Bastiaan Van Elderen, New Testament scholar and archaeologist, passed away on August 1 at Grand Rapids at the age of 79. Bas, as he was known to his friends, was a graduate of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, where he taught for more than a quarter of a century. He also served as a professor of New Testament at the Free University in Amsterdam from 1984 to 1990.
Bas was the director of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan, between 1972 and 1973. He excavated churches at Hesban and Madaba, and the theater in Abila, Jordan. He dug as well at Nag Hammadi and Wadi Natrun, Egypt. Bas served as the president of the Institute for Biblical Research and was the executive director of the Scriptorium, a research center with an important collection of Biblical manuscripts and early printed Bibles, from 1997 to 2000. He organized international conferences on the Bible at the Scriptorium’s manor house near Hereford, England. The collection of papers of the most recent conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls was dedicated to Bas. Bas’s friendship with Emanuel Tov, chief editor of the Scrolls, enabled Bas to bring a major exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Grand Rapids in 2002–2003.
According to Calvin College colleague Bert de Vries, Bas’s passion for early Christianity and archaeology dovetailed. As a scholar he was fascinated by early Christian texts; as an archaeologist he went to Egypt, Turkey and Jordan to learn more about the spread of early Christian movements. His enthusiasm for early Christianity, moreover, inspired numerous students to continue their studies and become scholars of early Christianity and Christian sects.