I just received word on Sunday morning that late Saturday evening, a great man of God, a partner in the ministry and a dear friend, Dr. Roy Zuck, passed from this life into the presence of his Savior.
The last time I saw Dr. Zuck was at the Pre-Trib Study Group conference in early December. Even though we frequently corresponded, sometimes several times a week, we had not actually seen each other for many years so this was an unexpected gift from the Lord to see him once more on this side of eternity. I frequently tell my students that while we must be careful to not put men on pedestals, there are good reasons for us to have “heroes in the faith” – not just those who have lived in the past, but those who are our elders and from whom we can learn as living role-models in the present. Dr. Zuck is one of those heroes for me and he finished well.
I first met Dr. and Mrs. Zuck when they came to Hungary in the late 1990s and he became one of our regular guest teachers in the Bible institute. The Word of Life Hungary ministry soon found a special place in their hearts and they came many times over the next several years until Mrs. Zuck’s health began to decline. At one point, we learned from another DTS professor some “inside” information about just how much Dr. Zuck loved the students, staff and ministry in Hungary. This professor told our students in class one day that DTS seminary had been trying desperately to get Dr. Zuck to teach classes at the seminary, all of which would have been completely full and would have meant somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000 in tuition to the school. However, Dr. Zuck declined the offers, telling them that he was too busy with other ministry commitments. However, that was the same year when Dr. and Mrs. Zuck came to Hungary twice, once for two weeks in the spring and again for three weeks in the fall.
It was just this sort of relationship that came from serving the Lord together on the mission field with great servants of the Lord which was one of the great blessings of being the director of the school for 15 years. We were able to have so many to our homes for meals and fellowship. Some of my most treasured memories of being parents on the mission field was when tthey would sit at the table with us, sometimes for hours, and just talk about the ministry, the Bible, theology (and yes, even Hungarian politics on occasion) and our kids were able to be a part of that. Our daughter Becky, being younger, would often decide that leaving the table to play was more fun than discussing a particular fine point of theology. Yet, Chris, even from a very young age, would almost always stay at the table listening to the discussions with men like Roy Zuck, Stan Toussaint, Tom Constable, Mark Bailey, Homer Kent, Ron Blue, Stephen Bramer, Dave Wyrtzen, Jimmy DeYoung and countless others—the list is incredible. These were gifts from God to us as missionary family.
Dr. Zuck was a unique man with tremendous talent and an incredible work ethic. I remember that during one of his “days off” as a guest teacher in Hungary, he edited 100 pages of an upcoming book. And it was his meticulous attention to detail which made him one of the premier editors in the evangelical world. Many of you reading this article have undoubtedly benefited greatly from his work as a co-editor with Dr. John Walvoord of the Bible Knowledge Commentary written by the DTS staff. His book, Basic Bible Interpretation, (published in 1991), is, in my view, the definitive introductory resource on the subject and can already be considered a classic work on the subject (and should be in every believer’s library). The list of books that he authored or edited is an incredible testimony to his heart, talents and giftedness from the Lord.
His commitment to the Lord, people and ministry was evident in many ways. He always carried around a notepad in his shirt pocket and I’ve seen him pull it out on many occasions during just a normal conversation to write down a name or a fact or just something someone said so he could refer to it later. He was very devoted to his students in particular—even to those he hadn’t met yet. I have heard from others that during his years as a full-time professor at DTS, he would memorize the names and faces of every incoming student. And when he came to Hungary, he always asked for a student directory to be sent several weeks before he arrived. I have watched students from all over the world be stunned when as the new guest teacher for the week, he would walk up to them on the first day and call them by name (and usually getting the pronunciation close to right even for notoriously difficult Hungarian names).
Dr. and Mrs. Zuck touched the lives of many, many people from around the world. As I travel, it is not unusual for me to run into someone who knew them and had stayed in there home, even as Karen and I had on at least a couple of occasions. When you were with them, they made you feel like you were at the very center of their lives. And this showed up in many ways for us personally. Not only was Dr. Zuck one of the first formal endorsers of the ministry of The Alliance for Biblical Integrity when we were just beginning to think about a new ministry in 2008, he was committed to what we are doing and began to personally invest in our lives and ministry with monthly financial support over the past couple of years.
Dr. Zuck’s commitment to the ministry of ABI and to us personally was especially evident over the past year. As soon as it looked like my article about The Harbinger was going to actually turn into a book, I asked him if he would consider being an editor. He graciously agreed and I am so very grateful for the work he did as the first of three editors who contributed so much to making the book far better than it ever could have been had it depended only upon me. Then after the book was completed, he provided a powerful endorsement and purchased a number of copies to share with others who were being caught up in The Harbinger illusion.
His attention to detail, which made him a great editor, also contributed to him being a master teacher who always had a tremendous command of the subjects he taught. One of his favorite books of the Bible was the Book of Job with its message of learning how to handle adversity and suffering in a godly way. I witnessed Dr. Zuck’s mastery of that book in a chapel service at the Bible institute in Hungary as he taught the entire book of Job (through a translator, no less) in 30 minutes. And it was no mere academic exercise for him. The lessons he had learned and taught were deeply reflected in his book, Barb, Please Wake Up! which chronicled the long, faith-challenging road to recovery for his daughter who was involved in a nearly fatal car accident from which she suffered severe brain injuries.
During Dr. Zuck’s tenure as a professor of Bible Exposition at DTS he also served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean (1985–1992). In the Dean’s office he helped start new degree programs as well as extension programs. Under his leadership the Doctor of Ministry, the Master of Arts in Cross-Cultural Ministries, and the Master of Arts in Christian Education were started and took shape. In 1991, he published the textbook Basic Bible Interpretation, which has been widely used in classrooms around the world. After leaving the Dean’s office in 1992, he devoted himself to teaching and served as Chair of the Bible Exposition Department from 1992 to 1996, after which he continued as Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition.
After retiring from the classroom, he continued to serve as editor of Bibliotheca Sacra. He also continued to work on many writing and editing projects, including serving as managing editor of the twenty-eight-volume Swindoll Leadership Library. He freelanced for several publishers and created tracts for the American Tract Society. In the summer of 2000, he began working as the copy and theological editor for another of the seminary’s publications, Kindred Spirit. It was also during this time, as I mentioned earlier, that he served with us in Hungary on several occasions.
Dr. Zuck’s character, as a man of God, was also seen in his devotion to his wife in her last years as she succumbed to the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. He cared for her at home, when it would have been a difficult task even for the staff of a care facility. After she had gone home to be with the Lord, he would often mention in our fairly frequent email correspondence how terribly lonely he was and how much he missed her. Saturday night must have been quite a reunion.