Charles C. Ryrie, a scholar whose name abounds on Ryrie Study Bible editions with more than 2.6 million in print in multiple languages, died Feb. 16 in Dallas at age 90.
Known for his end-times theology of dispensationalism, Ryrie was a longtime systematic theology professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Dallas.
At FBC Dallas, Ryrie became close friends with the current pastor, Robert Jeffress, and his predecessors at First Baptist, O.S. Hawkins and Mac Brunson.
Hawkins, now president of the SBC’s GuideStone Financial Resources who served at First Baptist from 1993-97, said in comments to Baptist Press: “If ever there lived a man whose life was immersed in the Bible it was Charles Ryrie. This is evident not only in the legacy he left in the Ryrie Study Bible, his amazing collection of rare and antique Bibles and books, but his passion to never stop studying even into his ninth decade of life.
“What many do not know,” Hawkins noted, “is that he was a great churchman” who attended regularly.
“He was a mentor and compassionate counselor to me personally,” Hawkins said, “and I already miss our frequent visits and fellowship. I can still hear him say, ‘The Bible is the greatest of all books, to study it is the noblest of all pursuits, to understand it, the highest of all goals.'”
Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Dallas from 1999-2006 and now pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said Ryrie “will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century. He was a tremendous synthesizer of text and theology, making it so plain anyone could understand. His study Bible stands alongside the work of Scofield and Dabney.
“The older he grew, the more he attracted younger men who were eager to sit at his feet,” Brunson said. “He was brilliant, sharp-witted and genuinely humble, and a dear friend to those who knew him.”
Jeffress was unavailable for comment Feb. 17.
Ryrie joined First Baptist when he was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary from the mid- to late 1940s and the late W.A. Criswell was the church’s new pastor, ultimately serving there 50-plus years.
A seminary tribute to Ryrie stated that the professor and Criswell became friends and that Ryrie “regularly taught a Sunday School class there and enjoyed a long-term relationship with the church.”
The Ryrie Study Bible, with the DTS professor’s 10,000–plus explanatory notes, used the King James Version when it was first published in 1978. It is now also available in New American Standard Bible and English Standard Version translations.
The DTS tribute to Ryrie quoted the Bible scholar’s reflections on his way of writing: “When I was working on the study Bible, I thought of people in home Bible classes, and I would sometimes ask, ‘Would they want a note on this verse or an explanation of this doctrine? Simply?’ These people were my make-believe audience.
“Actually, they weren’t make-believe, they were real people,” Ryrie continued. “On the human side, I think [the ability to be concise] is because off and on through the years, I’ve taught children. If you want to advise your writers to write more clearly, tell them to go host a Good News Club somewhere, and teach it.”
In addition to the study Bible, Ryrie wrote more than 50 books. During his time at Dallas Theological Seminary, he also served as dean of doctoral students for more than 20 years before retiring in 1983.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press