Following death of Robert L. Lindsey on May 31, 1995, Jerusalem Perspective magazine published a memorial issue (October-December 1995, No. 49). Included in that issue were eight tributes to Lindsey written by his colleagues and students, including that of David Bivin below.
“How to Know Jesus? Follow Lindsey!” by David Flusser”Practicing What He Preached” by Halvor Ronning”The Jesus Who Changes People’s Lives!” by Steven Notley
“To My Teacher, Pastor and Beloved Friend” by Brad Young
“A Doer of His Father’s Will” by Joseph Frankovic
“Excerpts from a Eulogy” by Ken Mullican
“Jesus at the Center” by Dwight Pryor
News of the death on May 31, 1995 at age seventy-seven of Robert L. Lindsey, pastor, synoptic researcher, pioneer translator of the Gospels into Modern Hebrew, and doyen of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, was received with a great sense of loss by those who knew and loved him. His colleagues and students remember Dr. Lindsey as a giving, selfless individual and a dedicated biblical scholar. His Christian students and friends also remember a pastor named “Bob” who, always aiming at helping the congregants put Jesus’ teachings into practice, infused his sermons with the refreshing insights of Jerusalem-based scholarship.
When I came to Israel in 1963 to begin graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Lindsey was forty-five years old. He and his family had moved recently from Tiberias to Jerusalem. It had been in Tiberias, beside the Sea of Galilee, just eighteen months before, that he had stumbled upon the key to the synoptic problem’s solution: Luke’s Gospel was not dependent upon Mark’s.
In Jerusalem, Lindsey became my pastor, my mentor and my second father. As pastor of the Narkis Street Baptist Church in the Rehaviah neighborhood of Jerusalem, Bob was my spiritual leader for twenty-four years (from 1963 until his retirement in 1987). Eventually, I served under him as one of the congregation’s elders. Listening to his sermons, adult Bible class lessons, and through hundreds of private lessons, I absorbed some of his immense knowledge of Jesus.
Only twice during my first seventeen years in Israel could I afford a visit to my parents in the United States. Bob and his wife, Margaret, became my surrogate parents. When Josa and I were married in 1969, Bob and Margaret not only provided us with their cabin overlooking the Sea of Galilee for our honeymoon, but Bob chauffeured us there from Jerusalem! That kind deed took more than five hours of driving.
Now that Bob is gone, I feel orphaned, much like the famous scholar, Rabbi Akiva, upon the death of his teacher, Eliezer ben Hyrcanus. When Akiva met the men carrying Eliezer’s body from Caesarea to Lydda, he rent his garments, tore his hair, and began to weep and cry out:
“Woe is me, my master, because of you! Woe is me, my teacher, because of you! You have left the whole generation fatherless!” At Eliezer’s funeral, Akiva eulogized him,
“My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel! I have many coins, but no money changer to exchange them,” that is, “I have many questions, but no teacher to answer them.”
I have accepted the reality—Bob is no longer here. I have realized, reluctantly, that he was not mine permanently. Beruriah, the brilliant scholar of the second century A.D., had the painful task of telling her husband, Rabbi Meir, that their two sons had died. Before breaking the awful news to him, she prepared him:
“Some time ago,” she said, “a certain man asked me to hold a pledge in trust for him. Now he wants it back. Should we return it?”
“One who is entrusted with a pledge,” he answered, “must return it to its owner upon demand.”
Then Beruriah informed Meir of the tragedy. Rabbi Meir wept and cried out, but Beruriah reminded him of his own recent advice. Rabbi Meir ceased his wailing and said: “The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Like Rabbi Akiva, I have grieved the loss of my teacher; but like Beruriah, I know that Bob is now with the Lord. Moreover, I am further comforted because his scholarly work continues—through the disciples he raised up, through a research institute, the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, and through Jerusalem Perspective Online, which publishes the results of his students and colleagues’ research.
Indeed, Robert Lindsey continues to impact the lives of countless individuals. He raised up a circle of disciples, and now they too are raising up disciples. The movement he birthed continues to expand quietly—like a small seed! Robert L. Lindsey’s discoveries will force a revolution in New Testament scholarship. One day they will topple the synoptic theories now held by a majority of scholars. Generations may pass before the correctness of his approach becomes evident to the wider circle of New Testament scholars, but happily, those of us who have been trained in Lindsey’s methodology can already enjoy the fruit.
Baruch dayan ha’emet! Blessed be the Faithful Judge!
David N. Bivin