Around 7:15 am on Sunday, February 3, founding faculty member J. Robert Vannoy went to be with the Lord.

Bob was retired from “Biblical Seminary” for about 15 years, so I know (though it is hard for me to believe) that many current students and staff members at Missio never knew him. He was a young bachelor on Faith Seminary’s faculty. Dutch in background (and in fact he spoke Dutch fluently), he went to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (the Free University of Amsterdam) where he got his ThD, with his focus on the Old Testament, particularly 1 Samuel. There he also met his wife Kathe, and came onto the founding faculty of “Biblical School of Theology” in 1971.  He was a protégé of Dr. Allan A. MacRae (Old Testament scholar and the Seminary’s first president), meaning that Biblical Seminary started with a powerhouse of Old Testament scholarship, which grounded the school from its beginnings in exegetical carefulness and strong biblical theology.

Dr. Vannoy followed and carried out the legacy of Dr. MacRae in forwarding evangelicalism and its high view of Scripture while also embracing a generously orthodox approach to matters not clearly concluded by biblical statements. “Wherever the Bible touches on a subject, its message should be accepted as final,” Vannoy often said, but “if the Bible leaves certain question open, then Christians should do likewise.” (Both these quotations from Dr. Vannoy come from the 2002 Annual Report of Biblical Seminary, announcing Dr. Vannoy as the first recipient of the Allan A. MacRae endowed professorship).

Bob was the consummate “gentleman scholar”. Keen of mind, erudite, he nevertheless approached the text of Scripture with a certain curiosity and always with humility, with a posture of submissiveness to its teachings. He responded to questions as avenues of further consideration, not as a challenge.

Not just a biblical scholar, he was also a faithful churchman. In the early 1980s he actually helped plant Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harleysville as a “daughter church” of First Presbyterian Church, Lansdale. He served as a teaching elder, leader, and faithful parishioner of that church to the end of his life.

He also was just a fine Christian man; and mentor to me–which included his welcoming me onto the faculty with warmth and gladness in 1998, even though everyone knew he’d have preferred a Presbyterian teaching theology . . . ;  he and Kathe hosted an ice cream gathering for me at their home; and he even invited me to room with him at ETS (until I was displaced by his wife in that role five years later).

Humble and careful, he published a pair of commentaries on the books of Samuel and an iteration of his dissertation, “Covenant Renewal at Gilgal”; he is not a well-known scholar, but is deeply respected by those who are familiar with his work. He leaves a great legacy of students he taught, who consistently loved and respected him and cite his teaching as having great impact on their understanding of God’s Word. I am among those.

Dr. R. Todd Mangum, PhD

The memorial service was held at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harleysville on Saturday, February 9th.

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