|John Cawood (center), with Gordon Ceperley (left) and my dad (right)|
in Jerusalem, July 1976
Those of us who were fortunate enough to have studied at Philadelphia College of Bible (now Cairn University) in the 1960s and 1970s knew instinctively that we were mentored by giants. Those of us who continued our education in graduate school and/or seminary had our instincts confirmed the minute we commenced our further schooling. The three men pictured above, all now present with the Lord, comprised the core of PCB's Bible and Theology department during the years I studied there. And to this day I remain profoundly grateful for their influence both as teachers and as people (indeed, the picture wonderfully conveys what these men were really like). In a previous post I recalled my own father and his massive influence on my life, both at home and in the classroom. Today I would like to remember his friend and colleague, John Cawood.
Even though I was only a child, to this day I remember my dad's elation when PCB hired Dr. Cawood in 1963 away from a small Christian school in Florida. The two men had known each other from seminary days in Dallas, and Dr. Cawood would be only the second (after my dad) Bible professor at the school with an earned doctorate. Later, I became acquainted with him and his family when we both lived in the western Philly suburb of Havertown and attended Grace Chapel there. Like my dad, Dr. Cawood loved sports (indeed, their ping pong matches on the 8th floor of 1800 Arch were legendary, though neither of them could beat Sam Hsu with any regularity), and I always looked forward to the times he would preach from the pulpit at the Chapel. But one day stands out in my mind. In August of 1972 I was about to enter the 11th grade. Yet, for some reason, I decided to go with my dad to his faculty workshop at America's Keswick in Jersey. Dr. Cawood rode along with us, and I was spellbound by the conversation in the seats in front of me. The discussion was wide-ranging, but I was especially impressed by their mastery of the Bible and what were to me, at that time, arcane theological subjects. I instinctively wanted to be like these men. Indeed, all these forty (!) years later I can honestly say that, ever since that day, I have never wanted to do anything other than teach the Bible.
Dr. Cawood was a wonderful communicator who wed serious content to a winsome and, at times, humorous delivery. One classic of his was an "exegesis" (a fancy term meaning "interpretation" used by Bible scholars) of Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 poem "'Twas the Night before Christmas." I heard him do it for the first time back in 1974 while a freshman at PCB. I must say that I have never heard a more effective send-up of so much "serious" Bible teaching than in this mock "exposition," from its outline of the story into three parts to its ultimate description of St. Nick as a "senile, dirty, one legged man who is an alcoholic." Thankfully. I have just been made aware of a copy of one of his performances to be found at http://www.ancientpath.net/. If you want a good laugh, check it out. You'll be glad you did.