Rev. James Lipscomb: I Wish You Could Have Known Him

The persons pictured to the right are me and my college Greek professor, Rev. James W. Lipscomb. The picture was taken by Mrs. Lipscomb as he and I were reading the Greek New Testament together on his back porch in Ruston, Louisiana in 1994. The picture brings back fond memories of a man who had many stories to tell. To give you an idea of the cloth from which Rev. Lipscomb was cut, he was a classmate of Francis Schaeffer in both college and seminary.

I just received word yesterday that Rev. Lipscomb passed away (obituary). He was 92 years old. It would be impossible for me to overstate how important Rev. Lipscomb was to me in my formation as a Christian and as a scholar. In the preface to my book, I wrote this about him:

Reverend James Lipscomb served as an adjunct professor at the state university that I attended for my undergraduate studies. For two years he instructed me in elementary Greek and taught me how to read [the] Greek New Testament. He was a retired Presbyterian minister, and he donated his time to me and the university. He never charged me or the college one dime. His enthusiasm for the Greek text was infectious and played [no] small part in inspiring my own love of the Greek New Testament (p. xi).

All of what I wrote is true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of the profound impact Rev. Lipscomb has had on my life. I wrote a letter to him several years ago that does tell the story. I wrote the letter as I was about to embark upon my doctoral studies. As a memorial to him, I want to share that letter with you.

Dear Mr. Lipscomb,

It’s been so long since I last saw or spoke with you that I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t remember me anymore. You taught me New Testament Greek at Louisiana Tech University from the Winter 1993 through the Spring of 1995. We met on campus for four quarters, and under your tutelage I received twelve hours of foreign language credit toward my undergraduate degree. After I had taken all the courses I could under you through the university, we met privately for several months at your home to read the Greek New Testament together. In the time that I spent with you, we translated about five New Testament books together . . .

During my prayers today, I was overcome with a sense of thankfulness for you and for everything that you gave to me in the years I spent learning Greek from you. Because we have not spoken or seen each other in so long, you may find it hard to believe that I still think about you frequently and brag about you to my friends and professors. I cannot overstate the important role you’ve played in my growth as a student of Greek and in my growth as a Christian.

Because of my previous studies with you, the Lord has enabled me to excel in my Greek studies at seminary. Soon after I arrived at the Seminary, I tested out of the entire first year of Greek classes at DTS. My first course in New Testament studies was an intensive overview of advanced New Testament grammar and syntax. There was a lot of translation involved in the course, and I hoped that I would be able to keep up. I was happy to learn that you had prepared me so well, that the professor remarked before the entire class about my knack for reading the text. Thank you so much for taking the time to teach me.

Also, I feel the need to tell you about the profound impact you have had on me in my life as a Christian. You may not know that when I began study with you I was wrestling with whether or not the Bible was truly a divinely inspired testimony from God. I don’t think my faith has ever been under such an assault as it was when I was in college. I became exposed to New Testament higher criticism . . . I learned that the cutting edge of biblical scholarship amounted to a wholesale rejection of the Bible as God’s infallible word. Because of this new knowledge, I became extremely depressed and felt as if I had no basis for my evangelical faith. I began to look around me at other Christians and could not find one person in ten thousand who could speak to the unbelief that I was struggling with. I felt as if the rug had been yanked out from under my faith, and I couldn’t stand any longer without abandoning my mind. Then the Lord brought you into my life. I have to say that you were the only person I knew who could speak to the questions that I was asking. You were the one person in my life who showed me that allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ is not irrational. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for what the Lord accomplished through you on my behalf. You pointed my mind in the right direction and resuscitated my faith in Christ. I don’t mean to be trite when I say that you were a Godsend.

Please forgive me for not saying these things sooner. The benefits that I reaped from my time with you become more and more clear as I reflect upon them in retrospect. And I must say that today I was overcome with love and thankfulness for your ministry to me. Praise the Lord that he did not leave me destitute in my time of need! Thank you for being there.

Please greet Mrs. Lipscomb for me and thank her for all the times she welcomed me into your lovely home. I always enjoyed your beautiful house. . .

I hope this letter finds you doing well.

With deep gratitude,
Denny Burk

13 Responses to Rev. James Lipscomb: I Wish You Could Have Known Him

  1. Mark May 17, 2007 at 9:53 am #

    Thanks for sharing this!

    It is a reminder to me to sincerely thank those who have inspired us, big and small.

    Though I do not have any one person that invested as much time as that with me, I am gratefully indebted as well. There have been countless many faithful, intelligent and humble witnesses to God’s grace that have encouraged, admonished, and taught me. I am very thankful.

    I feel the best way to honor them is to do the same.

  2. john May 17, 2007 at 12:09 pm #

    I remember this man by reputation, through others – but never had the pleasure of meeting him. As I recall he impacted many in Lincoln parish.

  3. Brad G May 17, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    Denny,
    Thank God for the people he uses to invest in and change our lives.
    Are you from Ruston? I spent my early childhood in Bernice (about 30-40 minutes away). Ruston was the nearest town with a Walmart, and my mom went to Tech.

  4. dennyrburk May 17, 2007 at 12:41 pm #

    Brad,

    I went to college in Ruston, but I’m from DeRidder, LA. Nevertheless, I was in Ruston long enough to know about Bernice!

    Thanks,
    Denny

  5. Andrew May 17, 2007 at 4:30 pm #

    Denny,

    I’m sorry for your loss. I, too, owe my gratitude to several men who took the time to invest themselves in my life, although they were much too important, in my mind, to spend their efforts on me. I think these are men that God puts in our path to help guide and bring up the next generation of leaders.

    Andrew

  6. Greg May 17, 2007 at 8:25 pm #

    Denny,
    Thanks for the moving post about the passing of our dear brother. Thanks to you, I knew him and sat on his porch with him. I, too, had the joy of reading Greek with Mr. Lipscomb (sometimes under a little lamp on an old chair). I simply would say that I am inspired again to take up his message. He told me the greatest audience is one. He always liked one on one teaching and instruction. We tend to think we need a crowd. Your post in honor of Mr. Lipscomb reminds us otherwise. Blessings to all, Greg.

  7. Barry May 17, 2007 at 9:04 pm #

    Denny,
    Thanks for sharing the letter about Rev. Lipscomb. I still have my Machen grammar book from those days! He was a great man.

    Barry

  8. dennyrburk May 17, 2007 at 9:10 pm #

    Greg,

    Thanks for replying. I had forgotten that you had taken Greek from him as well. It was truly a blessing to know Rev. Lipscomb. I appreciate your good word.

    Did you notice that both John Ramares (#3) and Barry Joslin (#8)commented above? Your former employees are present and accounted for!

    I hope all is good with you and yours.

    Sincerely,
    Denny

  9. G.L.W. Johnson May 20, 2007 at 9:19 am #

    Denny
    When I was a student at the old Faith theological seminary (1978-80), Lipscombs’class notes on Machen’s Intro to Greek were still in circulation.

  10. Steve May 20, 2007 at 9:04 pm #

    It is good to see good men honored. Bless you.

  11. jigawatt May 20, 2007 at 10:31 pm #

    I will never forget how Mr. Lipscomb invited students into his house for Greek lessons. After we couldn’t sit in his classes at Tech anymore (some rule about you had to sign up for the class as an audit), he let me and my girlfriend come over to his house.

    I came for the Greek, but I stayed for the Biblical mentoring.

  12. dennyrburk May 22, 2007 at 9:48 am #

    Dear GLW (in #10),

    I’m still using Machen’s textbook in the Greek classes that I teach now. Moreover, I require the students to go online and find a used copy of the first edition since it is no longer in print.

    It’s a great textbook.

    Sincerely,
    Denny Burk

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  1. Faithful unto Death with the Sacred Trust « - May 17, 2007

    […] Denny Burk gives a moving testimony to a godly man, now gone to glory, who was a faithful steward of what was given to him. Read this, and may the Lord make us all so faithful to maintain and transmit not only a knowledge of Greek, but a love for the Lord and his Word. […]

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