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I’m glad to learn that Edward Fudge is now following this blog. I heard of Edward Fudge many years ago from my Doctor Father, Dr. Earle Ellis. Ellis was impressed and persuaded by a book Fudge had written entitled The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment now its third edition. My friend, Richard Bauckham, has written the forward. Fudge makes the case that, according to the Christian Scriptures, the fate of the wicked is not conscious, eternal suffering but annihilation. He moves carefully through the biblical texts and, like the good lawyer that he is, makes his case. Fudge has convinced a lot of scholars and evangelicals that his reading is the best reading of a lot of controversial texts.
Over the last few years I am pleased to say that Edward and I have become friends. He lives in Houston and is a frequent participant in lectures and symposia at the Lanier Theological Library. He has written other books which I’ve had the privilege to read and even endorse. We talked the other day and he was busy researching another question: rabbinic stories which appear to parallel Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
Edward has lived a remarkable life. The story of how he came to write such an influential book is the subject of a movie produced by Jeff Wood, Hell and Mr. Fudge (2012; DVD released in 2012). The movie shows how Fudge, played by Mackenzie Astin, comes under attack from members of his denomination because he dedicated a year of his life to prove whether or not hell really exists. People who take the Bible seriously have a hard time ignoring Fudge’s work.
Recently, a group of scholars have gotten together and produced a Festschrift honoring Edward for his work. It is entitled A Consuming Passion: Essays on Hell and Immortality in Honor of Edward Fudge (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Christopher M. Date and Ron Highfield were the editors. Stephen Travis wrote the forward.
If you are curious or puzzled by the biblical teaching on hell, you can do no better than pick up Edward’s book and spend some time with it. Like I said, he’s convinced some heavyweight scholars. Maybe he will convince you too.
Six years ago this week my Doctor Father, Earle Ellis, died. When he came to his final teaching post in the mid-1980s, I was his first graduate assistant and one of only five students who finished under him in about 25 years of teaching. Dr. Aaron Son, one of his other students, informs us through Facebook that Southwestern Seminary has established a lectureship in Ellis’ honor. I’m pleased to learn of this today. It is an honor well deserved. He was a great scholar, teacher and mentor.
The inaugural lecture will be given by Professor Craig Evans who recently moved to Texas after decades of teaching in Canada, most recently at Acadia Divinity School in Nova Scotia. Dr. Evans is a good choice for an inaugural lecture because Ellis thought highly of him, and Evans in many ways continues along the academic trajectory begun by Ellis and many of his colleagues. My memory may be faulty, but I seem to recall meeting Evans through Dr. Ellis in the late 1980s.
Dr. Son wrote Ellis’ obituary on the website of the Society of Biblical Literature. The link is here. It contains a list of his most important publications and some poignant details about his life. Ellis was a rigorous scholar who demanded and received a great deal from his students. He was a lifelong bachelor and committed Christian. He lived a life worthy of emulation.
Ellis leaves behind not only a group of grateful students but a number of important books he penned over his impressive career. He established a research library which is now part of the collection at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also established the Institute for Biblical Research, a collegial organization of scholars dedicated to the kind of reverent biblical scholarship which was the hallmark of Ellis’ life. Information about IBR can be found here. I’m pleased to have been elected to the board of IBR last year.
Thanks to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for highlighting and continuing his legacy. I hope one day to be able to attend and be part of the honor.
Rest in peace, Dr. Ellis.