The Rev. Richard Burridge, professor of biblical interpretation and dean of King’s College, London, was one of two theologians to receive the Joseph Ratzinger Prize at the Vatican Oct. 26.
Pope Francis presented the awards to Burridge and to Christian Schaller, professor of theology and vice director of the Pope Benedict XVI institute of Regensburg, Germany.
Burridge was a Cecil Woods Visiting Fellow at Virginia Theological Seminary in the Spring of 2009. The Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of VTS, wrote on the seminary weblog about witnessing the ceremony.
“I was honored to meet the Pope; he is an extraordinary man,” Dean Markham wrote. “And it is delightful to see a good friend of the Seminary being the first non-Roman Catholic to be so honored. It is an appropriate accolade for the strength and depth of Anglican scholarship.”
Markham elaborated on Burridge’s insights: “When the entire New Testament world took the view that the Gospels were not biographies, it was this young scholar trained in the Classics who explained that this was wrong. The Gospels are Graeco-Roman biographies, which follows the conventions precisely. Graeco-Roman biographies are invitations to imitate the subject (both in terms of words and deeds) and admire the subject (especially in respect to his or her attitude to death). He has developed this theme in several books and articles, some of which were worked on while he stayed at Virginia Theological Seminary.”
The award, given annually since 2011, honors scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of the cardinal and pope emeritus.
Pope Francis paid tribute to his predecessor: “He made a gift to the Church, and to all men, of that which was most precious to him: his knowledge of Jesus, the fruit of years and years of study, theological confrontation and prayer. Because Benedict XVI did theology on his knees, and we all know it. And this has made it available in the most accessible form.”
In an interview with Catholic News Agency, Burridge discussed how his work has interacted with that of Pope Benedict XVI: “I have been working for the last 30 years on the literary character of the Gospels and in particular how they relate to the literary genre of Greco-Roman biographies. And, obviously, Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote his biography of Jesus of Nazareth in which he has argued also that the key to interpreting the Gospels is through the portrait of Jesus, and I’ve demonstrated how you do that by looking at Greco-Roman biographies.”
Burridge added: “It is a huge honor. I’m so grateful to the Holy Father and to the Church for honoring my work in this way and the fact that it means that the way in which we read the Gospels across the world has changed now.”