The wrestling angel gifted Jacob with a limp as a permanent reminder of his encounter with God. Jacob's life-long policy was to run. His final glory was that he learned to lean (Hebrews 11:21). A wound is a good thing if it is accepted as a stewardship from God, appropriated as a channel of God's strength and consecrated to God's purpose. Where dependence is the objective weakness is the advantage.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FF Bruce at 100

Frederic Fyvie Bruce, the greatest biblical scholar of his generation, was born one hundred years ago today in Elgin, Scotland. I well remember my sense of loss at his death in the autumn of 1990 within about 30 days of Philip Edgcumbe Hughes' death, another noteworthy evangelical commentator. I was stung then by the diminution of evangelical firepower. I reflect now upon the great gift FF Bruce was to the church. I well remember the first flurry of impressions of Professor Bruce I had as a new Christian. In his apologetics Josh McDowell leaned heavily on FF B's 'The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable?' I remain in awe of the breadth of Prof. Bruce's scholarship.

His major strength was New Testament Greek and the field of Textual Criticism. But he also took a Gold Medal in Hebrew at Cambridge. His undergraduate Classical Studies were at Aberdeen. He gained a mastery of German at the University of Vienna. He visited Hungary in the Thirties and wrote about it in his Autobiography. Like CS Lewis he never took an academic doctorate though he navigated many a young scholar through doctoral studies. His English prose style was not remarkable but I was taken at the name of one of his volumes of Church History. He called it 'The Spreading Flame.'

Later he wrote an Introduction to a book by Dewey Beegle which featured an unfortunate view of biblical authority. I am not competent to speculate on his reasons or what that Introduction signaled about his own views. But I can't imagine he would have agreed with every jot and tittle of the dozens of books he wrote introductions for.

In the early 80's I was desperate for help on an illustration from ancient history. It was Sunday morning and the service was about to begin. In those dark pre-internet days when we actually had to look things up in books I realized that I'd not budgeted enough time to find what I was looking for. I couldn’t share the illustration with insufficient data. So I tried to shelve the idea. But I couldn't get the thing out of my mind. I remembered that somebody or other somewhere or other for some reason or other drew a line around somebody in the sand. I wanted to use the story as an evangelistic exhortation.

Running out of time at about ten to eleven I picked up the phone and dialed Manchester, England Directory Assistance. Amazingly I was given his number. Even more amazingly he answered the phone. After profuse apologies for intruding upon his Sunday afternoon I supplied the embarrassingly vague outline.
"Do you know the story?"I asked.
"Oh yes, oh yes," he replied.
"Can you help me then?"
"Oh yes ,oh yes."
He commenced,"168 BC Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria took advantage of the Roman preoccupation with the Punic Wars and invaded Egypt. The Roman Senate dispatched a delegate named Lysias to Egypt to order Aniochus out. They met on the beach. Lysias declared 'By order of the Roman Senate and People I command you to leave Egypt.'
Antiochus said, 'I’ll think about it.'
'Fine,' said Lysias. 'Think about it all you want.'
Then, drawing a circle around him in the sand on the beach, he added, 'Just make your decision before you step outside that circle.'
Antiochus left Egypt.
And the authority for this," said FF Bruce, "is the Greek historian Polybius."
"Well Professor Bruce," I responded, "this just proves an American rumor."
"And what rumor is that?" he asked.
"The rumor that you know everything."
He didn't know everything.
But he came close.
On his hundredth I thank God for the consecrated and generous scholarship which his life brought to biblical studies.
For over twenty years I haven't known who to call.
Perhaps we were given the Internet as a compensation.
But that's hardly an even trade..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I recall, it was not a "Lysias," but a Popilius Linus.