Tuesday, December 11, 2007

F.F. Bruce on the Study of Greek, Evangelicals and Scripture

F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) was one of the 20th century's greatest and most well-known evangelical scholars. The following are excerpts from his memoir, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980):

On Greek:
  • “By all accounts, verse composition in Greek and Latin is not much cultivated nowadays. That is a pity. But it is a much greater pity that less and less importance is attached even to prose composition in these languages. It is impossible to attain real mastery in the handling of any language whether ancient or modern, without practising composition in it” (73 n. 3).
  • “Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon deals primarily with classical Greek, but no student of the New Testament can afford to ignore classical usage. I have met students who claimed to ‘know Greek’ on the basis of their acquaintance with the Greek New Testament; even if that latter acquaintance were exhaustive, it would no more amount to a knowledge of Greek than acquaintance with the English New Testament would amount to a knowledge of English. There is a story told of A. S. Peake writing a Greek word on the blackboard of his Manchester classroom, and one of his students saying, ‘You needn’t write it down, Doctor; we know Greek.’ To which he replied, ‘I wish I did.’ To know a language, even an ancient language, involves having such a feeling for its usage that one can tell, almost as by instinct, whether a construction is permissible or not, or whether a translation is possible or not” (293).
On Evangelicals and Scripture:
  • "I am always happy to be called an evangelical, although I insist on being an unqualified evangelical. I do not willingly answer, for example, to such a designation as ‘conservative evangelical’. (Many of my positions are indeed conservative; but I hold them not because they are conservative – still less because I myself am conservative – but because I believe they are the positions to which the evidence leads.)” (309).
  • “I suppose much depends on the cast of one’s mind, but I have never been bothered by ‘apparent discrepancies’, nor have I been greatly concerned to harmonize them. My faith can accommodate such ‘discrepancies’ much more easily than it could swallow harmonizations that place an unnatural sense on the text or give an impression of special pleading. If the ‘discrepancies’ are left unharmonized, they may help to a better appreciation of the progress of revelation or of the distinctive outlooks of individual writers” (312).
The whole thing makes for rewarding reading, though you should be prepared for insider stories about the Plymouth Brethren.

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