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Keith Elliott, in memoriam


I was saddened to learn of Keith Elliott’s recent passing. I met Keith at an early SBL Annual Meeting while I was doing my masters work, and from the start he was very friendly and encouraging. I clearly remember walking through the convention center with him and asking about the obstacles to getting physical access to manuscripts while we were on an escalator. The welcoming atmosphere of the text-critical community in the early 2000s was remarkable (clearly he was a significant part of that close-knit community), and I hope this generation of scholars continues that approach. When there is a remarkably small number of people with whom you can excitedly discuss something as esoteric as textual criticism, perhaps it makes sense to remove whatever social barriers you can.

 

Keith’s book reviews were uniquely thorough (I'm sure he could put copy editors to shame), especially regarding bibliographic data. When my monograph on Codex Alexandrinus was published, there was only one review I was nervous (but eager) to read: Keith Elliott’s. He could be harsh on published dissertations, so there is some hesitancy to read a review like that, but also we all want to know that what we publish meets a level of excellence appropriate to scholarly work. I was surprised that he reviewed the monograph twice, but very favorably in both instances. "Smith's published thesis sets a gold standard that others may model their research on" (Theologische Literaturzeitung). What a relief! It meant so much to me when I read that review, and it reminds me of just how impactful senior scholars can be on students entering the academic world.

 

Interestingly, Keith Elliott was part of the 2007 conference that launched my own interest in textual criticism. SEBTS hosted speakers to discuss the ending of Mark’s Gospel (eventually being published as Perspectives on the Ending of Mark) and Keith spoke for the thoroughgoing eclectic position. During his paper, there was a moment where he chuckled about his own position (given the theological positions of many of the conference attendees), playfully fearing he would be branded a heretic for believing that both the original beginning and ending to Mark’s Gospel had been lost. But his thoroughgoing approach to analyzing the endings of Mark was very compelling; Dan Wallace, representing the reasoned eclectic approach, was happy to defer to Keith's analysis of the internal evidence. Of course, now, with the application of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method to the Editio Critica Maior volumes, the principles of thoroughgoing eclecticism have become far more prominent; textual flow diagrams are about text and not time, which is the bread and butter of the thoroughgoing eclectic approach. Keith Elliott has had and will continue to have a profound impact on textual criticism and he will be missed.

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