brethren history human

Plymouth Brethren People: F.F. Bruce

Someone, either Billy Graham or John MacArthur (can’t remember which) said that “we’ve all milked from the Plymouth Brethren Cow”. Too often people raise the banner of the Plymouth Brethren as a byword to be hissed at because of the damage that has been or is being done (ie: Aleister Crowly, Brian Mclaren, pop-Left-Behindism, etc.). Anyway, I wanted to underline the rich culture found in the Brethren Movement and the way it has benefited the corporate Body of Christ to try to regain some balance. The Brethren Movement was sort of like the Emergents, it wasn’t defined by any denomination and it spread from the ground up. But in stark contrast, the Plymouth Brethren was a Back to the Gospel movement focused on the truth of the Gospel by studying the Bible, adherence to the Lord’s Supper, and preaching the Word to as many as possible. The Movement in English speaking countries has greatly diminished although places like India have seen tremendous growth.

What I’ll do for these features is quote Wikipedia or something similar and link to some good reading, either about them or by them..

Today’s feature: F.F.Bruce. Yeah, He was one of us.

Frederick Fyvie Bruce (12 October 1910 — 11 September 1990) was a Bible scholar, and one of the founders of the modern evangelical understanding of the Bible. His work New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? is considered a classic in the discipline of Christian apologetics.


He was born in Elgin, Moray in Scotland and was educated at the University of Aberdeen, Cambridge University and the University of Vienna. After teaching Greek for several years first at the University of Edinburgh and then at the University of Leeds he became head of the Department of Biblical History and Literature at the University of Sheffield in 1947. In 1959 he moved to the University of Manchester where he became professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis. In his career he wrote some thirty-three books and served as editor of The Evangelical Quarterly and the Palestine Exploration Quarterly. He retired from teaching in 1978.


Bruce was a distinguished scholar on the life and ministry of Paul the Apostle, and wrote several studies the best known of which is Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. He also wrote commentaries on several biblical books including Romans, Acts of the Apostles, 1 & 2 Corinthians, The Gospel and Epistles of John, and the Epistle to the Hebrews.


Bruce was a dedicated member of the Open Plymouth Brethren. However he did not affirm the dispensationalism and pretribulationism usually associated with that movement.


Most of his works were scholarly, but he also penned several mainstream works on the Bible that were quite popular. He viewed the New Testament as historically reliable and that the truth claims of Christianity hinged on its being so. To Bruce this did not mean that the Bible was always precise, and this lack of precision could lead to considerable confusion. However, he believed that the passages that were still open to debate were ones that had no substantial bearing on Christian theology and thinking.


He was honoured with two scholarly works by his colleagues and former students, one to mark his sixtieth and the other to mark his seventieth birthday. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, and served as President of the Society for Old Testament Study, and also as President of the Society for New Testament Study. He is one of a handful of scholars thus recognised by his peers in both fields.

Recommended Reading. Gospel of John. Men and Movements of the Primitive Church. New Testament History. In Retrospect.

Technorati Tags: ,
Facebook Comments

15 replies on “Plymouth Brethren People: F.F. Bruce”

The Plymouth Brethren split so many times over (honestly, petty) issues that there’s tons of branches. The major split was early on with Anthony Groves and Mueller going the Open side and Darby going the Exclusive side. Basically the Exclusive/Closed underscored that the true Church has to be separate from the impurity of denominationalism whereas the Open believed that all Churches contained folk that were part of the Church and therefore able to fellowship together.

How it plays out today is pretty interesting but if you ever go to an Exclusive chapel they have the Lord’s supper and then the "scheduled" speaker gets up and preaches. He might be followed by another one as well.

I’ve heard of Exclusive/Closed conferences where folk make a B-Line to the microphone to preach. Could be an urban legend though.

What’s messed up about FFBruce is that the dude was a genius and he’s not even whispered about in the Brethren circles. There’s like this collective ignorance when it comes to him–and yet the man in his humility so liked their structure that he stuck with them for many years.

You never cease to amaze me at the connections you pull together.

Is this a new layout? I read these from my Outlook, so I rarely actually hit the site. This is nice!

And I didn’t realize you were PB&J—sorry, I mean PB. If there is a major blindness in my own studies it is that I don’t understand the PB doctrines (and especially Darby’s work) very well at all. And yet it is so important to understanding some of the early work of a particular, um, author (I’ll stay ambiguous). If I ever get around to doing that study, I may have to pick your brain … I mean, if you’ll let me. I promise to be gentle and not bring the brain pick. Bwahaha!

The layout is somewhat new after the 2nd recent round of hack attacks I figured that maybe the template had something to do with it. Here’s hoping.

Oh you can pick the brains out all you want, but at points I’ll have to throw up my hands and say "I really don’t know" since Darby was one of those people who is simultaneously smart and too smart for his own good. I think it was Coad who said that Darby was both the best and worst thing that had ever happened to the PB movement. His commentary is a nice module on E-Sword but he also fleshed out a lot of his thoughts in the arguments he fought in text. The PB splits (it sounds like a delicious treat)consisted in lots of printed tracts.

Darby will argue strenuously for a point that brings and then switch gears without any mile markers or exit signs. Though trained as an Anglican I don’t think he had the scholarly clout of some people he eventually split away from like William Kelly. He was like Luther in a lot of respects: even in stubbornness.

About that certain ex-PB author I’ve read very little. One day I’ll come along to read what he wrote but I would be particularly interested if he has any writings of why he left. I know the recent author says some blurbs here and there.

Basically the Exclusive/Closed underscored that the true Church has to be separate from the impurity of denominationalism whereas the Open believed that all Churches contained folk that were part of the Church and therefore able to fellowship together.

So the exclusive branch wouldn’t fellowship with people in denominations?

The exclusive branches were so concerned with their perception of doctrinal purity that they wouldn’t even fellowship with other exclusives who disagreed with their position let alone other denominations. Here’s a link to a site that shows how the PB kept splitting and branching.

The Raven branch that is far on the right I think denied the eternal Sonship of Christ and growing out of that was the Raven/Taylor branch which is effectively a cult. That which the Exclusives feared the most, transpired in at least one branch.

Ironically enough many of the Open PB today are now getting to be like the first generation exclusives…and that’s just awful.

Rey…very interesting post…I did not include FF Bruce in my list of favourite theologians because he was a biblical scholar. If the question was who was my favourite scholar, especially commentator, FF Bruce would win hands down. I have benefited from his works more than any one elses. The church that I grew up in, even though it was pentecostal, was pastored by an ex-bretheren man (I’m not sure of what type) so I suspect my theology would reflect some of the bretheren ways without even realising it. I thank God, though, for FF Bruce as some of his writings influenced me so much, actually convincing me that Christianity is real. His works on Christian history persuaded me that we are all a part of a long line of blood bought men and women, and the church was something to be proud to be a part of. His commentaried are of immense depth and profound scholarship.

Rey, (or anyone esle) just wondering if you know of any mp3’s on the net of F.F.Bruce teaching?

Leave a Reply