We were deeply saddened to learn of Grant Osborne’s passing on the morning of November 4. His faith and wisdom gave his scholarship a wonderful richness. Elliot Ritzema, who edited a number of his New Testament commentaries, shares his thoughts on Grant Osborne’s life and work.
As Grant Osborne approached the end of his time as a New Testament professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he had begun thinking about what he wanted to do in his retirement. He had already written a classic textbook on Bible interpretation, The Hermeneutical Spiral. He had also written several commentaries, such as his outstanding work on Revelation in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series. But he felt he had something more to do. He wanted to write a series of commentaries that was exciting and relevant to pastors, Bible study teachers, and all laypeople interested in serious Bible study. Each volume would contain the same quality exposition of the text that you would get in a more technical commentary, but with the academic discussions kept to a minimum. If a passage had a disputed interpretation, he would briefly lay out the options and then graciously say which one he thought was the most likely. He thought of it as his own version of William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible.
In late 2015, Grant began talking with Lexham Press about this project. We were enthusiastic about it, and couldn’t wait to get started. He had already completed a manuscript on Revelation and was working on Colossians and Philemon. Realizing that Grant’s greatest strength was simply and accessibly explaining every verse of each biblical book, we called that first volume Revelation Verse by Verse. Humble as always, Grant was ambivalent about calling the series the “Osborne New Testament Commentaries,” but we convinced him that his status as a respected Bible scholar would help more people become aware of the series.
As an editor at Lexham, I worked with Grant on all but two of the commentaries in the series. I was always astounded by his output; it seemed he was turning in a new manuscript every couple of months. After Revelation and Colossians & Philemon, he followed quickly with Ephesians, Galatians, and Philippians. Romans took a bit longer, and for good reason: it ended up being longer than Revelation. After 1 & 2 Thessalonians we wanted to round the series out a bit by doing a Gospel, so he did John next. That was published in May of this year, and Luke, Acts, and James are currently in the publishing pipeline.
What I appreciated the most about Grant (besides his prodigious output, which editors love in an author!) was his consistent posture of gratitude and joy. Whenever he turned in a manuscript, he would say how much he loved the opportunity he’d just had to spend time digging in to that biblical book. While he occasionally mentioned his health problems, he remained grateful. It was a posture he showed well in these comments on Romans 8:26 in Romans Verse by Verse:
“I have had chronic asthma virtually from the day I was born. I spent two childhood summers shut up in my house because my doctor (erroneously) told me I could not play outside due to the pollens. (I was locked up with a chain-smoking mother!) I have prayed all my life for healing, and several prayer warriors have anointed me with oil for healing. God has never granted me healing for my breathing problems, and now I have steroidal myopathy (muscle weakness from the prednisone I have all too often had to take). What I do know is that physical weakness made me what I am today. All I had was books, but they turned me into a scholar and a teacher and shaped my life for the best. God knows what he is doing even when we don’t!”
I will miss working with Grant, but I am glad for him that he can now take as many deep breaths as he wants. I’m sad that I won’t receive another new manuscript from him, but I will always remember what I saw in all the ones I did receive: wonder and excitement at studying the biblical text, and a deep desire to make its treasures known in the church.