One of the central characters in Berke Breathed’s wonderful comic strip Bloom County was a penguin named Opus. One day Opus decided he wanted to give up television and become more learned. As he walked up the steps of the “Publik Library,” Opus announced: “Attention, dark world of electronic gratification . . . I would like to announce my intellectualization!
Jaroslav Pelikan was not a historian easy to characterize. Most historians of Christianity pick some small subfield from the past, which becomes the focus of their research and writing. The really good historians will push back the boundaries of what is known in their subfield or find new and imaginative ways to read old evidence from it.
Church historian Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, who died May 13, felt like a relative, thanks to consanguinity among our Slovak friends. I could not have taught Christian history without using his books, though he could teach at least 39/40ths of what he taught without ever consulting one of mine.