‘Remember your leaders. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith’
by Howard Marshall
In 1988 Joyce and I spent a couple of weeks in Australia at the invitation of the Scripture Union to participate in a staff conference on biblical interpretation; the biblical material was shared between Leon and myself. Easter Day fell during that period, and we celebrated its arrival with an early morning open-air rally in a park. The program included some dancing as well as singing, in which we all shared, though it was an entirely new experience for the British visitors. As we enjoyed our breakfast Leon said to me something like:‘Howard, I reckon you’ve never had an Easter like this before!’ I replied, ‘No, I haven’t’ (and privately I thought that it was simply another avant-garde expression of Antipodean Christian culture), to which he said ‘Nor have I!’
Leon was by then retired, having gained his first undergraduate degree in the year that I was born (1934). Previously he had become known to me by his writings, including The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, which was a God-send (I use the word in its literal sense) to students like myself wrestling with the ‘liberal’ interpretation of Paul by C. H. Dodd. To the same period belonged the earliest Tyndale New Testament Commentaries which were a marvellous help at just the right level. It was good to come to know him in person when he became Warden of Tyndale House for an all-too-brief spell. Quite simply he was one of the few really competent evangelical scholars who was able to take on the opposition and be recognised as a worthy defender by those who did not share his conclusions. I say ‘One of the few’: the result was that when issues cropped up on which no evangelicals were specialists, it fell to Leon to master the ‘God is dead’ arguments and produce a suitable response to them (The Abolition of Religion). He wrote full-scale commentaries and a steady stream of articles both academic and ‘popular’.
In all this he was an inspiration to younger scholars, and it was a delight to get to know him – and join him in the Easter dance!
Howard Marshall Professor Emeritus of New Testament
University of Aberdeen