Appreciating Prof. Howard Marshall (Gupta)

IHMMany of you by now have heard the sad news that Prof. I. Howard Marshall has passed away (1934-2015). Several eulogies have appeared now online, and I would like to add my own appreciation.

I did not know Prof. Marshall very well personally, but I have admired his work from afar for a long time. In fact, when I was originally thinking of doing a Ph.D., I had four professors in mind, though they had all retired (or stopped taking students) by the time I applied to programs: Jimmy Dunn, Graham Stanton, Richard Bauckham, and Howard Marshall.

I do remember the first time I saw Prof. Marshall in person. We were in the “Upper Hexagon” at the Tyndale House and I notice Marshall was sitting in the back corner, not able to see what was going in the front very well. I felt badly for him and nearly offered him my chair – until he turned around and started to play piano as we began the seminar with worship! Later that weekend I recall having dinner at a table with Marshall and he was quiet and very thoughtful. We talked about his New Testament Theology (which had recently been released at the time) and also the fact that he was writing the Romans commentary for the Two Horizons.

I was introduced to Marshall’s work via the Exploring the New Testament textbook. His New Testament Theology is also a work to which I regularly return. Some have mentioned the important work he has done in Luke-Acts – true enough. But I also want to note his outstanding ICC volume on the Pastoral Epistles where he introduced his theory of “allonymity” (an alternative to either “authenticity” or “pseudonymity”). I believe this move by Marshall has opened the way for more evangelicals to consider possibilities other than traditional authenticity for the PE.

Further, in preparation for my 1-2 Thessalonians commentary, I worked through his 1-2 Thessalonians commentary and, in all honesty, it is at the very top of my list of best theological commentaries on these letters. Mention too should be made of his thoughtful work in The Theology of the Shorter Pauline Letters (Cambridge).

On a more personal level, I have always appreciated how Marshall has supported women in theological education and in ministry. He wrote an essay on the Household Codes in Eph/Col for Discovering Biblical Equality, and he wrote a more autobiographical chapter for How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership. In the latter book Marshall, of course, explains his support for women in ministry from his interpretation of Scripture; but he offers this as well: “my experience working with godly women in ministry, teaching, and leadership has been ample confirmation that excluding them from these roles is indefensible” (146).

Marshall also poignantly argues that the nature of what “leadership” means has changed from their time to our time and culture. He posits that nowadays we have turned “leadership” into something essentially independent and executive – one person at the top who makes all the decisions. But Marshall believes things were different in the early church

 

Much church leadership is (and should be) corporate, and decisions are taken by consensus rather than fiat. In addition, the adoption of the biblical concept of leadership as humble service (both to God and people) without seeking self-aggrandisement and the trappings of office, it seems to me, removes the basis for the objections people may feel to women in leadership and ministry” (147).

 

Thoughtful. Irenic. Thorough. That was how he was known, and how he will be remembered.

 

Requiescat in pace, Prof. Howard Marshall.

 

 

 

 

 

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