When news reached me last week that I. Howard Marshall had passed away, my mind ran, of course, to pieces he’d written, books on my shelf and on my computer. The primary two works that came to mind were his New Testament Theology and his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in the International Critical Commentary. I also have an introductory book, New Testament Interpretation: Principles and Methods, that he edited, and several other commentaries.
I have many commentaries, sometimes too many to check. But Marshall is the kind of writer whose volumes always make it into my collection of “Best Commentaries”—I actually read them. Just yesterday I was studying Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight.” I was wondering whether ἀγωνίζομαι there is used in BDAG’s sense 1, “fighting,” or its sense 2, “competing.” Marshall’s comment in his ICC volume was genuinely helpful, a model of clarity:
Although Simpson . . . argues for three metaphors, drawn from war, athletics and stewardship, it is preferable to see the same athletic metaphor in all three clauses, especially in view of the reference to the winner’s crown in v. 8. Most commentators think that the reference throughout is to athletics in general and running in particular . . . but it may be that the first clause refers to wrestling, the second to running. (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles)
I was getting there in my own study, but my thinking was still somewhat muddled. Marshall organized my thoughts and pointed them in a useful direction, letting me know what the major views are and why he thinks his view works best. This is what I want commentators to do.
Marshall is a big name, and as the tributes started pouring out on the Internet this week I began to see why in a way I hadn’t before. I can’t say that I personally trace many views or insights directly to him—and I pay him the respect of not always agreeing with him! Marshall is for me mainly that workmanlike, reliable commentator. But I can say that the work of some of his many PhD students has impacted me greatly. I was surprised to see among his students a number of writers whose work has meant a great deal to me academically, ministerially, and spiritually:
- Craig Blomberg, author of Jesus and the Gospels
- Grant Osborne, author of The Hermeneutical Spiral
- Darrell Bock, author of a landmark two-volume commentary on Luke
- Mark Strauss, linguistically sensitive Bible translator and biblical scholar
- Bill Mounce, author (like Marshall) of an excellent commentary on the Pastoral Epistles
Honorable mention goes to Eckhard Schnabel, Phil Towner, and Clint Arnold—and I’m very likely missing some names. Through his self-sacrificing and diligent work with students (so says Craig Blomberg), Marshall has done more for the church than he ever could have alone.
As I did some poking around in my Logos library to see what else Marshall had written, I was pleased to be reminded that he was one of the editors of my favorite Bible dictionary, the New Bible Dictionary. It was poignant to me that my search for entries by Marshall in that work turned up the following entry: “Disciple.” A disciple is what Marshall was, one who followed his Lord into an academic vocation.
Discipleship was based on a call by Jesus (Mk. 1:16–20; 2:13f.; Lk. 9:59–62; even Lk. 9:57f. presupposes Jesus’ invitation in general terms). It involved personal allegiance to him, expressed in following him and giving him an exclusive loyalty (Mk. 8:34–38; Lk. 14:26–33). In at least some cases it meant literal abandonment of home, business ties and possessions (Mk. 10:21, 28), but in every case readiness to put the claims of Jesus first, whatever the cost, was demanded. Such an attitude went well beyond the normal pupil-teacher relationship and gave the word ‘disciple’ a new sense. Faith in Jesus and allegiance to him are what determine the fate of men at the last judgment (Lk. 12:8f.). (277–278)
May I. Howard Marshall’s work continue till Christ’s coming to help “make disciples of all nations.”
Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. He is the author of multiple high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption.