Chinese Theological Review 15

In Memory of Luo Zhenfang

Xu Dingxin and Mo Ruxi

Our beloved colleague Luo Zhenfang was a distinguished professor of New Testament at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, well known in the field of biblical research at home and abroad. He was also the president of the Nanjing branch of the Yenching University Alumni Association. Because of a recurrence of heart disease, and the failure of extreme measures, he died in Nanjing at 2 a.m. on September 22, 2000, and now rests in the Lord. He was eighty-one years old.

Luo Zhenfang was born in April 1920 in the city of Tianjin in Hebei province. He studied in Huaiwen Primary and Middle Schools and in 1939 passed the entrance exam for the Foreign Languages Department of Yenching University in Beijing. Later due to the outbreak of war, he transferred to Beijing University, graduating from its Foreign Languages Department in 1941. With victory in the war against Japan in 1946, Luo devoted himself to work in the church in China, entering the School of Religion at the former Yenching University where he was a student of T.C. Chao. He studied theology and graduated in 1949, the year the People's Republic of China was founded, in the early years of the development of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Chinese church. In the same year, Luo began Christian youth fellowship work at the Chongwen Men Church in Beijing, working there seven years, from 1949 to 1956. Luo was conscientious and hard working as a leader of Chinese Youth for Christ. In 1956 he was invited by Yanjing Union Theological Seminary to teach New Testament and Greek. In 1961, Yanjing Union Theological Seminary joined with Nanjing Union Theological Seminary and Luo and his family moved to Nanjing where he became a professor of Bible. Following the Cultural Revolution, when Nanjing Seminary reopened, Luo was extremely excited and threw himself into teaching New Testament to each new class beginning with the class of ' 81, teaching many sections of New Testament, which were warmly welcomed by the students and had outstanding results. In 1988, when teacher rankings were reassessed in Chinese seminaries nationwide, Luo was named full professor of New Testament at Nanjing Seminary.

From 1956 when Luo began to teach at Yanjing Union Seminary in Beijing, and then came to Nanjing Seminary to teach New Testament and Greek, he has been a teacher for 44 years. Except when the Seminary was twice closed, in 1958 and again during the Cultural Revolution era from 1966, he never stopped working, but always stood on the frontlines of the Seminary, right up to the time of his death. In his more than forty years of service to the church in Nanjing and work at the Seminary, Luo Zhenfang set a fine example for us all of a noble pastor, a loyal servant of the Lord and of a teacher arid friend who was loyal and kind, untiring in teaching and guidance, and caring for students with a loving heart.

In addition to his service to the church and work in the Seminary, Luo worked day and night in theology, biblical research, translation, and literature work. He published countless essays and sermons in Christian publications. There have been seventeen volumes published in the Theological Education Series and of these, Luo Zhenfang authored three major ones: Manual for the New Testament (1989); Theories of the Bible (1990); and a collection of his own shorter pieces, Xuandao ji (1999). In the 1980s he took part in the editorial work for the religion section of the Chinese encyclopedia on Christian terminology.

Luo Zhenfang put a great deal of effort into self-propagation work for the church in new China and in exchanges and communication with churches overseas, including overseas Chinese churches. Every academic year he would be invited to give lectures in seminaries across the country, and to lecture in lay training courses in the grassroots churches, aiding in the training of lay leaders. He was a frequent member of delegations visiting overseas and a participant in all kinds of academic conferences overseas. He was often accompanied in these cases by Mrs. Luo.

On December 30, 1988, he suffered a myocardial infarction and was rushed to the Jiangsu People's Hospital where his condition was pronounced critical. But a miracle took place and his condition improved rapidly from critical to stable. Six months later he had recovered and resumed his teaching at the seminary, and in June of 1990 and again in 1994, he traveled to the US and UK on academic exchanges.

In March 1998, due to exhaustion from work as well as a serious heart condition, Luo again entered hospital for a five-month stay. In December of that year, he was again fit enough to resume teaching his classes at the seminary.

In July 1998, Prof. Luo, along with three other seventy-year-old professors at the seminary, formally retired. But he continued to accept invitations, and although he no longer taught in the B.D. program, he accepted graduate students in New Testament and supervised their dissertations.

In the summer of 2000, he and Mrs. Luo were again invited to travel to the Dalian church to lecture in lay training courses for over two weeks. When the heat of the summer passed toward the latter half of August, after Luo had returned from Dalian, he was visibly exhausted, and by special arrangement, he entered the convalescent hospital at Zhongshan in the eastern suburbs of Nanjing for rest and testing. On August 29, he made a special trip to the seminary to take part in the opening ceremonies for the current academic year. On September 1, he led morning chapel, and the day before he had gone to the library to check a source. That morning, as he stepped down from the lectern after delivering his sermon, he appeared short of breath and was taken back to hospital that morning. But he held on for three weeks, and then on the morning of September 22, he went into cardiac arrest, and his heart finally stopped.

In 1950, when new China was new, Luo Zhenfang began his service to the church, and personally experienced the development of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement over fifty years. Following the Jinan Conference of the Chinese church, he had a high opinion of and took an active part in the initiative for theological reconstruction. On the eve of celebrations in Beijing to mark the 50th anniversary of Three-Self, Luo Zhenfang laid down the burdens of fifty years and went to his heavenly home.

Luo had with his own eyes seen the fruits of fifty years of the TSPM; the fine students produced over twenty years since the reopening of the seminary, now spread throughout the country as the core group in the churches of every province and city and in the seminaries in every region; and he had seen the beginnings of a lively process of theological reconstruction.

The psalmist said, "The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong" (Psalm 90: 10). Luo Zhenfang had stepped over the threshold of eighty. We feel he was taken too soon, and we await the contributions of his students in New Testament research to continue his work.

Luo was the current president of the Nanjing branch of the Yenching Alumni Association, the elderly leader of those of us who had graduated from the School of Religion there, a student of that school's theologian T.C. Chao. We have been together with Luo for half a century-as classmate, colleague, and friend. Luo Zhenfang' s passing will leave a deep and unfading impression on us.

Nanjing Theological Review (2000): 64-65.

The authors are colleagues of Prof. Luo at Nanjing Seminary.