Monday, January 22, 2024

Philip W. Comfort (1950–2022)


I just found out that Philip Comfort passed away just over a year ago. I had no idea! I never met him, but I've found his work to be interesting to say the least. Sure, I've had my disagreements with some of his dates of papyri, but the information he compiled in his various works is certainly helpful to have, and the relative accessibility of his work (in terms of price) has no doubt helped to introduce many to textual criticism. I still remember how excited I was in seminary when I found a copy of his Text and Translation Commentary for 75% off at a Christian bookstore in a going-out-of-business sale.

According to his obituary, he was a man of diverse interests, which included writing poetry and surfing. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

You can read the obituary here.


  1. Thanks Elijah

  2. Despite the controversy around his work, I have often found his textual commentary and his work on the papyri exciting and helpful. May he rest in peace and raise in glory.

  3. Well . . . dang. Another fish flops out of the boat before I get an opportunity to debate him.

    Prayers for the Comfort family. May the promises of our Savior . . . wait for it . . .

    comfort them.

  4. I had no idea either! Thanks for posting. I met Comfort a few times. Like everyone, i had some misgivings about some of his work, but over-all I found it helpful and it made me better. I'd be lucky to have people say the same about me one day.

    I think my favourite Phillip Comfort story comes from a seminar at mcmaster in hamilton, ontario, canada, where barbara aland was also on the panel. During the Q&A someone asked aland a question to which she wanted to quote a lengthy passage from a german scholar in reply. I watched impressed as she recited the long german passage from memory, and when she was done, she looked up almost as if the german she had just recited was still written in the air above, and proceeded to translate it into english. It was impressive, but she was self-depreciating and finished by saying "so sorry for my poor english.". Immediately Comfort said " oh Barbara, your english was fantastic," and without skipping a beat he added "...and your german ain't half bad either!"
    Sometimes you read and respect a scholar for a while from a distance. Then you finally get to meet them, and you find out that they're so intense, so focused on the field, that they can't converse about anything else, even when sitting in a restaurant over a beer. You never get to know them beyond their identity as a textual critic, you never get to know their human side, or frankly, if they even have a human side! I always find that to be a shame, and frankly, it makes it harder to benefit from someone's work. I find that the really good scholars are not like that though. Like Peter Head, for example: we can know him both as a textual critic and a superlative speed walker. Phillip Comfort was also like that - you felt like you were getting the whole person with him - and i think that more than made up for whatever other little quibbles we could have with his work.

  5. Jonathan Borland2/05/2024 11:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Elijah, and for your story, Ryan.