You are here


It goes without saying that it was a great honour to be invited by the University of Edinburgh to deliver the Gifford Lectures. I am deeply grateful to the University for that honour, and also for the kindness and generous hospitality with which my wife and I were received and entertained. But beyond that my sense is of the intense pleasure that it was for me to be back in Edinburgh for the period of the lectures. I was an Edinburgh boy (though, admittedly, born in Glasgow!) and all my education was in Edinburgh. The year in which I was Gifford Lecturer, 1991, was a significant one for me, for it was exactly fifty years earlier, in 1941, that I entered the University as a student in classics. I left again, after one year, for wartime service, but that was meaningful also, for when I returned in 1945 I was to be in the same second year of classics as Jane, who is my beloved wife. I was never a student elsewhere: I did indeed some studies in other places, but was never a registered student except in Edinburgh. So all that I know I learned there, or else invented it myself later on, out of a native Scottish ingenuity that had been fostered there. One other anniversary: it was in 1961, just thirty years earlier, that my first book, The Semantics of Biblical Language, was published, at the end of my six years as professor in Edinburgh.

Our friendships in Edinburgh are so numerous and deep that it is difficult to make adequate acknowledgement. It was a special pleasure, at the first lecture and others, to see Professor Norman Porteous, who had been my first teacher in Hebrew and whose colleague I was later to become. I was delighted by the attendance at the lectures of many from a large variety of academic fields—from medicine, the sciences, social studies, philosophy, and classics, among others—just the situation, of course, that the Gifford Lectures exist to promote. The members of the Gifford Committee of the University were particularly kind. As visitors, we were kindly looked after by Professor and Mrs John O'Neill, and I benefited greatly from contacts and conversations at New College, the Faculty of Divinity. The lectures as published show the valuable influence of discussions with Dr Peter Hayman, Professor J. C. L. Gibson, and Dr David Mealand, and some of these are acknowledged at particular places.

The relation between biblical study and natural theology has always interested me, and I always had vague ideas of working over the ground and perhaps writing something; but very likely nothing would have come of this but for the invitation to deliver the Giffords. Having done it, I feel I owe a great deal to this opportunity. Knowing that the preparation of the Giffords lay before me, I made a variety of soundings, experimental lectures, and researches which gathered information and helped me to form my mind on the questions involved. I approached various portions of the subject in lectures delivered in Oxford, in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, in France, and in South Africa, and gained much from the responses and reactions of colleagues there. The Cole Lectures, a series of three, which I delivered in Vanderbilt University in 1988, when a visiting professor there, were an important stage in the process. Going further back, the studies which I carried out while at the Rockefeller Research Institute at Bellaggio, Italy, in 1984 provided valuable knowledge which I was able to incorporate. And I was greatly assisted by the resources of the Divinity Library in Vanderbilt University, and by the helpfulness of its librarians.

The lectures are published more or less as delivered, except that they have been expanded, especially with footnotes: or, more correctly, they had to be reduced in length in order to fit with the lecture format, and then re-expanded afterwards. The bibliography, touching on many very wide areas, makes no attempt at completeness, and I list mainly either books that have been specially helpful to me, or books that are recent or are otherwise likely to offer fresh ideas to the reader. If I had to name the two writers to whom I owe the most, the names would be those of Christof Gestrich and Christian Link. Both of these, however, approach the subject from the side of systematic theology, while my own approach is from the side of the Bible itself. Biblical quotations are from a variety of versions, mostly the Revised Standard, and sometimes the translation is my own. Chapter and verse numbers follow the numbering of the English Bible, with the Hebrew numbers added when they differ.



November 1991