Remembering E. P. Sanders (1937-2022)

Sorry to hear of Ed’s death on Monday, Nov 21st at age 85, as thousands of us gathered in Denver at the SBL meeting. He was a fellow Texan, born in Grand Prairie–but went way beyond that heritage as many of us have done. He was a child of the Depression, whereas I was the next generation, as WW II ended. I only heard yesterday through Bart Erhman’s assistant Chris. I knew him fairly well over the years, hanging out a bit here and there, drinks together at annual meetings and late night talk about Paul in the 1980s. He was always most kind of me, a younger scholar trying to survive in this crazy academic business.

I first met him as a graduate student at Chicago when he interviewed, but did not get, Norman Perrin’s position there in New Testament–which Hans Dieter Betz did subsequently fill. But hey, his position at Duke was not a bad place to land, and for him, perhaps more influential than Chicago would have been. His seminal insights on what he called “Covenental Nomism,” I draw upon in the opening of my book, Paul’s Ascent to Paradise (2020)–and previously in my dissertation published as Things Unutterable (1986), now out of print. Interesting that he pointed to Morton Smith and Albert Schweitzer as his two great influences. I would name them also–but at that “other” great Smith–JZ–as one needs, within that Triumvirate, his broad perspectives on ancient Hellenistic religion/s and the broader Frazerian anthropological approach to the whole. Like Ed, I was trained early on as what I call “straight New Testament,” as if that is a thing. And it was at places like Abilene Christian College and Pepperdine. But Chicago cracked open my own cosmic egg and the light begin to come in…I will miss him.

If my readers are not familiar with his work I would recommend Jesus and Judaism and The Historical Figure of Jesus, for starters.

You can read more about him and his work here:

And this short lecture from 2009 gives a flavor of his work and approach–and there is lots more on Youtube:


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