F.F. Bruce: A Life

A common practice I have adopted is reading Christian biographies and/or autobiographies.

Growing up I had never given Christian biographies and autobiographies much thought, but then my theology professor at university plead with us (his students) to get into the habit of reading Christian biographies and autobiographies. I took his advice to heart and practice, for which I am grateful — I have been thoroughly edified by the simple joy of reading Christian biographies, to say the least. (Reading stories about Saints who have walked faithfully with our Lord is a wonderful way to spend time in leisure.)

All of that as a way to preface my reflections on a (relatively) new biography of F. F. Bruce, who was one of the most well-known and well-respected powerhouse Evangelical Biblical Scholars of the past century.

F. F. Bruce: A Life by Tim Grass is an excellent book.  About a month or two ago I read a book review of the biography in Books & Culture, and I immediately ran over to Amazon.com and purchased the book.

For a biography, I read it very quickly, but only because I realized very early on it that it would be a book I would return to again. Tim Grass has written splendidly, ably sketching the life-story of F. F. Bruce and his work — which is a real treat to all, since this is the first book length biography on Bruce, who was a trained Classicist turned Bible Scholar. Grass closes the book in Chapter 10 – “Legacy and Evaluation” – which proivdes a very thoughtful overview of Bruce’s life and influence.

F. F. Bruce was a godly man, that is indisputable, and this book provides a behind-the-scenes peak into his life, which was very much a private life — Bruce abhorred spiritual exhibitionism. Bruce had a sharp mind, but he was fair, charitable, and irenic. Grass’ biography, therefore, provides an intimate understanding of Bruce’s personal love for God and Scripture and the Church. I encourage all to take up and read this book: Bruce was a very influential Bible Scholar during the 20th-century, and this biography will benefit and contribute to your knowledge of Evangelicalism and Scripture.

One of the things I learned was that F. F. Bruce wrote an autobiography, but it dealt very little with his own life and his work, e.g., “a great deal of [Bruce’s autobiography] was not about himself and his work but about the books he had acquired and the people he had encountered” (ix). Which is to say this is the basis for the real value of this book: this biography breaks new ground, it doesn’t merely repeat and/or reassemble what has been said about Bruce elsewhere.

Also, additional F. F. Bruce kudos: Two years ago I read Bruce’s New Testament History. It was great — Bruce not only had a brilliant mind, but he was a competent author! And I have just begun Bruce’s commentary on the Book of Acts, and I intend to read his autobiography, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past, which was published 10 years before Bruce’s dead in 1990.