An Afternoon with Dr. Charles Ryrie
Yesterday Dr. Charles Ryrie, long-time professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, renowned dispensational theologian, and author of the Ryrie Study Bible, passed away at age 90. I met Dr. Ryrie only once, but even that brief encounter left a lasting impression on me.
I had been working for Accordance for no more than a couple of years at the time, so this would have been around 1996 or 1997. I had flown to Dallas to exhibit Accordance at a conference and to meet with the owner of a local computer store that sold Macintosh computers. One of his customers was Dr. Ryrie, and he arranged for me to visit Dr. Ryrie in his home to help with his Accordance installation. While I sorted out some things on his computer, Dr. Ryrie chatted with me about Greek and Hebrew, and then I gave him a few tips on using Accordance.
Before we left, Dr. Ryrie kindly offered me a Ryrie Study Bible in my choice of translation. He then signed it and took the time to show me how to break in the binding of a new Bible so that it would last for years to come.
As we headed for the door, I noticed a glass table with a very old-looking book inside it. Dr. Ryrie explained that it was a first English edition of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I got very excited about that, and the next thing I knew Dr. Ryrie was taking it out of the case and asking me if I wanted to hold it! My first thought was, “No way! What if I drop it?”, but I did end up taking it from his hands and nervously held it for a moment. As I did so, Dr. Ryrie said something like, “Imagine writing a book that would have the kind of impact on the world that book had.”
As we talked for a moment, I think Dr. Ryrie realized that I shared some of his enthusiasm for church history, because he got excited and asked us to stay a few minutes longer. Then he hurried off into another room and returned with two small books in his hands. He said, “Now these I’m not going to let you hold.” He then proceeded to show them to me. One was a Reformation-era pocket-sized edition of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament. The other was a Luther hymnal. On the opening flyleaves of this hymnal, someone had hand-written a sermon in German. Dr. Ryrie explained to me that the sermon was on “the two shall become one flesh” and that this had probably been given as a wedding gift. As he slowly turned the pages of this hand-written sermon, he dramatically hinted that it was signed by the author. I thought to myself that Martin Luther would be too good to be true, so I guessed the next best person I could think of: “Philip Melanchthon.” Sure enough, as Dr. Ryrie turned the last page, I saw the signature of Philip Melanchthon himself!
It was a pretty amazing brush with church history, and I’ll never forget Dr. Ryrie’s kindness and enthusiasm in sharing those personal treasures with me. I left that day thoroughly impressed with Dr. Ryrie’s love of the Bible, passion for the church, and quiet humility.
For more on the life and work of Dr. Ryrie, see this tribute from Dallas Theological Seminary.