Much of Bruce Marshall academic work centers on a thorny theological question that he doesn’t expect to be resolved soon. In fact, he imagines the answer will emerge in the long run – say, within a century or two. As a scholar who’s accustomed to working at a thoughtful and deliberate pace, Marshall is OK with that.
The question: how to reconcile two seemingly contradictory views of Jewish-Catholic relations.
“Since the Second Vatican Council, Catholic teaching has had a strong insistence on the enduring reality of God’s Biblical covenant with the Jewish people,” he said. “But there’s also the universal mission of Christ and the church, that says that the Gospel is for Jew and gentile alike. I’m trying to understand how we might hold these two basic commitments together.”
Toward that end, Marshall has been working for some time in dialogue with other scholars, both Jewish and Christian.
“As a convert to Catholicism, I’m looking at the question from a Catholic point of view, but it’s not a uniquely Catholic question,” he said.
Ultimately, he plans to write a book on the topic; he has already published papers, essays and book chapters. In May, he presented the keynote lecture in a conference sponsored by the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Leo University; that keynote will be published by the Catholic University of America Press as part of a volume from the conference.
“Catholic theology is just beginning to consider the question, but I believe this work will bear fruit in the long term,” he said.
Outside of his academic work at Perkins, Marshall is a member of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic church in Richardson. He also teaches classes for SMU’s Catholic campus ministry. About 25% of SMU students are Catholic; SMU has an active ministry supported by the Dallas Diocese. In the past, Marshall also taught weekly adult education classes in local Catholic parishes.
“I view that as part of my calling as a theologian: to offer what assistance I can to the church and its living reality,” he said.
Those who know Marshall as a scholar are often taken aback to learn that his home is filled with a lively menagerie of animals – four cats and two dogs, at the moment. Credit goes to his daughter Anne, 23, who lives at home.
“Among her many endearing qualities is her great love for orphaned and suffering creatures,” he said. “She adopted the four cats and two dogs.”
Anne adopted one of the cats when she saw a photo of the feline on NextDoor; she left work immediately to take in the then-feral and sickly kitten. One of the dogs was adopted after Anne discovered an abandoned puppy at a Walmart. Now, that puppy has grown into a 50-lb. pit bull.
“He’s the sweetest dog, and completely cowed by the other dog, a tiny rat terrier,” Marshall said.
Medieval and Reformation theology, systematic theology
Doctrine of the Trinity, Christology, philosophical issues in theology, sacramental theology, Judaism and Christian theology
Books on His Nightstand:
Kristin Lavransdatter, a trilogy of historical novels set in medieval Norway and written by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset; and August 1914, a Russian novel by Nobel Prize-winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn about the defeat of the Imperial Russian Army at the Battle of Tannenberg in East Prussia.
Favorite Bible Verse
Guiding his work is a favorite Bible verse, Galatians 2:20: It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NRSV) “For me, that is St. Paul’s statement of what I hope to live up to,” he said. A Lutheran before he converted, Marshall says he’s also inspired by Catholic hymns, including some that are quite ancient. “The sacraments are very important to me,” he said. “The things that meant the most to me as a Lutheran are what drew me to Catholicism.”
Fantasy Dinner Party
Being a “theology nerd,” Marshall says he’d invite long-dead theologians like Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus, in hopes that they might answers some questions he’s pondered over the years. “I’ve spent a lot of time in their work, and I’m not sure I understood everything they wrote,” he said. “They’d probably argue, but I’d sit them down and say, ‘Here’s the passage. Please explain.’”
Marshall has been married to his wife Sandra for 38 years; she’s a church musician who’s currently composing a setting for a mass. Daughter Anne, 23, a student at the University of North Texas, was born in Korea and adopted.
Daily prayer is important to Marshall; he prays the rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours regularly. He also prays through the Psalms every month, a habit he has followed for many years.
Question he’d ask at the Pearly Gates.
“It’s hard to put into words, but I expect to see Jesus in the flesh,” he said. “I think I’d say, ‘Show me how I could’ve served you better, how I could’ve loved you more.’ And I expect He will answer, not to our sorrow, but to our upbuilding.”