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I remember the first time I corresponded with Henry Morris. The creationist icon was in the final year of his active presidency at the Institute for Creation Research.
Looking back, I’m somewhat embarrassed, simply because I was naïve enough to think that the man would just be thrilled to receive my simple Bible question. That he answered personally was a testament to this Christian gentleman’s character. He remains the kindest, most gracious fellow I’ve ever met – especially since he was a lion in his field.
Of course, “young-earth” creationism is still sort of a sub-culture in America, although groups like ICR, Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International have made great strides in bringing the issue before the public. So much so, in fact, that it’s not a stretch to say the creation-evolution debate has few peers in the realm of popular topics.
I met Dr. Morris when I was a book editor; I considered myself well-read, but had not heard of him until about 1994. Thirty-five years before, he and John Whitcomb authored the landmark book, “The Genesis Flood,” which raised awareness of “flood geology” and specifically, what has been called “biblical geology.” Morris and Whitcomb postulated that the Genesis deluge account was wholly accurate and that there was no reason to doubt its historicity. Of course, evolutionists had a field day.
They aren’t having a field day any longer. Whatever one thinks of Morris’s theology, there is no getting around the fact that he was instrumental in changing perceptions about biblical conservatives.
Which brings me, finally, to the main event: “The Defender’s Study Bible.”
For the conservative Christian, I don’t believe there is a finer study Bible available (although “The MacArthur Bible Commentary,” by John MacArthur, is certainly a fine one, as well). By the way, the version I have is older, from 1996; Thomas Nelson unveiled “The New Defender’s Study Bible” a decade later.
Like “The Genesis Flood,” Morris’s study Bible is an uncommon volume, since there aren’t really any competitors, no small feat in an era in which Bible publishers go to great lengths to repackage God’s Word for an increasingly self-absorbed audience. Henry didn’t rely on a pink cover, or a metal cover, or endorsements from dubious philosophers. Rather, “The Defender’s Study Bible” is a reflection of its editor and commentator: elegant … and deadly as an apologetic weapon.
From the stately, early commentaries on Genesis 1-11 (it all really happened!) to the soaring closing remarks on Revelation, this study Bible is jammed with insightful thought.
Henry earned his degree from Rice, then later a doctorate at Minnesota. He eventually taught at Virginia Tech, and in 1970 founded ICR. A shy man (perhaps reserved is a better term), he still debated evolutionary thinkers for many years, and his gentlemanly demeanor was at odds with his fierce defense of the faith. In this way, he reminds me of the magnificent Robert Dick Wilson, a couple generations ahead of Morris. Wilson was the premier Old Testament scholar of his time, spending most of his academic career at Princeton.
In any event, “The Defender’s Study Bible” is the result of years and many thousands of hours of personal Bible study. Henry, for all his intellectual firepower, stood firm on a simple reading of Scripture. In his time, he dealt with, and anticipated, liberal thinkers who denigrate the 66 books. He knew how to answer them.
The Bible student who loves the Word will find great satisfaction in “The Defender’s Study Bible.” Besides the obviously epic passages from Genesis, Job and the Pauline letters, Henry loved all of it. For example, his deep love of history – and in particular the nation of Israel – informs his commentary on more obscure books like Micah. His commentaries in Psalms would rival, dare I say it, Spurgeon’s.
Another reason to admire this Christian intellectual was his staunch defense of the King James Version of the Bible. It has long irritated me that a campaign to denigrate the KJV has found traction within Christendom, even among Bible publishers who must push those psychedelic/faux-alligator/edible Bible versions that choke the aisles of Christian bookstores.
As Henry so astutely pointed out, there are less syllables in the words of the KJV than in many modern translations/versions. Of course, language changes over time, and there are many arcane words in the KJV. It is still, however, very understandable. More than that, the beauty of the language is unrivaled in English literature.
The question that I wrote to Henry for clarification? Genesis 10:25, the brief wisp of information about a fellow named Peleg: “And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan.”
Almost a throwaway bit, “The earth was divided.”
“What did that mean?” I asked the great man.
He replied thoughtfully, explaining that the two schools of thought are that “divided” could refer either to the splitting of the continents, or that it meant the division of people into separate cultures. Henry came down on the side of the division of the people at Babel.
As always, his commentaries included, wherever possible, reference to the science referred to in Scripture. For this reason, his thoughts from the book of Job are worth the cost of the Bible. Fascinating!
I lament the fact that he’s been gone four years now, because our rotting culture could still benefit from his godly wisdom. But he knew that all of us, the whole world, are wearing out. Henry looked ahead to a permanent home. At least we still have a part of him in “The Defender’s Study Bible.”
For such a time as this.