E. Earle Ellis (1926-2010): Rest in Peace, Faithful Witness
On Wednesday, 02 March 2010, famed New Testament professor E.(dward) Earle Ellis, died after complications from surgery. Several New Testament blogs ran this announcement yesterday, but I waited until I could provide this link to the news at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, where Dr. Ellis taught for much of his career–one of the few biblical scholars of international rank ever on that faculty (known more for a long series of brilliant church historians).
Ellis died two weeks before his 84th birthday and leaving unfinished a major commentary on 1 Corinthians for the new updating of the International Critical Commentary. Born in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Ellis served in the U.S. Army during WWII (1944-1946). Afterword, the young FL Baptist showed his academic prowess by using the G.I.Bill to finance an education that began with a B.A. in pre-law at the University of Virginia (cum laude, 1950) with concentrations in law, economics, political science, and history. He spent one year at the University of Virginia’s prestigious law school (consistently ranked in the top 10 law schools in the nation) before deciding that God wanted a different use of his gifts. Ellis initially enrolled in an unaccredited, ultra-conservative seminary, Faith Seminary in Wilmington, DL, but transferred to the graduate school of Wheaton College, earning both an M.A. and B.D. in 1953. By 1955, he had earned a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland).
Ellis was one of the founders of the Institute for Biblical Research and the International Reference Library for Biblical Research. A conservative evangelical scholar who often wrote against prevailing winds of skepticism, Ellis’ contributions were nonetheless recognized by a wide range of interpreters. He wrote numerous groundbreaking volumes including, Paul’s Use of the Old Testament, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity, The World of St. John, and his amazing study of textual criticism and the formation of the New Testament canon, The Making of the New Testament Documents.
On both his 60th and 80th birthdays, he was honored with Festschriften and the contributers came from around the world in each volume. He was also known as an excellent classroom teacher, a faithful churchmember, and someone who could take courageous moral stands that might not be popular at the momemt.
I never had Dr. Ellis as a teacher and met him only once at a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Though we are both Baptists and both evangelical Christians, my own theological and critical perspectives tend to be about 2 steps more “liberal” than his. What matter? He was a Christian gentlemen in the finest sense of the term and a teacher and scholar of great gifts for the Church. Those gifts, and Dr. Ellis himself, will be missed.
Dr. Ellis funeral will be held at the Truett chapel of SWBTS on Wednesday, 10 March 2010 at 10:50-noon. A graveside service will be held at 2:30 p.m. at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetary, Dallas, TX. Visitation will be on Tuesday, 09 March, from 4-6 pm at the Rose Room of the Naylor Student Center of SWBTS.
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