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,