I was very shocked and saddened to belatedly learn of the death of Professor John Moles:
Professor John Moles: In Memoriam by Jane Heath
Professor Moles was a Classicist (not a New Testament scholar) but some of his research did overlap with the earliest literature of Christianity. From time to time John Moles and I engaged in email discussion and it was while searching to renew contact just now that I learned that he had passed away last year.
Vridar addressed two of John’s articles:
- Jesus the Healer in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and Early Christianity (2 posts)
- Jesus and Dionysus in The Acts of the Apostles and early Christianity (3 posts)
Here is an extract from Jane Heath’s tribute:
Two themes that he never tired of were puns and Dionysus. No one who had been to a few seminars with him could forget that “Jesus” in Greek is punned with the verb of healing (Iesous/iaomai), and “Christ” with “grace” as well as “anointing” (Christos/charis/chrisma). Dionysus and his cult were often spotted by John in the motifs and language of the New Testament. He would draw attention to Richard Seaford’s article from 1984 on Dionysiac echoes in Paul’s imagery of seeing Christ “through a glass darkly”, and might add, modestly, that he too had written a piece on Dionysus in Acts. While it is not uncommon for scholars to try to cross the lines between Classics and New Testament Studies, it is a rare pearl to find one who combines the depth and breadth of Classical learning that John had, with such professional commitment to New Testament study. Perhaps there were times when some of us thought he pushed the Classical connections too far, but we could only be grateful for being made think in ways we couldn’t or didn’t without our “pagan” friend. And indeed, the prominence in the church fathers of both punning on Iesous and Christos, and of connections between Dionysiac and Christian imagery, lend strong support to some of John’s instincts in reading the New Testament texts.
In email exchanges John expressed several of his views on the Bible, New Testament scholarship, mythicism (he was not a mythicist) and religion (he described himself as a liberal Anglican) — and generally tied back to relationships with the Classical world. At a time I was going through a pretty rough patch with certain biblical scholars posting some rather vile comments about Vridar and me personally John Moles gave me encouragement by sharing some of his personal knowledge of the backgrounds and biases of those involved.
He also emailed me a compliment on a post of mine about one of his own articles — I had attempted to be as honest, writing with as much neutrality and distance as I could, and in return John wrote me in September 2011:
You’ve done a clean job in your posting on ‘Jesus the Healer’. It reflects well on you.
As an amateur that meant a lot to me coming from a Classicist of John Moles’ standing.
I had looked forward to following up with further exchanges and am very sad he is no longer with us.
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2 thoughts on “Professor John Moles — In Memoriam”
Ugh. What a shame. I just came across the puns on ‘healing’ article courtesy of Vridar no more than 48 hours ago. It interested me and left me with fairly significant questions. One sometimes entertains the thought of contacting the author on such things. RIP.
On the ‘In Memoriam’ though – one piece rankles a bit: “Perhaps there were times when some of us thought he pushed the Classical connections too far”. A sort of telling remark. Of course, it’s arguable that all of these texts – the ones written in Greek at the very least – should be treated as Classical texts in the same way one might treat Homer, etc.. But New Testament scholar-types seem to hope for hermetically-sealed chambers of knowledge.