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Professor Maurice Casey

May 12, 2014

I have just had it confirmed to me by his former student, James Crossley, that Professor Maurice Casey passed away on 10 May after a long hospitalization.  He was Emeritus Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature in the University of Nottingham.

He was author of a number of high-impact books and articles, starting with his first book, Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7 (London: SPCK, 1979), an impressive study based on his PhD thesis.  Thereafter, he came to be noted especially for a number of contributions to the swirling scholarly debates about the meaning, source, and function of the expression “son of man” in the NT Gospels and in the Jewish context.  He emphasized especially the importance of the relevant Aramaic expressions, developing a position that was somewhat aligned with that proffered by Geza Vermes.  His summative publication on this topic was his book, The Solution to the ‘Son of Man’ Problem, Library of NT Studies, 343 (London: T&T Clark, 2007).

His view was not without challenge however, as reflected in the article by Paul Owen and David Shepherd, “Speaking Up for Qumran, Dalman and the Son of Man: Was Bar Enasha a Common Term for ‘Man’ in the Time of Jesus?,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 81 (2001): 81-122.  And see Casey’s spirited response: “Aramaic Idiom and the Son of Man Problem: A Response to Owen and Shepherd,” JSNT 25 (2002): 3-32.  The multi-author work co-edited by Owen and me was particularly in response to Casey’s view:  Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen, eds., ‘Who Is This Son of Man?’ The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus (London: T&T Clark, 2011).

His Cadbury Lectures formed another book often cited, in which he set out his own (controversial) position on the origin and development of early christology:  From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God: The Origins and Development of New Testament Christology (Louisville; Cambridge: Westminster/John Knox Press; James Clarke and Co., 1991).

He also wrote on the Gospels, positing the importance of the Aramaic background of sayings of Jesus, urging that he could retro-translate them, producing new insights: e.g., Maurice Casey, Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel, SNTSMS, 102 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

His final book continued to display his feisty style, a work in which he took on the recent resurgence of the old notion that Jesus of Nazareth was a purely mythical figure:  Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths (London: T&T Clark, 2013).

On a more personal note, after my book, Lord Jesus Christ, appeared (Eerdmans, 2003), he was invited by the editor of a major journal to write a review-essay.  The editor also invited me to write a response.  Not long after these invitations were issued, I sat down with Maurice at the annual meeting of the British NT Society, and said with a wink that I heard that he had been invited to write a review-essay of some major new book.  With a twinkle in his eye, he responded in kind, saying, “Yes. I’ve been granted several thousand words, and I shall likely need space because it’s a big book, and I’ll likely find much with which to disagree!”  Casey’s article:  “Lord Jesus Christ: A Response to Professor Hurtado,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27 (2004):  83-96; and my reply, pp. 97-104 in the same issue.

We disagreed on a few issues of major significance in the field, but he was always cordial, with a good sense of humour, and we held each other in sincere mutual respect.  I shall miss him.

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5 Comments
  1. Donald Jacobs permalink

    Sorry to hear that. I really found his book From Jewish Propher to Gentile God a persuasive account of early Christology, perhaps the best available. And to think that it was almost never published! I can’t help wondering what he would have made of Ehrman’s new book.

    • Casey’s passing is a sad event. You will forgive me, I trust, if personally I don’t agree with your assessment of the adequacy or persuasiveness of his account in “From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God.” Nor, it seems, have many other scholars.

  2. Professor Hurtado,

    Sorry to hear this. As a lay person with an amateur interest in scholarship on The NewTestament, I must say I enjoyed his work ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ and also enjoyed his honest and straightforward exchanges with Jesus-Mythers (where he invariably came off best – to say the least).
    It is important that people with real academic credentials and of a truly academic outlook engage with and try to educate an increasingly narrow-minded and uneducated internet audience. I hope there will be scholars of a similar pedigree to step up to the plate when the present generation of scholars depart.

  3. William B. Peel permalink

    Your respect for the man was obvious…a fitting tribute.

  4. This is really a big loss. I’d recommend Casey’s book “Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of his Life and Teaching”, that I found really stimulating and provocative.

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