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24 August 2012

Canon Professor Robin Gill writes:
Your obituary of Professor Christopher Evans ( Gazette, 10 August) is affectionate and accurate, but does not quite capture his astonishing teaching half a century ago. He taught Michael Page and me as New Testament honours students at King's College, London, in the mid-1960s (just behind Desmond Tutu).

He was a truly great, generous and dedicated teacher. Of all those who taught us at King's, he had the most profound influence. His generosity with honours students was quite astonishing: each of us was given regular two-hour tutorials, sometimes even longer, carefully checking every sentence, claim and reference in our essays, providing an abiding basis for scrupulous scholarship and encouraging innovative research.

The honours seminars that Christopher took jointly with Morna Hooker remain an inspiration. We spent the whole of one term minutely examining the "hymn" in Philippians 2. This generosity surely delayed the publication of his seminal commentary on Luke, but, whenever the Gospel reading is from Luke, this comes off the shelf first, and invariably there is something unexpected to learn. In his hands, Luke becomes more complex, interesting, and challenging.

Canon Page recalls that, when he last saw Christopher at Cuddesdon, he joked that, with all the emphasis on interpretative and hermeneutical approaches having rather overtaken him, he had written the last commentary on Luke of its kind. The obituary mentions his typical self-deprecation of the commentary as being a "dinosaur".

Surely this is wrong. Hermeneutics is now an important part of faithful scriptural scholarship, but it will be impoverished and open to fundamentalism if it neglects the careful exegesis to which Professor Evans dedicated his life. He was a profound scholar, priest, and pastor, still cherished by many of his former students.


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