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18 December 2015

Christian leaders pay tribute to Howard Marshall

Christian leaders pay tribute to Howard Marshall

Christian leaders and academics from across the theological spectrum are paying tribute this week to Howard Marshall.

The evangelical New Testament scholar lost his short battle with cancer on 12 December, and died peacefully aged 81.

A member of the Evangelical Alliance Council from 1999 – 2011, the professor emeritus of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen is credited by many as paving the way for evangelical Bible study.

Colleagues from across the denominations have paid tribute to his life and work this week, including those from his own Methodist communion.

The Evangelical Alliance's director of Scotland, Fred Drummond, said Howard was a "humble and devoted follower of Jesus".

"Howard Marshall was a great supporter of Evangelical Alliance in Scotland including being a member of the EA Scotland Council. 

"He would always give time and encouragement to our work. He was an extremely gracious, humble and gifted Christian. A great servant to the Church both in Scotland and beyond."

The Revd Dr Ian Paul, a member of the Alliance's Theological Advisory Group and honorary professor at the University of Nottingham, said he owed Howard a debt.

"I've always struggled a bit to make sense of those who pit believing faith against academic integrity. Quite often it's expressed by those who have escaped from an 'unthinking' evangelicalism or fundamentalism, who now 'realise' that life is not as straightforward as they were told, so now embrace a more open position. But it's also expressed by those who want to hold on to a 'simple' faith, and think that asking questions is dangerous and unnecessary.

"I've struggled with both these kinds of separation between thinking and believing, since I have never felt the need either to protect my faith from questions, nor to abandon what I believe because it's unreasonable. And this in turn arises from the debt I owe to the excellent teachers who have formed my faith and thinking, prominent among them Howard Marshall.

"I bought his book, I Believe in the Historical Jesus, when I was a teenager, and it modelled for me the kind of careful, thorough, responsible and believing scholarship that was the hallmark of all Howard's work. When I came to study theology myself, his writing on the New Testament and the kingdom of God was an invaluable touchstone. And his NIGTC commentary on Luke was at first a significant challenge, as I was inducted into the disciplines of responsible study, but then a treasure trove of exploration and insight, showing how potent could be this kind of careful attention to the detail of the text. In its clear engagement with scholarship, mostly of different views, it epitomised the idea of reasonable faith in exegesis. For many years I consulted it even when preaching on parallel passages in the other synoptics, such was its careful attention to questions of redaction.

"When I came to meet Howard in person, through the British New Testament Conference and the Tyndale Fellowship, I realised that all this was not simply a question of professional conviction, but of personal commitment. His example of personal warmth and continued involvement in church ministry were integral to this."

Revd Dr Paul concluded his tribute, saying: "Along with Dick France, Tom Wright and Stephen Travis, Howard was part of a generation who led a renaissance in serious evangelical scholarship, which has transformed the field of New Testament study and contributed to renewal in the Church. For that, I am profoundly grateful to God."

The funeral service will be private, but a service of thanksgiving will be held at Crown Terrace Methodist Church, Aberdeen, Scotland, on Saturday, January 16, 2016, at 2 pm. All are invited to attend and donations may be given at the church door in aid of a number of Christian charities.