Bruce’s knowledge of the Bible was prodigious. Those who knew him well believed that he had the whole Bible, in the original languages and in several translations, committed to memory.
When he was asked a question about the Bible, he did not have to look up the text. He would sometimes take off his glasses, close his eyes as if he were scrolling the text in his mind and then comment in such an exact manner that one knew he was referring to the Hebrew or Greek text, which he either translated or paraphrased in his answer.
If he were in an academic context, the reference might be directly to the original language; in speaking to students who were not necessarily theologians, he would normally use a contemporary translation; in church he would use the appropriate translation familiar to the majority of his hearers, whether the Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, the New English Bible, the King James Version or in conservative Brethren circles, the New Translation by John Nelson Darby, again normally quoting exactly from memory.
He also seemed to know all the hymns of the classical and evangelical Christian traditions by heart as well as a large body of secular poetry–English, Scottish, Greek and Latin. (239)
Alan’s choices are good. If we are going to take both the words seriously in “public intellectual,” there are others who are not out in public as much as they used to be (Chomsky) or have recently died (Eco). My “on deck” list to complement Alan’s:
Our youngest son, Chris, is planning on a career of scholarship and teaching at the university level. He has majors in classics and philosophy. Here is a picture of him a few weeks back getting early admittance into Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Texas.