Prof. dr. Peder Borgen died on last Saturday – Holy Saturday, April 8. His health had deteriorated during the last few months, and now he has crossed the final border.
Peder Borgen was born in Lillestrøm, Norway, a few miles north of Oslo, on Jan. 26, 1928, as the second of 4 children. He leaves behind his youngest brother, his wife Inger, their two daughters and their families, including both grand- and great-grand children.
Borgen grew up in a Methodist family and church context; he served as a pastor within this church in 1956-58 and was a member of this denomination all his life. Eventually, he became part of the Norwegian higher education system in Christian knowledge / religious studies. Still, he was never a part of a Norwegian theological faculty as such because he was not a Lutheran. As a scholar in the Norwegian context, however, he was the first non-Lutheran to achieve the degree of dr. theol. He was also the first free church/non-Lutheran theologian appointed Knight of the First Class of the Order of St Olav for the merit of theological research. In these cases and many more times, he crossed several borders both in his personal life and in and by his studies.
He was also an active member of several scholarly societies. He was the member of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) from the early 1960ies, and of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS) from 1967, and its President in 1998-99. Some will probably remember his leadership of its General Meeting in Trondheim in 1985. In Norway he was an active member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS), and its Preses in the years of 1996-99.
Peder Johan Borgen is thus known in the Norwegian context for his roles in several settings; he was a high-profiled Methodist, preacher, church politician, and ecumenist. Moreover, he was a university teacher and scholar in religious studies. Outside Norway, he is, presumably, primarily known as a New Testament and Philo scholar.
In biblical research, he is internationally known and respected as a prominent scholar of the Gospel of John and the learned Jewish theologian, politician, and philosopher Philo of Alexandria. But he has also worked and published within Lukan and Pauline studies. In addition, but probably less known, he has published several studies within the field of church history, primarily related to the history of Methodism in Norway.
His dissertation from 1966 (Bread from Heaven), published in 1965, made him known among international New Testament scholars. In this study, he set out to investigate the concept of Manna in both the Gospel of John and Philo’s writings. He summarizes the results thus: “In their expositions, both Philo … and John … paraphrased words from the Old Testament quotations and interwove them with fragments from the Haggadah about manna.” He also argued that the expositions were presented according to a typical homiletic pattern, a pattern used by Philo and in some Palestinian midrashim. The volume received immediate praise from many scholars, and the publication of a third edition as late as in 2017 demonstrates the continuing value of this work. Borgen continued to work on the Gospel of John all his life, developing some issues from his dissertation and expanding his focus and themes. But became also just as much known as a student of the works of Philo of Alexandria.
During his years as an active scholar, Borgen also published several studies on Paul, especially his letter to the Galatians, and its inherent debate on circumcision, a debate he tried to illuminate from similar issues in the works of Philo. He also published on the Apocalypse on John even here using Philo to illuminate its text and theology.
Many of his articles were first published in Festschriften and conference volumes. But Borgen has also made several of his these accessible to other scholars by issuing collections of articles originally published in various volumes and journals; in fact, seven collections were published in the years from 1983 to 2021. An extensive bibliography of his works is available in the biography mentioned below.
I first met Prof. Borgen in the early 1980ies, and he was my mentor during my studies for the doctoral degree in Trondheim. He showed a personal interest also after these years. I had the honor of getting more acquainted with the story of his life when I worked on a biography of his life and work. A Norwegian edition of this biography was published in 2020, and an american edition in 2022, bearing the telling title of Crossing Borders.
Now he has crossed the final border, and I am left grateful to have known him, for his mentorship, and even to have been included among his friends. I am sure he will be missed both within the Norwegian borders and abroad.