Today (October 12) is the birthday of Frederick Fyvie Bruce (1910-1990), a great Bible scholar who described himself as an “unhyphenated evangelical.”
A collection of Bruce’s shorter writings bears the title A Mind for What Matters, and the phrase fits him well. In fact, it can be downright intimidating to read Bruce and to see the way he approached his scholarly projects. He knew exactly where to put his effort to accomplish meaningful work at the right time. He produced numerous commentaries, of course, but also historical investigations, archaeological investigations, popular apologetic writings, and summaries and overviews that continue to be helpful in many fields. His little book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? is still unsurpassed as a readable introduction to text criticism for laypeople.
He never earned a doctorate, but he seemed to know everything he ever needed to know to get his work done. He served as president of the Society for Old Testament Study in 1965, and then president of the Society for New Testament Study in 1975. That’s hardly supposed to be possible. He also edited the Evangelical Quarterly, the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Yorkshire Celtic Studies, among other journals. His 1951 commentary on Acts is considered the herald of “the resurgence of evangelical biblical scholarship,” according to Ward Gasque.
Best book: 1977’s Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free. In this long and insightful biographical study, Bruce gathered the articles he had written over the years on Paul. The whole book hangs together convincingly, but the individual chapters can still stand alone. Chapters like the one on the relation of Jesus to Paul, and of the New Testament to messianic expectation, make the book a pretty handy introduction to biblical theology. Check out Robert Mounce’s review of it here.
His writing style is a model of clarity and conciseness. So I will try to imitate him by stopping here.