Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Beautiful Mind: The Ability of F.F. Bruce

Perusing through my newly purchased Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, I came upon the entry of "F.F. Bruce" written by W.W. Gasque. The article is fascinating in that it challenges many assumptions that have been made about Bruce, especially his supposed fundamentalism. Also, I was not aware that Bruce never completed an earned doctorate!

What really got my attention though, was the paragraph where Gasque discusses Bruce's expertise on the Bible. Here is the quote in full:

Bruce's knowledge of the Bible was prodigious. Those who knew him well believed that he had the whole Bible, in the original languages and in several translations, committed to memory. When he was asked a question about the Bible, he did not have to look up the text. He would sometimes take off his glasses, close his eyes as if he were scrolling the text in his mind and then comment in such an exact manner that one knew he was referring to the Hebrew or Greek text, which he either translated or paraphrased in his answer. If he were in an academic context, the reference might be directly to the original language; in speaking to students who were not necessarily theologians, he would normally use a contemporary translation; in church he would use the appropriate translation familiar to the majority of his hearers, whether the Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, the New English Bible, the King James Version or in conservative Brethren circles, the New Translation by John Nelson Darby, again normally quoting exactly from memory. He also seemed to know all the hymns of the classical and evangelical Christian traditions by heart as well as a large body of secular poetry--English, Scottish, Greek and Latin. (239)

Wow! I wonder if any of you have heard similar stories about Bruce's fantastic memory?


Anonymous said...

Matthew, I've been trying to decide whether I should pick this up or not. Its hard to know what my priorities should be for books sometimes.

Is the book a helpful one for the history of interpretation at all? Or is it just biography?

Matthew D. Montonini said...


From what I have seen thus far, it is both. That is, biography as well as the history of interpretation. The biography is more geared toward their academic contributions (little about personal life per se) and how each theologian/scholar was influenced by certain interpretive movements.

What is helpful to is that their own contributions are duly noted along with the expansive bibliographies.

I understand your dilemma in determining your priorities for bbok aquisitions. I would say, at least for myself, that is a must have. I am particularly weak in the history of interpretation and its interpreters, so this fills an important gap in my understanding.