in memoriam: John D. Turner

Yesterday I received the very sad news of the passing of John D. Turner, who died on Saturday, 26 October 2019, at his home in Nebraska. He was among family and friends.

John, the Cotner Professor of Religious Studies & Charles J. Mach University Professor of Classics and History at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, was an absolute lion in the study of Gnosticism and later Platonism. He was a major contributor to the editing, translation, and interpretation of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Several of his translations and studies appear in the Coptic Gnostic Library and Robinson’s famous Nag Hammadi Library in English, as well as Meyer’s Nag Hammadi Scriptures and in the series Bibliothèque Copte de Nag Hammadi. He was also a pioneer in the study of the relationship of Gnosticism and the Coptic Gnostic literature to the school of Plotinus, authoring dozens of articles on this trajectory of enquiry. On a personal note, it was his work on this subject, and particularly his magnum opus Sethian Gnosticism and the Platonic Tradition, which initially drew me to this topic of research, and along with it the greater study of Coptic and the Nag Hammadi texts.

John was also a highly successful and decorated teacher and mentor. Multiple generations of scholars of early Christianity or Gnosticism either studied with him during their undergraduate years or came under his wing as graduate students or postdocs; all were deeply affected by the depth of his knowledge as well as his tremendous generosity of spirit. I certainly was. John will be sorely missed.

– Dylan M. Burns, Berlin-Dahlem, 28 October 2019


(John D. Turner (right) with young Coptologist in Houston, Texas, March 2015. Photo: Miguel Connor)

Update 30 October 2019: The University of Nebraska has posted an obituary here.