Guest Post by Neil Bach, Biographer of Leon Morris

Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and TruthI thank Rob Bradshaw for the invitation to contribute a piece on the Revd Dr Leon Morris. My just published biography Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth (Authentic Media /Paternoster 2016) gives a comprehensive overview of both his interesting life and fascinating scholarly pursuits, but here I limit myself to some observations about his significance as a scholar.

Leon Morris was unusual in having no formal theological education until he arrived at Cambridge aged 35 for his PhD. His lifelong habit was to write straight out of his head and then check what others thought. That he was so confident in theology and yet had been quite diffident in his early studies is a matter of interest.

Leon drilled a deep significant mine of truth at Cambridge in his PhD study on the atonement and drew from it throughout his career. It demonstrated his already developed belief in the cross as central to the bible and Christianity. His analysis changed the thinking about the cross and exhibited its power and meaning again. We acknowledge that concepts of God’s love, righteous opposition to sin, Christ’s sacrifice, redemption, righteousness and so on were known before Leon arrived. His application of rigorous scholarship as an evangelical academic pioneer in the establishment of the truth of penal substitution, against more liberal treatments, marked him out.

His significance was marked by his complete and passionate attachment to evidence based conclusions, arising from his scientific beginnings. When once asked of views of another scholar Leon took the man’s book down and looked at a passage in question. He told me that he had reviewed the man’s sources, went behind them to supporting data, but that sadly the scholar’s views were not supported by the sources, in fact some claimed sources didn’t exist. Leon liked evidence and it controlled his interpretative framework.

He was also significant for the way he rigorously searched for the meaning of biblical words. He used the words wider background, moved through the original meaning to the use of such words (and terms) in the Bible to determine biblical meanings. My friend Peter Adam develops these principles further in an article referenced below*.

Leon was retiring by personality, but forthright within academia; in his post Cambridge PhD days he trail blazed a rising standard of evangelical scholarship in Australia by his world-class contribution and the institution of a Tyndale Fellowship in Australia.

He put his mind to truths put forward by other scholars that troubled his conservative wing and produced a credible defense of various matters. Only a few evangelicals were available to do this. A small example of his time is his booklet The Abolition of Religion, in response to the honest to God debate. He later wrestled over issues within evangelicalism … the inerrancy debate, women in ministry et al. His conclusions have shaped evangelical thinking.

He was an encourager and mentor of numerous evangelical scholars that followed him. People like I Howard Marshall, Graeme Cole, Peter Adam, Tom Schreiner, Brian Rosner and pastors like John Stott record their debt to Leon. Stott relied heavily on Leon’s view of the atonement in his popular book The Cross of Christ (IVP 1986). Leon’s emphasis remains in a number of modern conservative writings.

It might seem odd to say, but people could understand his teaching and writing. Leon was apparently judged to be more understandable than some of his colleagues. A student at Ridley College, Melbourne, later a successful Vicar, had a fine law degree and had sat under some very astute university lecturers. He was amazed at Leon’s teaching. He said that he could not believe the precision and clarity of Leon’s teaching compared to what he had experienced in his law faculty. This clarity significantly helped students, academics, Christians and non-Christian learners in their understanding.

His influence in teaching students who became Vicars and church leaders across Australia has to be noted. In his Melbourne Diocese his fight for love and truth was most clearly seen and the Diocese is the richer for it.  He wrote so that English, American and other Christians also received great teaching in the central issue of the cross and other truths. When he travelled, extensively until he was 74, he poured his heart out for others in his teaching.

Leon was a scholar who could preach and relate to the church. I argue, and you can assess it in the book, that he turned his mind to helping the church as much as academia in the latter half of his career.  His extraordinary humble servant perspective came to the fore, as even though he was more suited to pure writing, he and his wife Mildred juggled academic and general ministry responsibilities.

Then there is significance as a scholar in having sold some two million books of the depth of Leon’s work. A few years ago in Nashville, I asked a young lady in the main Christian bookshop, did she have any books by a guy called Leon Morris? She fiddled with the computer and said ‘Oh … Oh … yes, we do have a few … would like to buy some.’

In all of this Leon never forgot his roots, and never forgot that people needed to be saved and established in Christ. I outline the connection in Leon’s thinking of the cross of Christ and how it impacted his passion for evangelism in the biography.

Lastly, Leon saw himself as an ordinary human being. There were several major obstacles during his personal life and career, some within and some outside himself.  It was only the deep spiritual relationship he had with Jesus Christ, his God given humility, prayer and love of God and scholarly capital that he had built up over the years that enabled him to get through some of these trials.

Readers will have their own views of his significance as a scholar. Here down under I make no apology in telling you that Leon Lamb Morris is a somewhat of an Aussie hero.

Neil Bach

Melbourne, Australia

March 2016

*See Peter Adam  ‘Morris, Leon Lamb,’ in Donald K McKim, ed., Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, 2nd Edition, Downers Grove /Nottingham, IVP, 2007, pp. 751-55.

 

 

Blunt’s Undesigned Coincidences on-line

J.J. Blunt: Undesigned Coincidences
J.J. Blunt: Undesigned Coincidences

J.J. Blunt’s classic work Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of the Old and New Testament, an Argument of Their Veracity is now available on-line in PDF.

Click here to download.

” When I first read through the Gospels forensically, comparing those places where two or more gospels writers were describing the same event, I was immediately struck by the inadvertent support that each writer provided for the other…. When one gospel eyewitness described an event and left out a detail that raised a question, this question was unintentionally answered by another gospel writer (who, by the way, often left out a detail that was provided by the first gospel writer)….

As someone new to the Bible, I began to investigate whether or not anyone else had observed this phenomenon and found that a professor of divinity name J.J.Blunt wrote a book in 1847 entitled Undesigned Coincidences… This was one of the  first books about the Bible I ever purchased. In his section related to the Gospels and the Boo of Acts, Blunt identified the very same inadvertent parallel passages I discovered when examining the Gospels forensically. Blunt described the phenomenon as a series of “undesigned coincidences” and identified over forty locations in the New Testament where this feature of unintentional eyewitness support could be seen on the pages of Scripture. “

J. Warner Wallace, Cold Case Christianity. A homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. Colorado Springs, CO:  David C. Cook, 2013. pp.184-185.

With such a recommendation I am very pleased to be able to make this book available.

New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods

Essays on New Testament Interpretation
Essays on New Testament Interpretation

In 1977 Howard Marshall edited a collection of essays on New Testament interpretation contributed by some of the best Evangelical scholars in the UK, many of whom have since gone to their reward, including Marshall himself. The volume has proved to be of enduring value to students, particularly F.F Bruce’s masterful summary of the history of New Testament study. All of the essays are available for free download, thanks to the kind permission of Paternoster Press. Click on the individual articles to download.

I. Howard Marshall, ed. New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods. Carlisle: The Paternoster Press, 1977, revised 1979, 1985. Pbk. pp.406.

Contents

Editor’s Foreword

Introduction – I. Howard Marshall

Part I – The Background To Interpretation II

The History of New Testament Study – F.F. Bruce

Presuppositions in New Testament Criticism – Graham N. Stanton

Part II – The Use of Critical Methods in Interpretation

Semantics and New Testament Interpretation – Anthony C. Thiselton

Questions of Introduction – Donald Guthrie

The Religious Background – John W. Drane

Historical Criticism – I. Howard Marshall

Source Criticism – David Wenham

Form Criticism – Stephen H. Travis

Tradition History – David R. Catchpole

Redaction Criticism – Stephen S. Smalley

Part III – The Task of Exegesis XII

How the New Testament Uses the Old – E. Earle Ellis

Approaches To New Testament Exegesis – Ralph P. Martin

Exegesis in Practice: Two Examples – R.T. France

Demythologising – The Problem of Myth in the New Testament – James D.G. Dunn

The New Hermeneutic – Anthony C. Thiselton

The Authority of the New Testament – Robin Nixon

Expounding the New Testament – John Goldingay

Bibliography

Indexes