Thursday, August 08, 2013

Death of Seán Freyne

I was very sorry to hear earlier in the week of the death of Professor Seán Freyne (Larry Hurtado, Jim West, Jim Davila, Michael Bird).  The Irish Times has its obituary here:

Eminent theologian Seán Freyne dies
One of Ireland’s best-loved and most respected theologians, Seán Freyne, has died in Dublin. Director of the Centre for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies, Dublin, he was professor of theology (emeritus) in the school of religions and theology at Trinity College.
His academic interests included a study of Galilee in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, the historical Jesus, the gospels, and aspects of early Jewish and early Christian history. He published several books, most recently Jesus a Jewish Galilean: A New Reading of the Jesus Story . . . .
Freyne was a fine scholar who made a major contribution to the study of the historical Jesus, and especially Jesus' Galilean context.

He was also a kind, witty and delightful human being.  In a world where many academics think that pomposity is a virtue, Freyne was simply a pleasure to be with.  He let his erudition emerge in the process of engaging in an open and lively way with his audience, not in instruction or dogmatism.  I heard him lecture several times and it was always a pleasure.

I met him for the first time in August 1996, at the SNTS in Strasbourg.  As a young scholar at my first international conference, I often felt lonely and ill at ease, but Seán was one of the handful of senior scholars present who was kind and friendly.  I was on the same corridor as him in a rather steggy hall of residence, but he invited me to participate at his late night whisky gathering on condition that I brought my own glass.  All I could find was the lid of my deodorant bottle and I don't think whisky has ever tasted so bad, but it did not matter given that he made me feel welcome.

To get a feel for his scholarship and his lively, engaging personality, I recommend this interview done by BAR a couple of years ago:

BAR interviews Sean Freyne: Jesus of History vs Jesus of Tradition

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