Sunday, June 11, 2006

In Honor of Dr. Malcolm W. Shelton

This blog is about my mentor, the late Reverend Doctor Malcolm Wendell Shelton (August 26, 1919—March 6, 1997), an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene and biblical scholar. I was 17 years old when I relocated my life to Oklahoma City to attend Mid-America Bible College. That first semester introduced me to another world—a world of scholarship embodied in a short and gentle man with a quick laugh.

Dr. Shelton, a strong Wesleyan, taught me the Bible as no man ever has—literally. I had him for many formative classes:

Survey of Old Testament
Survey of New Testament
Pentateuch
Minor Prophets
History and Interpretation of the English Bible
New Testament Greek

Dr. Shelton was a man of learning with post-graduate work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. (He traveled to Israel 16 or 17 times.)

One could tell his love for Ha'aretz, The Land. He would show slides of biblical places and fight back tears. He seemed to have his deepest love in teaching Tanach so it truly blessed me when my mentor honored me with the Old Testament Studies award my senior year of college; taking the plaque from his hand is one of the highlights of my academic career.

Dr. Shelton wasn't "cool" in today's world but, rather, old with a wrinkled face and slicked back hair. The running joke among students was that Dr. Shelton either was Moses or at least knew him personally. Still, a Giant walked among us in those days.

One of the greatest compliments I have ever received came from him. It came at the close of my time at MBC. Shelton, the Nazarene, told me, a minister in the Church of God (Anderson), "I wish we had you." If I live to be 100 that will still be one of my proudest moments.

Lest this homage sound too cozy, I'll tell you about my lowest grade I ever received from him. I received a "C" in Minor Prophets class. He told me that I probably would've received an "A" if I had completed all of my collateral reading. (In my thinking, if I could get an "A" without reading the material, why penalize me? Still, he was the professor!)

Dr. Shelton was King of the Land of Hand-Outs. He apparently never met a hand-out he didn't like and enjoyed passing them out. We would use little to none of them in our classes but that didn't deter him from distributing them, I suppose for our general knowledge. (Don't quote me on this but I heard one student quit Pentateuch class after the first day due to the sheer volume of hand-outs.)

The venerable Doctor loved giving tests; he seemed genuinely giddy as he unloaded some of the hardest tests ever given in the history of the school.

A tribute to the scholar is incomplete without a mention of his humor. On a couple of occasions I heard him say (at our amillennial college) that if the Rapture occurred before test day then he would leave the tests with Doctor Trick (or Neal) to pass out! Oh, that glorious laugh. I can still hear it.

One Greek class did horribly on a test. Posted on his door was a note:
Alexander the Great is hanging his head in shame that his attempt to Hellenize the world ended on [insert date] in Beginning Greek class at Mid-America Bible College.
Dr. Shelton's translation of choice was the Revised Standard Version.  He really didn't like the paraphrased Living Bible.  He used to say, "A person won't learn anything about the Bible by reading the Living Bible!"  The Doctor died before the New Living Translation appeared but I doubt he'd have much good to say about that one, either.  He taught Greek from the formal equivalency philosophy, not dynamic equivalency variety.

There were two phrases he repeated many times. The first was "Now, this isn't something I'll be asking you on a test..." and the other was "On that."

Yes, "On that." For some reason he repeated this countless times during my four year education with him. I think it might have been his version of "Uh..." It may have been his personal "selah" expression.

The greatest zinger I ever heard in the four years of college chapel services came from Shelton. He preached on entire sanctification and delivered this line from the podium:
First Peter is a paraenetic letter to diaspora Jews on an eschatalogical journey from their New Birth to the return of Jesus Christ...uh...on that.
He pronounced his Greek with a Sooner accent. I truly loved the man. He now lives in heaven with the Lord he faithfully preached and taught about.

God bless you, Malcolm.
On that.