Remember your leaders. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith
by Brian Rosner
Leon Lamb Morris was born 15th March, 1914. So this year marks the centenary of his birth. Leon Morris was Principal of Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia for 15 years from 1964 until 1979, and prior to that was Vice-Principal between 1945 and 1960. The College library is named after him and he remains to this day a scholar of great repute.
At a time when evangelical biblical scholarship was at best marginal, Leon Morris attained a worldwide reputation as a New Testament scholar of the first rank. With a Cambridge PhD, he was the first Australian to be elected to the international scholarly Society for New Testament Studies. He was one of the first wardens of Tyndale House in Cambridge, was a translator of the NIV Bible, and gave visiting lectures in colleges around the world.
Morris was a prolific author. He wrote more than 50 books, which have sold over 2 million copies. They include classic texts on the Cross of Christ and many books about the New Testament. At Ridley and in Melbourne he was known for his careful attention to the biblical texts in the original languages and for his skillful communication in a variety of contexts. He combined firm convictions about the core truths of the Christian faith with a winsome humility.
Morris still has much to teach us. Hebrews 13:7 urges us:
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
In that spirit, Ridley Melbourne wishes to mark the Centenary of Leon Morris by reflecting on his theological influence and godly legacy.
On 24th March Ridley Melbourne will host a lecture by Rev Neil Bach, a Ridley graduate, who is in the final stages of writing a biography of Leon Morris. The lecture is entitled: ‘Leon Morris and the Cross of Christ: Celebrating the Centenary of Australia’s Foremost Biblical Scholar.’
In addition, we have a stellar cast of bloggers, enlisted from those who knew Morris personally and also from contemporary international biblical scholars, who will reflect on their experience of Morris in person or in print, and assess his contribution to the work of the gospel and theological scholarship around the world. The posts will be released throughout the year.
My own reflections on Leon Morris go back to my time as a doctoral student in Cambridge in the late 1980s. Feeling at sea in an intimidating environment of critical scholarship, I was thankful for Tyndale House and its steadying influence. Whereas today evangelical biblical scholars are numerous and their contributions are generally taken seriously in the academy, this was not always the case.
It felt to me that I had an invidious choice to make. I could either hold to the inspiration of the Bible or investigate the texts of the Bible as historical documents in their ancient literary context. What I needed were examples of those who did both with integrity.
Three such models stood out for me: F.F. Bruce, I. Howard Marshall and Leon Morris. All three played formative roles in establishing the work of Tyndale House. And all three wrote serious commentaries that set the gold standard for evangelical New Testament scholarship: Bruce on Acts, Marshall on Luke and Morris on John.
I recall vividly pouring over Morris on John and being greatly encouraged by the clarity of his exegesis, the honesty with which he grappled with exegetical difficulties and the attention not only to historical matters, but also to literary and theological issues. Morris’s treatment of John remains a model of scholarship in the service of both the academy and the church. If evangelical biblical scholarship today offers something of value to the task of strengthening God’s people and promoting the gospel, which I believe it does, we owe a great deal to pioneers like Leon Morris.
Ridley Melbourne hopes you’ll join in the coming months as we remember a leader who spoke the word of God to us.