I. Howard Marshall, 1934–2015

I. Howard MarshallWhen 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.

A Teacher

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:

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.

A Disciple

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.

Marshall wrote,

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 wardMark 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.


  1. Eric Fary says

    Prayers to his family. Reading on his work right now in my RTS Class. My Professor, Dr. Bob Cara speaks highly on him. Sorry for the loss of a dear brother in Christ.

  2. says

    Thank you for your thoughtful rememberance of Dr. Marshall. I had not heard of his promotion to Heaven. I have found his work very helpful, not least of which his commenatry on Romans. I don't own all of his works (budget limits), I expect to but over time. Yes, he was a faithful disciple and discipler.

  3. Mark Schulz says

    I echo Tim’s thank you as I also had not heard of his finishing his earthly race. Dr. Marshall was one of a small number of scholars of whom my seminary N.T. Intro prof would frequently say, “Always worth reading.” His careful and insightful exegesis has been and will be a great gift to the Church.

  4. says

    My how fast the decades move with the swiftness of minutes when we reflect on what really matters and the genius of scholars like Dr. Marshall. It was my privilege to hear his name fall from the lips of Dr. Joel Gregory at an E. K. Bailey conference in Dallas, Texas. As the relationship with Dr. Gregory grew so did I come to sense a fresh voice, new friend and wise advisor in the works of Dr. Marshall. The keen insight and remarkable writings left to the world will last as a testament to the abundant Grace of the Almighty! His labors now ceased, but time will not erase nor ages erode the brilliance of the crown of life Dr. Marshall now wears.

  5. says

    I personally like to thank God for His writings which inspired and challenged me in my exporation of the message of the New Testament. During my tenure as a Postgraduate student at London Bible College doing my work on " Aspects in Biblical Interpretation" I worked on his "New Testament Interpretation: Its principles and methods." I have benefited a lot. It helped clarifiey many concepts in linguistics, hermeneutics and theological exegesis. On New Testament Christology.I have found his books specially commentaris and articles very useful as an Indian student using English as a second language. I have heard through sources that he was such an amazing person. My mentor Uncle John Stott who facilitated my education in UK, I know, he has held him in great respect.Hearing the news of his home-going in glory is shcocking yet in the words of D L Moody, he must now more active than ever before in serving the Lord faithfully. Glory be to His Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. Rev. Dr. John Albert Devadosan Selwyn. Retired Clergy, Church of South India, Bangalore and Vicar, Parish of Christ Church, Anglican Diocese of Singapore

  6. says

    I first found I.Howard Marshall's work in seminary. He was one of my favorite mentors in my faith journey. May our Lord be praised as one of his Saints enters into his rest.

  7. says

    Howard Marshall spent just two years as a Circuit Minister at Bondgate Methodist Church, Darlington, before moving to academia and Aberdeen University. During those two years Howard inspired me and guided me through my own candidating procedures for the Methodist ministry. Whilst the tributes pour in for Howard and his writings we should not forget his continuing pastoral association and personal nurturing of hundreds of people like me. Professor, yes! Pastor, yes! Proud to be one of Mr Wesley’s preachers in the local church, circuit and world parish, definitely yes!

  8. says

    My favorite book of his is Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away, in which he tackles a thorny problem not by dogmatics, but looking exegetically at all the passages that bear on the topic, and drawing conclusions from that. He was a model in this, and I think this book should be read by all theological students even for that reason alone. My favorite exegetical article of his is "For All, for All My Savior Died" in the festschrift for Clark Pinnock, Semper Reformandum. Would that we all be informed by the text in context. As such, I have appreciated him as a friend and scholar in the wilderness, though I never met him (yet).

  9. says

    You make reference to Dr. Marshall's commentary on Romans. The only thing I can find on Romans by him is his own statement. "My current project is to collaborate with Stephen N. Williams in a theological commentary on Romans for the Two Horizons series." Can you enlighten me to what you specifically are referring?
    Ken Hedstrom

  10. says

    Kenneth Hedstrom I have looked into my statement about a Romans commentary by Marshall. The book I was thinking of was a trade paperback, andthe publisher was Tyndale. However, researching the Internet for the book, I too could not find it. Looking at my library listing in Librarything.com I found the cover of which I was thinking. The author of the Romans commentary was Douglas Moo. I regret the error, and appreciate your calling this to my attention.

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