Ian Howard Marshall, born on January 12, 1934, died on December 12, 2015, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Marshall, an Evangelical Methodist who was born in England but lived most of his life in Scotland, served as Professor Emeritus of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen. He was a prolific author who influenced countless evangelical scholars through his mentorship and writings. One of his former students, Darrell Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, earned his doctorate under Professor Marshall at Aberdeen in 1983. Here is his tribute to the man.
Guest post by Darrell Bock
If one writes about the life of a scholar, you can expect a list of his books and academic accomplishments. But what is that scholar like as a person? What mark did that leave? When I think of I. Howard Marshall, it is who he was that made him special, not just what he did.
In 1979, my wife and I travelled to Aberdeen to begin an adventure in study that would open up not only gospels study and attention to the works of Luke-Acts, but an awareness that the Christian faith extended its impact around the world in a wide array of ways.
The initial tour guide into that journey was I. Howard Marshall. It had been the works of Marshall in New Testament Christology and a newly published, full commentary on Luke (the first done in more than forty years) that had drawn me to Aberdeen. Here was a mentor who was emerging as the successor to F. F. Bruce (1910-1990), a top flight evangelical teaching in Europe and writing at the highest level of the academic study with a pen that expressed a deep faith in his Lord.
I had expected to see a giant of a man. In fact, Howard reflected the humble Scottish roots of his home. Rather than a six-foot plus giant, Sally and I met a man who she could look at eye to eye, but his welcome and heart was the size of Texas. It was common to hear that he was meeting with students not just to review the current chapter dedicated to their thesis (what the British call a dissertation) but to pray with them. He opened his home to welcome those students and host them, making sure their arrival in Scotland and a foreign land had left them feeling at home.
He engaged in theological discussion and debate as a conservative of deep conviction who demanded that one’s work be thorough but also fair to the views being challenged. He spoke with a soft voice that communicated with clarity and gravity about the way one should regard the Scripture. That captured people’s attention. The depth of his awareness covering a sweep of topics was stunning. Despite all of that ability and knowledge, what struck one about Howard was his humility and devotion to God. His critique was delivered with a gentleness that not only made clear what might be misdirected but also that showed he cared about how that critique was received.
One incident after my time in Aberdeen is still clear to me. On a return visit to Aberdeen, we brought our family with us. Our two girls had been born in bonnie Scotland, but my son had not. It was the first and only time Howard met our son, who was a very young, playful, five-year-old boy at the time. The Marshalls had a tea warmer in the shape of penguin. Another aspect of Howard’s personality is that he had a classic Scottish wit. So Stephen spotted the warmer and was drawn to it. He offered Stephen to let him play with it and got down on the floor with him to share in the moment. Stephen took advantage of his new playmate and promptly placed the penguin on Howard’s head, leaving both of them laughing and my wife nothing short of horrified. But that was Howard, sensitive to where people were coming from with an eye to where they could go. When I remember Howard Marshall, it is this moment that most typifies him as a person.
If you saw him on the street, you would have no idea that here was a person who would impact biblical studies for decades. What you saw was a believer who cared about people so much that his study showed his care. Yes, Howard Marshall was a great biblical and New Testament scholar who could tell you more about Jesus than most, but as a person he was what the Lord calls us all to be, a person who loved God and his neighbor—not just teaching about that connection but showing it.
We will miss him, but never forget the life lessons he taught.
See also the TGC tribute written by another former student, Ray Van Neste.