Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Reminiscing on Alan Segal

Anthony LeDonne and Chris Keith asked me to offer some memories of Alan as his final Ph.D. student that he saw to completion in honor of their book giveaway of Two Powers in Heaven.  I thought I would reproduce what I wrote for them for my readers here.
My reflections of Alan Segal as his final Ph.D. student. 
Alan was a brilliant man. He was the stereotypical absent-minded professor with his head in the clouds. Often I would walk into his office to discuss my research projects with him, and he seemed to be in another world. Nonetheless, months later he could quote what I said to him back to me verbatim. Who knows how many languages he knew!? He could recite poetry and/or order a meal in most of them. As an advisor, he let his students develop their own ideas and follow them wherever they led. That is, one thing I really appreciated was that he was not trying to create carbon copies of himself or make us elaborate his ideas, but was there to guide our very different projects to develop as independent scholars. Perhaps the greatest quality he inculcated in each of us is to develop an insatiable curiosity and if that meant that for our research we had to transverse usually disparate fields of Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament, Rabbinics, Early Christianity, etc., so be it. 
That is, in my opinion, one of the greatest legacies of his own research. From Two Powers to Rebecca's Children to Paul the Convert, he pursued his research with little regard to traditional scholarly boundaries. For him, to focus exclusively on Christianity or Judaism in antiquity was at best a simple anachronism; at worst, bad history. In an era of scholarship in which are projects are increasingly smaller, focusing on our little boxes (NT, DSS, etc.), he taught us to think big. I only hope I can carry on that legacy as best I can.

1 comment:

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Here is why I miss Alan. I just finished writing a somewhat avant garde paper on Jewish prayer and thought to myself, Who can I send this to for thoughts and comment? Who would be receptive and open to fresh ideas and ways of thinking? Alan was so good at that....