F.F.Bruce: a life

F.F.Bruce: a life
Tim Grass
Paternoster, 2011, £14.99, Pbk, 283pp, ISBN: 9781842277379

This book is subtitled “The definitive biography of a New Testament scholar”, which constitutes a good summary of its contents. Professor Bruce will be remembered by long-standing members of the Fellowship as our lecturer in November 1982 when he spoke on “Two Centuries of New Testament Criticism” to an audience of about eighty in Loughborough (p.189). Many will also be familiar with his written works.

Bruce was born in Elgin in the north-east of Scotland in 1910. His father was an evangelist with the group of Christians known as Open Brethren. Bruce grew up in this community and remained with the Open Brethren throughout his life. Indeed I think some understanding of the Brethren is necessary fully to appreciate this biography and the relationship between Bruce’s church affiliation and his academic activities. After a brilliant school career Bruce entered the University of Aberdeen, where he graduated with a first class degree in classics in 1932. His academic career in classics developed for some years until in 1947 he was appointed to set up the Department of Biblical History and Literature in the University of Sheffield. “Bruce seized the opening with both hands, later describing the opportunity to focus on biblical studies as ‘enjoyable beyond words’” (p. 52). From there he went on in 1959 to be Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis in the University of Manchester where he remained until his retirement in 1978.

Bruce contributed largely to the way evangelical biblical scholarship gained respect in the wider academic world. He was able to disagree profoundly with fellow scholars on academic matters, yet remain on friendly terms personally. He was a prolific writer producing some fifty books, besides innumerable articles, reviews and other material. The bibliography in this book extends to some thirty-five pages. Apart from his academic life Bruce was a devoted family man, able to relate easily to children. Many of his students also testify to his concern for them. He had an attractive dry sense of humour and was often seen with a twinkle in his eye.

I recommend this book as an interesting account of a remarkable man. And if anyone has not come across Bruce’s written work, please sample it. I am sure you will be impressed by the author’s ability to explain sometimes difficult issues with clarity.

Contributed by: Penelope Andrews who lives in Lancaster and is a long standing friend and supporter of CLIS.

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