Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Remembering my teacher, Dick France

I've just heard that Dick France died late last week. R T (Dick) France taught me New Testament at London Bible College. It is from him that I gained my love of biblical scholarship done in the service of the church. I'm reading Richard Sennett's exposition of the craftsman at the moment and if ever there was a craftsman in the world of NT studies, it was Dick France.

His lectures were models of good learning, packed full of information and pitched at a level that undergraduates found gently stretching. He whetted our appetite for more and gave us the tools to find it for ourselves. As a personal tutor he was wonderful, listening carefully to your ideas, steering you away from the rocks but encouraging you to follow your passion.

His commentaries on Matthew and Mark are my go-to texts on those two gospels. They are full of godly learning, erudite, well-informed with a light touch that allows the text itself to breathe and offer up its treasures. As you read them, you feel that you are being ushered into the presence of the authors of Matthew and Mark and not shown how much secondary reading Dick himself has mastered (though he had mastered everything worth reading).

His book Divine Government: God's Kingship in the Gospel of Mark is an over-looked gem of insight and scholarship. His 1966 Bristol PhD, published as Jesus and the Old Testament, is still a model of how to understand Jesus' mission in the light of the Old Testament. It was this book that opened my eyes to how to read the apocalyptic discourse in the gospels as concerning both the fall of Jerusalem and the return of the king; a path Dick trod two decades before Tom Wright followed him down it.

And his book The Evidence for Jesus in the Jesus Library is an excellent, short introduction to the evidence both within and beyond the NT to the life of Jesus; and more importantly, how best to read that evidence.

He is a man who has made an enormous contribution to scholarship and helped shape the lives of every student privileged to study with him, of whom I am one. Thank you Dick for your faithfulness, good humour, skill and godly learning.

1 comment:

Simon Woodman said...

Very sad news, he was a great biblical scholar and a lovely man. He was the lead inspector on our College inspection a couple of years ago, and I got to know him through that... He'll be greatly missed