I learned this morning of J. Louis Martyn’s passing a few days ago.
His Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul contains a couple of seminal essays, as well as one on Flannery O’Connor that opened up a new world for me.
His Galatians commentary is a landmark work that defines a critical school of thought in approaching Paul’s letters. Heirs to the thought of Ernst Käsemann, the “apocalyptic” school of interpretation finds mature expression in this work, and the ways that all contemporary NT scholars think about the situation in Galatia has been deeply shaped by this work.
Perhaps the greatest legacy he leaves in the field, however, is not his books but the devotion of a generation of scholars. The deep commitment that his former students and colleagues have to him is a testimony to someone who was not only a brilliant scholar but a deeply good man.
You catch a glimpse of this in Beverly Gaventa’s tribute:
What is far more challenging to convey to those who did not know him is the character of the man. I have heard the word “Mensch” invoked often for him, and that may be the best we have. For all his brilliance, Lou was not concerned with being brilliant. He squirmed at the expression “Martyn school.” He cared about the subject matter. What counted was Paul or, as Lou would say, “taking a seat in an early Christian congregation” without succumbing to the temptation “to domesticate the text, to cage the wild tiger” (Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul, 211-12).
Rest in peace, Lou Martyn.