Jonathan Z. Smith, historian of religion, 1938-2017

Historian of religion Jonathan Z. Smith died on December 30, aged seventy-nine. He leaves a remarkable legacy from his forty-five-year career at the University of Chicago as a teacher, mentor, writer, and scholar. His colleague Margaret M. Mitchell told the University of Chicago’s Andrew Bauld that Smith was “a quintessential Chicago scholar of indomitable intellectual energy and unforgettable wit, iconoclastic in the very best sense, and utterly dedicated to a life of learning and teaching—for himself, his students and for a civil society.” Bruce Lincoln, who studied with Smith as a graduate student, recalled him as a teacher: “As a lecturer, he was absolutely spellbinding. In exchanges with students he was wonderfully encouraging, challenging and inspiring.”

We are proud to have published five books by Jonathan Smith. If you want to get a sense of his voice and breadth of knowledge, you can look at an excerpt from his book Relating Religion here. The University of Chicago has a more extensive obituary appreciation on its main site. Our thoughts are with his family.