Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dr. Harold Hoehner (1935–2009)

Dr. Harold Hoehner passed away this morning.

I only took one class with Dr. Hoehner. It was a doctoral seminar with only one other student. Twice a week the three of us worked through the Synoptic Gospels and discussed source criticism. Even in the short time I knew him, Dr. Hoehner left a lasting mark on my life.

Dr. Hoehner was brilliant. He had doctorates both from DTS and Cambridge, and his tome on Ephesians testifies to his scholarship. Dr. Hoehner was "particular." He knew the Turabian style manual backwards and forward, and even wrote letters to the makers of bibliography-formatting software when they couldn't get the style right. Nothing got past him on class assignments.

Brooke and I went over to his house for dinner once. I don't think we talked about New Testament theology at all the whole night, but he and his wife were conversant in any topic that came up. He was a scholar in the truest sense of the word.

But beyond his qualities as a scholar, Dr. Hoehner stuck out to me as a man of God. The DTS tribute to him says, "Most of all Harold has shown us what it means to be a man of God, committed to Christ and His gospel, and reflecting the fruit of the Spirit over a lifetime of faithful service." I couldn't agree more. Even when we tediously worked through the Synopticon in class, Dr. Hoehner would take the time to remind us of the relevance to faith and ministry.

Dr. Hoehner was humble. Despite his learning, he never "put students in their place" or made sure that you knew he was right. He was notorious for holding to Matthean priority in the Synoptic Gospels--the only person (to my knowledge) in the New Testament department to do so. When asked about this, he made the comment that the department was full of Markan priorists because he hired them. "Why surround yourself with people who agree with you?" he said.

The thing I learned most from Dr. Hoehner is that it is possible to be a biblical scholar and a lover of Jesus. It is possible to "dissect" the Scriptures in ways that would make most people nauseated, but to do so with a passion to know God. It is possible to study hard, but to do so as a ministry. I am not alone in saying that my life and ministry will never be the same having studied under him. He was a great man and he will be missed.

"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians." (1 Thessalonians 4:14 NET)
(Here is an article Dr. Dan Wallace wrote last year about the effect that Dr. Hoehner had on him and Dallas Seminary.)

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