I learned today that one of my former professors and colleagues, Zane Hodges, passed from this life to the next over the weekend. Zane was 75 years old when he died. He was at the center of some major debates within evangelical circles, namely, how salvation is to be defined and what constitutes the original text of the New Testament. He viewed salvation as that which was bestowed solely by faith in Christ, and that one does not necessarily have to persevere in faith to be saved. And by this perseverance, he meant that a saved individual did not have to have either good works or even continued faith to be saved. His view of the text of the New Testament was that the majority of manuscripts, regardless of age, were the surest pointer to the original text. He was responsible for resurrecting Dean Burgon’s views of the text within scholarly circles. Both of these views are quite controversial in evangelical circles.
Zane taught Greek and New Testament courses at Dallas Seminary from 1960 to 1987. I took him for more courses than from any other NT prof, and learned a great deal from him. His skills with the Greek text were breathtaking. I never knew a professor who could sight-read as well as Hodges (except for Johnson). And he thought through his positions well. I didn’t agree with him on everything; in fact, I would say that I disagreed with him on most of his positions. I was always a bit nervous coming into his class because I wasn’t sure what he would say that hour that might rock my world. But I enjoyed immensely how he structured the courses, how he argued his positions, and how charismatic he was in the classroom. He was a superb preacher and very persuasive. His electives always had the highest enrollment by far of any NT electives at DTS.
Zane never married. His lifelong celibacy influenced a number of others, including Art Farstad, with whom he co-edited The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text.
He never earned a doctorate, and intentionally so: he thought that such a degree might make him proud.
When S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. shifted out of the NT department at Dallas Seminary into the Systematic Theology department in the 1970s, he recommended to the administration that Zane become the department chair. The administration heeded his advice. Shortly after that appointment, I asked Johnson why he recommended Hodges. “After all,” I said, “you and Hodges disagree on almost everything!” Johnson was a five-point Calvinist. Hodges was slightly more than a ‘Calminian.’ Johnson would never teach something unless he could find it in the commentaries because, as he often noted, the Holy Spirit has been teaching the church for the last twenty centuries. He thought it was arrogant if someone argued for a position that was novel. Hodges seemed to hardly ever hold to a view that could be found in the commentaries, yet he was no arrogant man (nor did Johnson think of him as such). Johnson said that the reason he recommended Hodges was because he was able to defend his views well. This spoke highly of Hodges, but in some respects even more highly of Johnson, since he could have easily recommended someone who was closer to his own views. Chairing a department, however, was not in Zane’s blood. He quit the post after one year, and Harold Hoehner became department chair. It was good that Zane knew his limitations: the NT department at Dallas Seminary is what it is today because of Hoehner.
Zane was a very honorable and ethical man. He was a man of prayer, and his life was one that was lived for Christ’s glory. In spite of his views of soteriology, he seemed to be almost a ‘soft mystic’ in his sense of spirituality. That is, he recognized that God answered prayer and communicated with believers in ways that were not purely rational and logical. Yet Zane’s view of God’s will could almost be characterized as purely rationalistic: write down the pros and cons and make your decision. There was little room for sensing the guidance of the Spirit, nor of seeking peace for a decision before acting in this position. I’m thankful that Zane didn’t practice what he preached!
We were colleagues from 1979 to 1981. When I came back to DTS in 1987 and joined the faculty again, Zane had retired. After his retirement, he began devoting his time more and more to his view of soteriology, embodied in the free grace movement and the Grace Evangelical Society. Although I would strongly disagree with his views, I appreciated how he challenged my thinking and how he would think through his position all the way to the end.
Zane Hodges will be dearly missed. But he now knows the joys of his Savior and is finally home.