Last evening, my institution, St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, bestowed the degree Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, on Richard Hays of Duke Divinity School, my friend–and mentor-from-a-distance. I had the great privilege of “hooding” Dr. Hays and of writing the tribute presented to him and published in the commencement program. Here is part of what I wrote:
Ever since the publication of his Ph.D. dissertation nearly a quarter-century ago, Richard B. Hays has distinguished himself as one of the world’s most insightful, creative, and theologically sensitive New Testament scholars. That first book, The Faith of Jesus Christ: An Investigation of the Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11 (1983; 2nd ed., 2002), set in motion a revolution in Pauline theology that is still working itself out today, an interpretation that highlights the narrative character of Paul’s letters and the significance of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for Paul’s theology….
Professor Hays’s leadership in the movement toward a renewed theological interpretation of Scripture, grounded in a hermeneutic of trust rather than suspicion, is expressed in such publications as his commentaries on 1 Corinthians (1997) and Galatians (2000); his book The Art of Reading Scripture (co-edited with colleague Ellen Davis, 2003); his collected articles, The Conversion of the Imagination (2005); and his lead article in the first volume of the new Journal of Theological Interpretation (2007). As a scholar’s scholar and a teacher’s teacher, Professor Hays has also served on numerous editorial boards and convened various groups of scholars for significant theological projects…. He exemplifies the spirit of faith seeking understanding, furthering the dialogue between academy and church and between biblical studies and theology.