Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I. Howard Marshall and David Wenham Pay Tribute to R.T. France

After some perusing around a bit on the web, I was able to find these remarks about R.T. France by a friend and contemporary, I. Howard Marshall:

‘As a scholar Dick France was outstanding with his superb study of Jesus’ use of the Old Testament and his commentaries on Matthew and Mark. His conclusions were ever sane and sensible and yet also fresh and creative. He was not afraid to be adventurous, as in his interpretation of Mark 13, his support for women in ministry and his defence of apostolic authorship of the Gospel of Matthew. He was a capable administrator, and his combination of academic skill and tactful efficiency served him well in his chairmanship of the UK group working on the anglicisation of several editions of NIV and TNIV, a task that involved meticulous attention to detail and the making of finely balanced decisions. But above all Dick was one of the most gracious and saintly friends and colleagues whom it has been my privilege to know.’ – Howard Marshall
Here is a tribute written by another New Testament scholar and friend, David Wenham: 

Richard T. France (Dick), a former student in the 1960s of Tyndale Hall (one of the colleges which joined to form Trinity College), died on 10 February 2012 aged 73. Dick was one of Britain's most highly respected scholars and church leaders. Born in 1938, he studied in Oxford and then did his ordination training at Tyndale. He ministered in Cambridge (his first post) and then in seven parishes on the English/Welsh border (his last post), and taught in Nigeria, London and Oxford, where he was Principal of Wycliffe Hall from 1989 to 1995. He was a leading New Testament scholar, who had particular links with Tyndale House, the research centre in Cambridge, where he was Librarian, Director of its Gospels Research Project, and finally Warden. The Gospels were the main focus of his research, and he published widely, both at a scholarly level (including his Bristol University doctoral thesis wehich became the book on Jesus and the Old Testament, and major commentaries on the Greek text of Matthew and Mark), but also at a more popular level (including The Evidence for Jesus, and The Living God). In his latter years he was involved with Bible translation and the revisions of the New International Version. He will be remembered for his careful and accessible scholarship, which was conservative and critical in the best sense. He was a recognized evangelical leader, whose defence of the faith was sober, well-informed and gracious (and who could change his mind: he became a strong but not strident defender of women's ordination). He wrote an excellent article on Barnabas, 'the son of encouragement', as the New Testament explains the name: he was someone who himself exemplified that spirit, whether as Warden of Tyndale House, where he helped numerous research students and others, or as Vice- Principal of London Bible College and Principal of Wycliffe Hall, where he taught and encouraged many students and colleagues. He was unassuming and not ambitious for himself, so that his final career move was into faithful ministry in tiny rural parishes. He worked mostly in England, but he had a great interest in the worldwide church and an international teaching ministry; he was closely involved with the work of the Langham Trust. His first teaching job from 1969 to 1973 was in Nigeria, a country with which he maintained contacts, becoming an honorary canon of Ibadan in 1994. His final move with his wife Curly was to the West of Wales, the land of his fathers (his grandparents lived on the Gwynedd coast in Tywyn). Here he continued his academic work while walking the hills and enjoying God's creation. His final illness was short and unexpected. He will be greatly missed by Curly and their children David and Sioux and the wider family. His work will continue through his writing and through his influence on many of us who are grateful for his friendship, wisdom and support. I was glad to be able to represent Trinity College at his funeral on Friday 17 February in a packed St Cynon's Church, Fairbourne, Gwynedd. Many tributes were paid to him and it was clear how much he was loved and appreciated not only by family and friends but in the local churches where he often ministered in his retirement. -David Wenham

 And lastly, an obituary written by France's older brother, Peter:
'My brother Dick, priest, theologian, teacher and translator, died on 10 February 2012 of pancreatic cancer, after a short illness. The son of Welsh-born parents, he was born in Derry on 2 April 1938, but we soon moved to England, living on the Lancashire coast, then near Selby, before coming to the Bradford area, where we lived in Burley-in-Wharfedale. Dick was thus at BGS in his formative years, from 1950 to 1956, and remembered his schooldays with pleasure. He chose the classics stream, where he was taught by Raymond Shaw-Smith, and was one of the outstanding students of the decade. His linguistic skills were later put to intensive use in his work on the translation of the Bible (Today’s New International Version). While at school, he took part in school plays, played the flute, and walked in the hills and dales. Wild country and the natural world were to remain a constant love of his – the two came together with his religious aspirations in a poem he printed in the Bradfordian, ‘The Curlew’. He went on to Balliol College, Oxford to read classics, but he had already decided that his vocation was to the ministry. After Oxford he studied at Tyndale College, Bristol for a London B.D., and went on to take a Bristol Ph.D., published in 1971 as Jesus and the Old Testament. In 1965 he married Barbara (Curly) Wilding, with whom he had two children, David and Sue (Sioux) – a happy and harmonious family. Dick was to become a leading figure in the evangelical movement within the Anglican Church. His first position was as a curate in St Matthew’s church, Cambridge, but thereafter he dedicated himself above all to theological education and writing. He spent four enjoyable and fruitful years (1969-73) at the University of Ife in Nigeria and was later appointed a canon of Ibadan cathedral; his involvement with Nigerian life could also be seen in his collection of art works and artefacts. Having returned to England, he was successively librarian and warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge, a very successful senior lecturer and Vice-Principal at the London Bible College, and from 1989 to 1995 Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He left Wycliffe not to become a bishop, as some had thought likely, but to serve as priest in Wentnor and a group of small neighbouring parishes on the Welsh border. This move was prompted partly by the desire to bring his theological work to bear on ordinary church life, but also by the fact that this was the country our father came from. And when he retired in 2001 it was to our mother’s country; he and Curly settled in a cliff-top house near Tywyn in Merionethshire, next to the ancient church of Llangelynin. He had a busy retirement with many local church engagements, theological writing, and the Bible translation that took him all over the world. He was also an active member of the community, learning Welsh, looking after the old church, working as a volunteer at the Talyllyn Railway, revelling in the bird life of Cardigan Bay, and continuing to walk over Cader Idris and the surrounding hills. Throughout his career, Dick combined theology and pastoral work. As the Times obituarist put it, he ‘saw himself as one who was called to interpret and apply the New Testament to the life of the Church’. His numerous books range from authoritative and learned commentaries, notably on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, to more popular works such as The Man They Crucified (1975) or The Evidence for Jesus (1986); all are written in a clear and attractive style. Within the evangelical movement he was an influential supporter of women’s ordination, setting out his scripture-based arguments in the Didsbury Lectures, published as Women in the Church’s Ministry (1997). He was a good talker and a good listener; his easy-going and modest manner made him a very popular and effective teacher, supervisor, administrator and colleague. The affection, gratitude, and admiration of those who knew him were reflected in his moving funeral service at Fairbourne near Tywyn, between the sea and the mountains.'

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