Monday, May 15, 2006

More Pelikan

Two days after his death, the AP has gotten around to releasing an obit for Jaroslav Pelikan:
"For a man as talented and accomplished as he was, he was also exceptionally kind and genuinely humble," said his son, Michael. "The more he learned, the more amazed he was by how much he did not know."...

His works include the acclaimed five-volume text, "The Christian Tradition," which followed the story of Christianity from its origins to modern times.

Pelikan's "Whose Bible Is It?", published in 2005, explored how people of different faiths interpret the Bible. He said language and cultural differences led to varying interpretations of the Scripture.

His conclusion, he said in an interview with National Public Radio last year, was that, "Christians and Jews need each other in an effort to understand the sacred text they share."

Though renowned as an expert theologian, Pelikan preferred studying history and rarely waded into modern religious debates.

"There ought to be somebody who speaks to the other 19 centuries," he said in a 1983 interview with the Christian Science Monitor. "Not everybody should be caught in this moment. I'm filing a minority report on behalf of the past."

And Christianity Today re-runs a 1990 piece on the legendary academe:

The office of Jaroslav Pelikan holds few clues to explain what has made him what he is: perhaps the foremost living student of church history. In his old, high-ceilinged office, an open semicircular arrangement of chairs suggests friendliness and availability to students. On the wall is a painting of a pelican, and around the edges of the room are an old briefcase, cardboard boxes, and piles of books laid in convenient stacks. But telltale signs of hobbies or outside interests (like an old clarinet or a tennis racket in the corner) are absent. Two computers—one a laptop on his desk—are the only obvious concessions to modernity.

It is just as hard to tell much about the Sterling Professor of History at Yale University from the way he looks. He wears standard-issue academic garb: a gray flannel jacket with a charcoal suede vest, and rubber-and-leather boots from L. L. Bean. He is congenial, and as he talks he makes occasional eye contact with his interviewers, but just as often peers at the ceiling and the book shelves around him as he swivels and rocks back and forth in his desk chair.

None of these things provide the key to Jaroslav Pelikan, for he is nothing more nor less than what he is advertised to be—a scholar and teacher of church history. Many think he is the best there is. He has chronicled the history of Christian doctrine (in a recently completed five-volume work) on a scale no one has attempted in the twentieth century. To understand what you see, you have to keep in mind Pelikan's singular commitment to his vocation.

Even when Pelikan talks about his early life, the stories and anecdotes all relate to his preparation for the tasks of a scholar....

A vigil service for Dr Pelikan will be held tomorrow night, followed by a Wednesday morning funeral divine liturgy. Both will take place at St Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary outside New York, where Pelikan was a trustee in his later years.