Robert H. Gundry
Robert Horton Gundry (born 1932), an American biblical scholar and retired professor of New Testament studies, received B.A. and B.D. degrees from the Los Angeles Baptist College and Seminary in the 1950s, and in 1961 a Ph.D. from Manchester University, England, where he worked under F. F. Bruce. For 38 years, beginning in 1962, he taught at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. In 1997 the college installed Gundry in its first endowed faculty chair and soon afterwards established also the Robert H. Gundry Chair of Biblical Studies. Upon his retirement in 2000 the college made him professor emeritus and scholar-in-residence. Since then, he has become a frequent contributor to the periodical Books and Culture.
Besides many articles and reviews that have appeared in scholarly journals, Gundry has published major scholarly commentaries on the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. The one on Matthew caused a controversy that led to his resignation from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) at that society’s request. Voters favoring the request reckoned that the commentary was at odds with the society’s affirmation of scriptural inerrancy. Using redaction criticism, Gundry argued that Matthew tailored the story of Jesus, sometimes unhistorically, to meet the needs of the Gospel’s intended audience. Especially troubling to many in the ETS was Gundry’s contention that Matthew made unhistorical, theologically motivated revisions of the infancy story in Matthew 1–2.
Earlier, Gundry had been asked to furnish a commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC), a major evangelical series of commentaries published over the course of a decade or more in the 1970s and 1980s, as each section was completed. When he submitted his proposed commentary to Frank Gaebelein, general editor of the series, Gaebelein pronounced the commentary acceptable; but the subeditors Merrill C. Tenney and James M. Boice objected to its use of redaction criticism. Gaebelein pronounced acceptable Gundry’s revised version as well; but Tenney and Boice objected again, so that D. A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School was assigned to write on Matthew. This assignment caused a delay of several years in the publication of the EBC’s volume on the Synoptic Gospels. Meanwhile, Eerdmans Publishing Company brought out a longer, more technical version of Gundry’s work.
According to Gundry, his work does not call in question the inerrancy of Matthew. He argues to the contrary that inerrancy must be considered in the twin lights of authorial intent and acceptable literary standards of the author’s time and place, and that Matthew intentionally and acceptably wrote history mixed with elements that cannot be called historical in a modern sense. To be called inerrant, then, Matthew’s Gospel need not be measured against standards of modern historical writing. By contrast, says Gundry, Luke states a historical purpose along lines that run closer to modern history-writing. These views were supported by a significant portion of the ETS; and after looking into the matter, the society’s executive committee cleared Gundry. But a campaign against him, spearheaded by Norman Geisler, resulted in the request that he resign.
Against his critics, Gundry has contended that he treats biblical wording more seriously than they do when they construct strained harmonizations to maintain historicity at every point. Outside certain quarters of the ETS, his work is generally considered a model of conservative evangelicalism.
Gundry’s other published books include The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel (based on his doctoral dissertation), Sōma in Biblical Theology (arguing for a physical meaning of “body,” even in figurative usage), and The Old Is Better (containing new and revised essays on various topics). His two books The Church and the Tribulation and First the Antichrist have undermined the popular view that Christians will be “raptured” out of the world prior to a coming tribulation. And his widely used textbook, A Survey of the New Testament, is now in its 5th, updated edition and has been translated into Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Korean, Russian, and Turkish.
Yet another book, Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian, argues that American evangelicalism needs to return, mutatis mutandis, to the enlightened fundamentalism of the early 20th century, as distinct from the obscurantist fundamentalism of the mid-20th century. In 2000 Gundry presented the essence of Jesus the Word as the 30th annual lecture of the Institute for Biblical Research.
Gundry’s latest book, Commentary on the New Testament, includes his own, literal translation of the entire New Testament and verse-by-verse explanations of its original meaning. This large volume contains many fresh readings and independent judgments not found elsewhere in either scholarly or popular literature.
The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel with Special Reference to the Messianic Hope. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967.
A Survey of the New Testament. 5th ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012 (published originally in 1970). ISBN 978-0-310-49474-4
The Church and the Tribulation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973.
Sōma in Biblical Theology with Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976. ISBN 0-521-20788-6
Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993. ISBN 0-8028-3698-4
First the Antichrist: Why Christ Won’t Come Before the Antichrist Does. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997. ISBN 0-8010-5764-7
Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Evangelicalism, Especially Its Elites, in North America. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. ISBN 0-8028-4980-6
The Old Is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005/Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2010. ISBN 3-16-148551-3/ISBN 13: 978-1-60899-830-2
Commentary on the New Testament. Peabody: Hendrickson/Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010. ISBN 978-1-56563-933-1
In 1994 Gundry was presented with a Festschrift, To Tell the Mystery: Essays on New Testament Eschatology in Honor of Robert H. Gundry (ed. Thomas E. Schmidt and Moisés Silva; Sheffield: JSOT, 1994). ISBN 1-85075-486-1