On the news that J. Louis Martyn has died. Here are some words written by one his former students Beverly Gaventa (in an article from 2005):
My introduction to Lou came during my second semester, when I enrolled in his exegesis class on Romans. To tell the truth, I took that course solely because it fulfilled a graduation requirement. My interest in biblical studies at the time was roughly the equivalent of my current interest in professional football. By the end of the semester, I was studying the course offerings for the following year with an eye to 1 Corinthians and the Gospel of John, not to mention digging out my abandoned under- graduate Greek textbook. To say that I experienced a change of mind is too little. I was grabbed by the text, and it would not let me go. More than 30 years later it still will not let me go.
What happened? I saw exegesis in the making. Lou would come into the classroom, sit down at the end of the table of maybe 15 students, and pull out from his briefcase a Greek New Testament, held together by layers of electrical tape, along with a file of handwritten notes. Discussion would begin. His attention was unabashedly riveted to the text—to every letter and each nuance.
In those early years of coming to know J. Louis Martyn, I do not remember an occasion when he spoke directly of his own personal commitment to the Word witnessed to in the words we were studying. He did not need to: his careful, disciplined attention spoke eloquently to the importance of the text for his own being. I also do not remember an occasion when I wondered about his faith. It did not seem to me possible that the concentration with which he read the lines of Romans or the intensity with which he listened to fumbling voices could be consistent with anything other than a living faith. His eyes and his ears told the whole of the story. Faith was not so much something to be uttered as it was something enacted in our classroom in bodily form.
Beverly Gaventa, 'Attentive to the Text', Christian Century (22nd February 2005)