I learned this week that the professor I had enjoyed the most at Duke Divinity School had died. Professor of Biblical Interpretation James (Mickey) Efird was a favorite of many of my classmates as well. The smiling assassin was a beloved nickname because of the exams that he gave. A high grade was in the 60 to 65 precent range. I came to understand that these exams let us know that there was so much more to learn than what we had already learned.
Doctor Efird would come into class with only his Revised Standard Bible in hand. He would open it to whatever we were studying and begin reading. After a couple of verses, he would stop and begin to talk about the culture that existed at the time and the history that surrounded the passage. He taught us to seek out this knowledge in our own study.
He also helped us to understand that the Bible is a theological book rather than a history book. If we seek answers to historical questions, the Bible may or may not answer them. But if we seek answers to theological questions, we will find answers. He would always drive this point home by asking us: “What’s the wrong question to ask?”
Doctor Efird inspired me in my own teaching of scripture. Without thinking about it I found that I was copying what I had experienced in his classroom. I don’t know how many people he taught during his career. What I do know is that his teaching lives on, not only in my teaching, but in others as well. I was blessed to have such a teacher.
As I have thought about my experience with Mickey Efird I wondered about my own efforts. Am I passing on what I have learned? That question points me to the end of the gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells us that we are to teach others all that we have seen and experienced. Mickey Efird did that. Are we?
Lord, continue to stir us to want to know more. And as we gain knowledge disturb, our comfort so that we will teach others. Amen.
Always, to God be the glory!