Murray J. Harris. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2019, (p102)
ISBN 978-1-5326-7052-7

Kiwi Murray J. Harris is one of the gifts of God to the global church. In Before I Forget, Harris reflects on his life and work, from education in Auckland, including leading the TSCF student mission group at university, to teaching primary school children in Auckland, followed by theological study and a lifetime of Biblical scholarship. Latterly it has included being a full-time carer for his wife Jennifer in Hamilton, as she faces the daily challenges caused by multiple sclerosis. The whole book is like sitting down next to a roaring fire with your granddad for a lovely reminiscing chat.

He notes the surprises of his story: “People are now often amazed that an eighteen-year-old who began his teaching career with eight-year olds in little New Zealand finished that career as an Emeritus Professor of a graduate School of an American University, travelling via the Directorship of a research library in Cambridge and being a faculty member of the University there.” (Page 23).

Harris writes in a humble and understated way, but clearly he has been used greatly by God as a biblical scholar, for which the global as well as New Zealand church can give thanks to God.

I’ve not met Murray or Jennifer, but I, like the whole church in New Zealand, am a beneficiary of their work over the decades. For instance, my usual Bible translation is the NIV, a translation for which Murray was the only New Zealand/Australian scholar to serve on the translation committee. In addition, Murray established Tyndale, a graduate-level Bible college that is now part of Laidlaw College; wrote for the New Zealand Herald; served as Warden of Tyndale House in Cambridge UK; was on the faculty of TEDS (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) in the USA; and donated his library of 7000 theological books to a Bible college in Kenya.

Upon reading Before I Forget, one is reminded how much our Western society has changed. Harris quotes (page 62-63) from The New York Times International, from 1995: ‘’While New Zealand calls itself a ‘nation of sailors’, the country is not without its heroes and champions in other sports and academic scholarship.” There is a list, with some pictures, of New Zealand world champions in track and field, marathon, cross-country, rugby, golf and auto-racing—and New Testament Studies, Murray J. Harris, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

A quarter of a century on from that quote, it is hard to imagine, certainly in New Zealand, a publication highlighting Kiwi champions of sport alongside biblical studies professors.

In his preface (page xiii), Harris states that he writes this short book to “show how God can graciously shape a quiet, unsuspecting young Kiwi from Down Under to become useful in his worldwide plans.”

God has certainly done that, and it’s a pleasure to read this short autobiography of one of God’s most humble servants.

Review: Tim Hodge