Tuesday, June 10, 2014

God's time is the best time

Some lives seem to be cut short in the prime of life, when they had so much more to experience or offer. E. J. Young died at 60. His unexpected death left the OT dept. at Westminster in disarray. In fact, it never recovered. We may puzzle at God's providence.

By contrast, Gleason Archer died a month shy of his 88th birthday. He had so much to give, and his long life enabled him to give so much.

Archer and Young had much in common. Both wrote conservative OT introductions. Both wrote commentaries on Daniel. Both wrote monographs defending the inerrancy of Scripture. Both were phenomenal linguists:

Dr. Archer taught New Testament Greek, biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Akkadian, Egyptian, and Syriac…Some have estimated that he spoke about thirty languages. 

Many of us were aware of Young's ability in languages. In my opinion, no one except Dr. Young and the Lord God knew how many languages he could speak or read. From my contacts with him, I knew he could read well most of the modern Western European languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, etc. I also knew he was capable in most of the Semitic languages, such as Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, the Akkadian languages, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Moabite, etc. I understand that he learned to communicate in Arabic during a transatlantic boat trip to Israel. In addition, I heard that he had learned to speak Korean from some of the students at the Seminary and was skilled enough in that language to correct the grammar in a Korean letter he had received—a thing he did, no doubt, with characteristic self-effacement and humility. It was reputed that as he took his usual walks to and from the Seminary, he was reading one of the Latin or Greek volumes from the Loeb Classical Library. 

So it might seem Archer had a more productive life than Young. If only Young had another 10-15 years.

Yet longevity is hazardous:

Gleason’s wife, Sandra, passed away October 27, 1999, and he began to suffer more extensively from dementia after that, living with his daughter Betsy and her family. He passed into the presence of the Lord on April 27, 2004 (ibid.). 

So he was senile in the last 5 or so years of his life. It might seem as though Young died prematurely. yet had he lived longer, he might have suffered the ravages of old age.

Moreover, you don't have to be elderly to be susceptible to lose your mind. OT scholar John Sailhamer had to take early retirement: 

Seth Postell was one of the last Ph.D. students before Sailhamer, sadly, was unable to continue functioning due to dementia. 

Although we're tempted to lament the untimely demise of some people, other people live too long for their own good. In God's providence, dying sooner can be a mercy. God knows best. 

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