Jaroslav Pelikan: Wide-Ranging Historian of Christian Traditions, Dies at 82

Historians in the News

Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, a Yale scholar and historian of religion who interpreted Christian tenets to a vast lay audience in the English-speaking world, died on Saturday at his home in Hamden, Conn. He was 82.

The cause was lung cancer, said his son Michael.

A prolific author of essays and nearly 40 books, Dr. Pelikan joined the Yale faculty in 1962 and was appointed Sterling professor of history 10 years later. He wrote more than a dozen reference works covering the entire history of Christianity.

Among his important books were "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine" in five volumes (University of Chicago Press, 1971-1989); "The Riddle of Roman Catholicism" (Abingdon, 1959); and a multivolume English edition of Martin Luther's writings.

While other historians of religion focused mostly on an era or an aspect of it, Dr. Pelikan ventured to become an authority on the gamut of Christian history. His body of work threw light on the Reformation and Medieval philosophy, Saint Augustine and Kierkegaard even as he widened church scholarship to embrace the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

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