Last night I attended the University of Durham reception at SBL. I did my Ph.D at Durham under the tutelage of James D.G. Dunn. It was a wonderful experience. Jimmy is the consummate scholar and a man of great faith. His scholarship has never been a "purely academic" exercise, but his work has been founded on, in the words of St. Anselm, "faith seeking understanding." My doctoral thesis was published in 2003 in the JSNT Supplement Series and I credit that in large part to Jimmy, whose expectations of me were quite rigorous.
I not only appreciate Jimmy for his scholarship, but also for his genuine concern for his students. He and his wife Meta took us under their wings, befriending us, and nurturing us. They regularly had us over to their house for celebrations and times of fellowship. They were and still are interested in the lives of our spouses and our children. One of Jimmy's former students, who was doing his work at the same time I was, told me the other night that Jimmy has been a father figure to him. Almost every year for the past 15+ years we have had an annual Dunn reunion dinner for (now all former) students of Jimmy's and their spouses. I remember many years ago, when we first started holding those gatherings, there were five to eight of us in attendance. Saturday night there were eighteen and that was down from recent years in which we have had close to thirty people gathered together for food and fellowship. Jimmy and Meta did not consider us to be only a community of scholars, but a community of believers. How necessary then that such a community gather together for fellowship, if only once a year.
I and so many have received such a wonderful gift in knowing Jimmy Dunn. For me it has been an honor. So it was a privilege for me and others to honor Jimmy in a small way by presenting him last night with a Festscrift in honor of his 70th birthday. It was an honor to contribute an essay to that volume and I told Jimmy that last night. He thanked me and then in characteristic Dunn fashion he informed me that after he read my essay he would email me a detailed critique! Yes, we will always remain Jimmy's student, and that too is an honor.
It is a privilege to honor those who honor us. It is true that honor is a duty, but it is not a duty we perform because we have to. We honor because we recognize we would not be who we are apart from the gifts we have received in the presence of those around us whom God uses to shape our lives. Honor in and of itself is performed as an act of integrity and character. A community, a society that does not honor those who are worthy is a community, a society that has fallen into dishonor.
I have been honored these many years to have known James D.G. Dunn; and last night it was a privilege to pay honor to him in a small way. May honor never die a dishonorable death.