On the exact day that this volume will be offered to Gerard Luttikhuizen, he will pass the milestone of an academic career spanning some four decades, for the latter part of which he held the chair in New Testament and Early Christian Studies at the University of Groningen. Educated at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, where he had the good fortune to have Professor Bas van Iersel as his teacher for the New Testament, he developed a keen scholarly interest in the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth and its early reception, which would have resulted in a thesis on Mark’s Gospel but for his appointment to the theological faculty in Groningen. That faculty’s engagement in Jewish Christian literature eventually led him to tackle the Book of Elchasai, the study of which resulted in his 1984 thesis, The Revelation of Elchasai: Investigations into the Evidence for a Mesopotamian Jewish Apocalypse of the Second Century and its Reception by Judeo-Christian Propagandists, supervised by Professor Freek Klijn. The widening of his field of interest had begun earlier than this, however, and gained a solid foundation from his study of Coptic in Münster. In Groningen his teaching duties comprised both the New Testament and Coptic. His initial love of the former area by no means diminished; in addition to the synoptic gospels he delighted in studying the letters of Paul, to which he dedicated his inaugural lecture, and the book of Revelation. With regard to Coptic, this not only satisfied his love of linguistics but also enabled him to study that monument of Gnostic literature, the Nag Hammadi Library. In point fo fact, he was – and, of course, still is – fascinated by Gnosticism, which, he never tires of stating, is so important in early Christianity. It comes as no surprise that almost all of his students have either written their theses on Coptic Gnostic texts, or at least when writing them used the proficiency in Coptic they had acquired from Gerard’s lessons. His own interests can be surmised from the bibliography at the end of this Festschrift, and are well reflected by the titles of volumes to which he has contributed, and by the titles of his monographs, including his Gnostic Revisions of Genesis Stories and Early Jesus Traditions (Brill, forthcoming), and his De veelvormigheid van het vroegste christendom, a book in Dutch on the diversity of earliest Christianity. Nag Hammadi and the Coptic language naturally point to Egypt, which Gerard first visited in 1976 and which interests him not just as an object of academic study. Indeed, not every tourist can say that they hired a bike in Luxor and visited the villages and their inhabitants in the neighbourhood instead of just gazing at the antiquities, as he did. Thus, both scholarship and life seemed to suggest Egypt as a focus for the present volume, which colleagues and students wish to offer Gerard as a token of their admiration and friendship. It proved in fact surprisingly easy to gather together a number of papers dealing with subjects that might interest the honorand. [….]
All the papers together highlight the Egyptian subject matter, background or provenance of many Jewish, early Christian and Gnostic texts. Covering a broad spectrum of themes, genres and traditions, they show that Egypt was a vibrant point of reference, sometimes even a focal point and cradle for Jews, Christians and their thought. They impressively demonstrate the extent to which Egypt was involved in the formative stages of Judaism and Christianity and, at the same time, that it was far from isolated from the wider developments in the ancient world. Issues like these stirred the scholarly imagination of Gerard Luttikhuizen, and we all hope that Gerard will continue his scholarly concerns. There is much that still needs to be said about the origins of Gnosticism, most Nag Hammadi texts are still waiting for a Dutch translation directly from Coptic, and several PhD students hope for his continued coaching. But there is no denying that he has many other interests. He likes travelling with his wife Marleen. He is a gifted painter, and both creating works of art and enjoying those of others, especially contemporairies, will take up much of his time. And without a shadow of doubt he will continue to listen the music of Bach, Johann Sebastian of course, of whom he is a devotee and on whom an expert, even if he is not an active musician himself. So we will just have to wait and see, and wish him a wonderful otium cum dignitate.
Groningen, January 2005
George van Kooten