Jaroslav Pelikan

Jaroslav Pelikan, the great historian of the Christian Tradition, died May 13 at his home in Hamden, Conn. He was 82 years old and had been battling lung cancer.

Pelikan wrote more than 30 books and over a dozen reference works covering the entire history of Christianity. Perhaps his best known work is the five-volume “The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine.” In 2003, he published “Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition.” He was Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University.

Pelikan, raised a Lutheran, was received into the Orthodox Church in 1998. His obituary on the home page of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary notes that Pelikan “often quoted a line from Goethe’s ‘Faust,’ which says, ‘What you have as heritage take now as task, and thus you will make it your own.’ Unlike most church historians, who focus on one period or one aspect, Dr Pelikan ranked as one of the only authorities in the entire field of Christian history. His books and articles included subjects as diverse as the New Testament, the Reformation, Saint Augustine, Kierkegaard and medieval philosophy, and he is credited with broadening Western church scholarship to include the Eastern Orthodox tradition.” In 2005, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press also published “Orthodoxy and Western Culture,” a collection of essays honoring Pelikan on his 80th birthday.

You can listen to an interview Pelikan did with the public radio program Speaking of Faith on the topic of “The Need for Creeds.” The page also includes a transcript of the program.

Also see “The Doctrine Doctor,” Mark Noll’s interview with Pelikan in Christianity Today.

MAY HIS MEMORY BE ETERNAL

  • Foster Freed

    I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Pelkan during a lecture series he gave at the Vancouver School of Theology. He was a rare individual, one whose immense learning was always at the service of the church. He will be sorely missed.