarkable New Testament scholar, and he was my mentor, PhD supervisor, and friend.
Larry’s impact on biblical scholarship was far-reaching. He started his academic career at Regent College, in Vancouver, British Columbia, before moving to the University of Winnipeg. He was appointed Professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology at the University of Edinburgh in 1996 and established the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins there, focusing on the first three centuries of Christianity.
His most groundbreaking work was done on early Christian worship of Jesus. His focus was not only on what Christians believed about Jesus, but on what their actions indicated about their views of Jesus’ divine status. He looked at prayers to Jesus and the use of Jesus’ name to understand how the early church’s worship of Jesus was compatible with Jewish worship of one God.
As fellow colleagues have noted in tribute, Larry “showed the way for many of us as to how a good critical scholar could at the same time be committed to the orthodox Christian faith” and “was a rare breed of scholar who commanded …