There are a lot of influential scholars who are not household names. Walter Bauer is one of those, although many current popular discussions have their roots in his work.
The standard Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature is based on his lexical work, originally in German. It is a fundamental resource for Greek New Testament study and exegesis. The English version is now in its 3rd edition.
Bauer’s expertise in early Christian literature equipped him for another significant contribution, his research into the development of Christianity in the centuries after Jesus’ life. His Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity explored writings from various Christian groups and individuals and considered what they revealed about differences in beliefs that appeared during that period.
A great deal of current discussion about varieties in early Christian belief, especially the notion that there was no sense of doctrinal limits or orthodoxy among Christians until the 3rd or 4th centuries, is based on a conclusions drawn from Bauer’s work. Whether or not the current claims have sufficient grounds from what Bauer discovered, his influence continues to be felt. And for that, I’m grateful on his birthday.