Collection of Essays Honors ACU Church History Professor

for immediate release Feb. 24, 1998

Christians may have been commanded to spread the Good News, but one group of biblical scholars sure can keep a good secret.

For two years, more than 20 scholars around the world who are friends, colleagues and former students of Dr. Everett Ferguson, Abilene Christian University professor emeritus of Bible, have been working on a festschrift, a German word referring to a volume of learned essays written in someone's honor usually given upon a birthday.

As a result, "The Early Church in its Context: Essays in Honor of Everett Ferguson" has been published by Brill, a European publisher of religious scholarship since 1683.

One of the first copies was presented to a "completely surprised," "utterly flabbergasted" and "speechless" Ferguson during the Friends of ACU Library Dinner Monday during the 80th annual Bible Lectureship. Ferguson's 65th birthday was Feb. 18.

The actual presentation was made by Carolyn Thompson, ACU instructor of English and German, who set up the book for printing. However, all three editors of the book were also there for the presentation: Dr. Abraham Malherbe, Buckingham Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Yale Divinity School; Dr. Frederick Norris, Dean E. Walker Professor of Church History, Emmanuel School of Religion; and Dr. James Thompson, professor of New Testament, Abilene Christian University.

"Everett Ferguson's work as a church historian is known by scholars throughout the world," said James Thompson, also chair of ACU's Graduate Department of Bible. "His former students appreciate the way in which he has combined service to the church with his work as a classroom teacher." Ferguson has been an elder of the Hillcrest Church of Christ for many years.

A 1953 graduate of ACU, Ferguson earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1959. He joined the ACU faculty in 1962. His writings include "Early Christians Speak," "Backgrounds of Early Christianity" and "The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today." He edited "The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity," copies of which are used so much in theology schools "they are coming apart," Carolyn Thompson said.

"Everett Ferguson's unassuming manner has not prevented him from making extraordinary contributions to scholarship," Malherbe wrote in the book's preface. "His enormous capacity to amass prodigious amounts of information, his great powers of concentration, and his well-honed intellect have combined to make him a person of great erudition. They have also resulted in scholarship that is commonsensical and trustworthy."

Although Ferguson retired from full-time teaching in 1990 to devote himself to research, he has continued to teach a few classes in ACU's College of Biblical Studies until this semester, which will be his last. Dr. Jack Reese, dean of the college, announced that Ferguson had been given a position as distinguished scholar-in-residence for as long as wished to share his insight with current faculty.

"During the last three decades, Everett Ferguson has contributed immensely to our knowledge of early Christianity, and there is no sign that his literary output is abating," Malherbe wrote.

Contributors also included scholars from such schools as Texas Christian University, University of Notre Dame, University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, Princeton Theological Seminary, the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

* * *

A library volunteer and a staff member were each recognized at the dinner, too.

Alumnus Leon Henthorn was honored with the Mary Harlow Award in recognition of outstanding service as a library volunteer. He worked more than 512 hours in 1997.

Two of his main contributions were transcribing the Gano and Billingsley manuscripts in the Callie Faye Milliken Collection. John Allen Gano, a pioneer preacher in Kentucky whose son Richard was one of the founders of Dallas, left a journal of his ministry. Price Billingsley, one of the first ministers of the churches of Christ who preached in Abilene, left more than 700 bound volumes of his journal.

Henthorn also used his master craftsmanship to make archival boxes for preserving rare 17th and 18th century materials.

Nancy Witt, public services clerk, was recognized for 30 years of service.

"Nancy Witt has always exemplified the former ACU motto, 'Caring-Serving-Excelling' during her 30 years at the Brown Library," said her supervisor Karen Hendrick. "She is conscientious, loyal, dedicated and persistent in her path to excellence."

If you are a member of the media who would like more information about this release, please contact Malissa Endsley, director of media relations, at or call 915-674-2692.

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Last update: February 26, 1998