For the two years that I’ve been writing the Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin, you have heard much from me about what we are currently doing at the LRI. You have not heard as much about my own investment in the Lonergan project. As such, I would like to give you an overview of my journey into the Lonergan world.
I didn’t come to Lonergan via the traditional paths. Probably the majority of scholars interested in Lonergan are philosophers or systematic theologians. I am neither. I am rather a New Testament scholar. I however had the honour of doing my doctoral work in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University, where the late Ben F. Meyer had taught for a quarter century. Meyer’s work consisted largely of introducing Lonergan into the study of the New Testament. I still vividly remember picking up his Aims of Jesus and being shocked to discover that questions which we as a discipline were just starting to ask Meyer had answered almost thirty years before.
I never met Prof. Meyer, as he passed before I began even my undergraduate studies. However, I was so taken with his work that I wanted to write my dissertation on his thought. I figured that there would be no better place to work on Meyer’s thought than the department where he’d spent most of his career. My doctoral supervisor however sagely advised me that a dissertation in New Testament studies should be focused upon empirical issues arising from the biblical text rather than the thought of particular biblical scholars. Nonetheless, I resolved to throw myself into fully exploring and understanding Meyer’s thought after I completed my doctorate. As I did so, I realized very quickly that if I was to truly understand Meyer, then I had to really understand Lonergan as well. So, this led to an immersion in Lonergan’s key works in the years following my graduate studies. I wanted to get my head around his project, what it was doing for Meyer, and what it might yet do for New Testament studies today. This work led to my second book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus After the Demise of Authenticity: Toward a Critical Realist Philosophy of History in Jesus Studies, published by T&T Clark in 2016.
My current research is something of a departure from the Lonergan trajectory that I began during my doctoral studies. That is because I have taken the time to complete another project that began during those years. What began as notes for my comprehensive examinations has over the last fifteen years grown into a book examining the compositional dates of all twenty-seven books of the New Testament. This nearly completed book should be published by Baker Press in 2021. When published, it will represent only the third monograph focused upon the dates of all twenty-seven books of the New Testament to be completed and published by a professional New Testament scholar since 1890 (and the first in almost fifty years). Once this is published, I aim to return to my efforts to continue Meyer’s legacy of bringing New Testament studies into discussion with the Lonergan project. I am developing the outlines of a project that would revisit central issues in Meyer’s work regarding the development of early Christian doctrine and diversity through an explicitly Lonergan lens. This in part would consist of an effort to re-engage—from the perspective of a professional biblical scholar—the wealth of insights contained within Lonergan’s Way to Nicea.
Ben Meyer passed much too soon, and this combined with his extended illness cut short his contributions to Lonergan and biblical studies. It is my humble hope that I might be able to build upon his legacy to help enrich both areas of study.