Dave Black shares his thoughts:
8:54 AM So, Dave, what have you been reading lately? Well, for starters there’s the new biography of F. F. Bruce that our school library just happened to have sitting on its recent acquisitions shelf.
I knew I had to read it. Here’s a few takeaways:
1) Bruce began writing his famous commentary on Acts in an air-raid shelter in Leeds while he was on air-warden duty during World War II (p. 33). Talk about killing two stones with one bird. I well recall teaching myself Dutch during the horrendous gas lines we had in Southern California in 1979. At 2:00 am I would park my car next to the gas pump (so that I could be first in line when the gas station opened at 6:00) and then go next door to an all-night diner, where I sipped coffee and studied Dutch. After three months I could read practically anything in the language. Time well spent.
2) Bruce once said, “I am thinking of no better foundation than a classical education for the professional cultivation of biblical studies” (p. 50). I couldn’t agree more; and it is for this very reason that I now rue my undergraduate biblical studies major. I now wish I had studied English or history or classics before going on to seminary.
3) I love this quote about the great scholar: “For him there was no tension between critical study and Bible exposition; indeed, the former fed the latter” (p. 62). I am sometimes asked about my “personal devotions.” I have none. I cannot separate critical study of the Scriptures from devotional study.
4) At Manchester Bruce “maintained a full teaching load” (p. 103). Still, he was able to write prodigiously. I can identify with this statement, not the part about being prodigious but the part about teaching fulltime and also writing. I have never enjoyed “release time” for writing. At SEBTS we do not have “research scholars.” We are classroom teachers, first and foremost, and any writing we do must be done “above and beyond.” Yet it can still be done.
5) Three fifths of Bruce’s doctoral students at Manchester came from oversees, especially from the U.S., leading him to quip that “the PhD was invented so that Americans could take an advanced degree with them when they came to the UK for further studies” (p. 106). How true. Yet who has not benefited from this arrangement (think of Hagner or Silva)?
6) The author writes, “He was able to distinguish between academic disagreement and personal antagonism in a way that scholars have not always done” (p. 112). In other words, Bruce was a gentleman. It is what someone once called “the silent preaching of a lovely life.” It is a virtue we can all aim to emulate.
7) Finally, on pp. 175-76 we read these words by Bruce: “The chief obstacle is Christian reluctance to advance, to leave the comfortable security of the familiar and traditional for the security of the revolutionary and unknown. If Christians showed half the resolution and dedication in the interests of the Kingdom of God that communists exhibit in the promotion of their cause, the scale of Christian advance would be transformed out of recognition.” Let that one sink in!
Bruce died on September 11, 1990. Just before he entered the presence of the Lord he wrote an essay for me. Actually, the essay was to honor a dear colleague of ours, Harold Greenlee.
It was one of the last essays Bruce ever wrote. I still have the type-written manuscript in my files. I will always treasure it.
Thanks be to God for the life and legacy of F. F. Bruce.