It is quite easy to become puffed up with knowledge and thinking we have all the right answers. This is especially the case when we have been working on a particular project and we think we are right. All to often our personal desire to be right trumps the desire to getting it right. When someone challenges us or disagrees with our views the easy road is to lash out and to prove ourselves. This “lashing out” is not necessarily a mean spirited use of the tongue but can come across in a charitable tone yet pierces the heart of those who disagree. After reading C.F.D. Moule’s tribute to F.F. Bruce in the beginning of a collection of essays presented to the esteemed scholar on his 70th birthday I am grateful to realize that Bruce was a scholar that held his convictions but also treated those who disagreed with him in a charitable manner. I only hope that at the end of my career someone will be able to say similar words about my character that Moule said of Bruce.
C.F.D. Moule to F.F. Bruce:
To think of Fred Bruce is to be assured that the Psalmist’s vision can come true:
Mercy and truth are met together:
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
I know no better example of uncompromising truthfulness wedded to that most excellent gift of charity: Fred Bruce always speaks the truth in love. Certainly the truth: he is one of the rare souls who actually do verify their references: what he says can be relied on to be correctnot that he needs to do much verification, for he is blessed with an exceptionally tenacious memory. On the granite rock of a thorough classical education (Gold Medallist in Latin and Greek at Aberdeen, senior classic of his year at Cambridge) he has built a formidable edifice of extensive and accurate learning and kept it all in good shape, from the mellow Falernian wine in the cellar to the-but no, there is no hot air or smoke escaping from the chimney. Yet, instead of the scornful condescension that this easy superiority might engender, he is conspicuously courteous and considerate; and it is not a little because of his kindly wisdom (a greater gift even than learning) that the Faculty of Theology at Manchester, like the Department at Sheffield before that, has been held together so amicably. It is no secret that the late Professor S.G.F. Brandon held and published views about Christian origins with which F.F.B. was in radical disagreement. Yet such was their friendship and mutual respect that Brandon made one of the speeches at Bruce’s sixtieth birthday celebration, and Bruce was asked, and readily agreed, to say words of appreciation at Brandon’s Memorial Service in Manchester Cathedral. It is the same essential loyalty on the deepest personal level that has kept him a faithful member of the Brethren, without the lowering of his rigorous academic standards. It is a loyalty shared, too, by his wife in their long and happy partnership. Beneath a rather rugged exterior, Fred conceals a ready wit. A colleague tells how Professor Cordon Rupp, then at Manchester, came to a Faculty meeting straight from attending ‘Vatican 11’ as an observer, and sat down next to F.F. Bruce, dumping a large attache case on the table in front of him. ‘Here comes Cordon’, was the instant comment, ‘bearing with him a parcel of pardons from the Pope’. It is all there and always ready-this vast stock of witty comment and information, from hilarious anecdotes, through exact knowledge of University regulations, to etymological learning (such as the origins of the word ‘levirate’ in Latin and Homeric Greek): apt, accurate, circumstantial, complete. It was an illustrious succession in which Bruce found himself on his election to the Rylands Chair: A. S. Peake, C. H. Dodd, T. W. Manson. It is no mean achievement to have added lustre to such a tradition. I need not recite the long list of his publications or his cursus vitae: others are supplying these. But I gratefully seize this opportunity, as one who has himself experienced the warmth of his loyal friendship, to add this more general little tribute and to join in a gesture which (to borrow words from one of Fred’s favourite authors) ‘overflows in a flood of thanksgiving to God’ (2 Cor. 9:12, N.E.B.).
From Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to Professor F. F. Bruce on His 70th Birthday ed. Donald A. Hagner pgs. xvii-xix
I am grateful to Dr. Runge for this thought. He not only brought this to my attention but also embodies this way of scholarship. ↩