A Brief Tribute to I. Howard Marshall

We are all deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of one of the great New Testament scholars of the post-World War II era, I. Howard Marshall.

Professor Marshall was born 12 January 1934 and died on 12 December 2015. He was primarily educated at the University of Aberdeen (MA, BD, and PhD), along with Cambridge University (BA), and spent virtually his entire academic career at Aberdeen, where he supervised numerous students who have gone on to make contributions to evangelical scholarship. After teaching for a short time at Didsbury Methodist College in Bristol, Professor Marshall began teaching at Aberdeen in 1964 and became Professor of New Testament Exegesis in 1979, a position he held until his retirement in 1999, at which time he became Honorary Research Professor of the University. After his first wife died in 1998, he later married Dr. Maureen Yeung, who had received her PhD from Aberdeen and was president of Evangel Seminary in Hong Kong.

One of the leaders of the second generation of evangelical New Testament scholars, Professor Marshall picked up the torch from the first generation, represented by such luminaries as F. F. Bruce (a fellow Aberdonian), from whom he took over editing the Evangelical Quarterly in 1981. Professor Marshall was closely associated with evangelicalism throughout his career, as well as with Methodism (he was at one time a pastor in Darlington). He was a member of the Tyndale Fellowship and chaired its committee and worked with the New Testament study group, as well as being involved in numerous research projects. I first met Professor Marshall at Tyndale House in the mid-1980s, where he noted with some sympathy the work that I was doing in Greek verbal aspect, wondering aloud that he had always inclined toward the view that I had taken and expressing surprise that others didn’t.

marshallbiblicalintThe list of Professor Marshall’s publications is long. Among his many monographs, several of them remain standard works. These include his Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away (London: Epworth, 1969), Luke: Historian and Theologian (Exeter: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), which is an introduction to Luke as both historian and theologian, a relationship many strain today to figure out, The Origins of New Testament Christology (London and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1976), Biblical Inspiration (London: Hodder and Stoughton; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), Jesus the Saviour: Studies in New Testament Theology (London: SPCK; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), which is an excellent collection of previously published essays on a variety of topics, The Theology of the Shorter Pauline Letters (with Karl P. Donfried; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), Beyond the Bible: Moving from Scripture to Theology (with essays by Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Stanley E. Porter; Grand Rapids: Baker; Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2004), and his New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), and a later shorter edition of this theology (2008). Professor Marshall also contributed to a student-level New Testament introduction (2002). There are of course other works that could and perhaps rightly should be mentioned. I am sure that Professor Marshall’s followers each have their favorite works. I think that his Biblical Inspiration merits far more positive consideration than it has been given and his Luke: Historian and Theologian is still hard to find its equal. His Origins of New Testament Christology is concise and to the point and insightful.

Known also as an excellent commentator on a variety of books of the New Testament, Professor Marshall’s classic work is his commentary on Luke (NIGTC), along with his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (ICC). He also wrote commentaries on the Johannine Epistles (NICNT), Acts (TNTC), 1 and 2 Thessalonians (NCB), 1 Peter (IVP), and Philippians (Epworth). I think that it is fair to say that Professor Marshall was clearly most interested in Luke and Acts, with strong interests also in Paul. I have also found his commentary on the Johannine Epistles one of the most rewarding on that book. Professor Marshall at the time of his death was the co-editor of the NIGTC series.

Professor Marshall was also known for his editing several significant works. He was editor of, along with Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, the first edition of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL and Leicester: InterVarsity, 1992), the third edition of the New Bible Dictionary (3rd ed.; Leicester: InterVarsity, 1996), a book on the theology of Acts (with David Peterson), and a revised and updated edition of Moulton and Geden’s Concordance to the Greek New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2002). I think that my favorite, however, is his New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods (Carlisle: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977). This is a book that still rewards reading because of the quality of the essays that it contains by a major list of the leading evangelical scholars of the day—scholars who then and now rival the best that New Testament scholarship has to offer.

He received two Festschriften. The first, edited by Joel B. Green and Max Turner, appeared in 1994, and the second, edited by Jon C. Laansma, Grant R. Osborne, and Ray Van Neste, appeared in 2011.

Professor Marshall distinguished himself as an important interpreter of the New Testament, who paid attention to the text, as is evidenced in his several important and insightful commentaries. He was also very much interested in the theology of the New Testament, as this theology is evident in the various books and corpora of the New Testament. Hence his New Testament theology is organized around the various books of the New Testament rather than by themes or topics. He let the text dictate the discussion, rather than make the themes be imposed on the text. He was also aware of matters of interpretation, as is evident in several of the works mentioned above.

messiahI had the privilege of knowing Professor Marshall for nearly thirty years, and throughout those years saw him occasionally at various scholarly events. This included hosting him at McMaster Divinity College as a participant in our annual Bingham Colloquium, where he delivered a paper on “Jesus in Mark and Matthew,” published in The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (ed. Stanley E. Porter; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 117-43. It was a pleasure to see Professor Marshall at this time, as well as on various other occasions when he would be at a conference. I remember seeing him at one ETS conference with his wife, Maureen, and was able to congratulate him on his recent marriage, especially after I had met Maureen a number of years earlier in Hong Kong.

Professor Marshall represents, I believe, the kind of evangelical scholar that many of us hope to emulate but usually fall far short of achieving. By this I mean that he was clear in his fundamental convictions, devoted to the text as God’s word, and not concerned to fulfill the agenda of others. I, and evangelicalism as a whole, will greatly miss Professor Marshall.

— Stanley E. Porter

16 thoughts on “A Brief Tribute to I. Howard Marshall

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