A Brief History of IBR

For over 30 years, the Institute for Biblical Research has offered to evangelical biblical scholars and Ph.D. students a venue for creative, reflective and serious biblical scholarship. One might not have suspected such an auspicious outcome back in 1970, when a few biblical scholars gathered for lunch during the SBL meeting in New York. The meeting was called by E. Earle Ellis, the founding visionary behind IBR. He dreamed of a North American based residential reference library (non-lending) similar to that of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research, Tyndale House Library, Cambridge, England. For the following three years, a small group calling themselves the Tyndale Committee discussed the viability of creating a residential library. In the end, they were persuaded that the library vision required a societal matrix to realize its goal, and thus in 1973 was birthed the Institute for Biblical Research.

Ellis served as its founding chair, continuing in that role until 1981. Past presidents include Bastian van Elderen, Chair, 1981-83, President, 1996-2002; Edwin Yamauchi, President, 1983-89; Gerald Hawthorne, President, 1989-1993; Klyne Snodgrass, President, 1993-95; Daniel Block, President, 2002-05; Lee McDonald, President, 2006-present.

The historical goals of the Institute for Biblical Research included fostering the study of Scripture within an evangelical context, establishing facilities for the furtherance of biblical studies, and encouraging university and college students toward a vocation of biblical scholarship. A key component of the initial vision was the creation of a residential reference library in North America for the study and research of biblical materials. This goal was realized in 2002 when a historic home on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's campus (Fort Worth, TX) became available. The library is currently up and running, but is no longer part of IBR. In a friendly separation, the IBR and the newly formed IBRL (2004) exist as sister organizations with separate constitutions, meetings and study groups.

At IBR's inception (1973), the group included about 35-40 members. Membership was by invitation only, with the sponsorship of two current members. Each member needed to affirm InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's statement of faith, and hold an appointment as a doctoral candidate or teaching position in the biblical field. Full membership was granted to those engaged in biblical research at the level of assistant professorship or above, while graduate students could become associate members. By 1976, the membership had more than doubled to 83 members. In 1994, the number had grown to 311 members (Fellows) and 90 associates. Currently (2006) IBR has 412 Fellows, 41 Associates, 32 Friends and 36 Retired for a total of 521 members.

The IBR annual meetings occur in conjunction with the SBL annual meetings (with regional meetings taking place across the country during the year). Initially the IBR annual meeting included a luncheon lecture given by a prominent evangelical scholar (not necessarily an IBR member). Later a Friday evening banquet and lecture by key evangelical researchers were introduced, followed by two major papers and formal responses representing both the Old Testament and the New Testament on Saturday morning. In 1996, following the Friday evening keynote speaker, a reception hosted by various publishers was substituted for dinner banquet. Beginning in 2001, IBR conducts a Sunday morning church service open to all (both IBR and non-IBR members).

Publications were a primary concern for IBR. In 1989 it launched the Bulletin for Biblical Research (BBR) under the editorship of Bruce Chilton, published by Eisenbrauns. The first journal was published in 1991. In 1994, Craig Evans continued as editor and advanced BBR to a bi-annual journal. In 2005, Richard S. Hess took over editorial responsibilities, significantly enlarging the journal. The BBR Supplement Series began in 2007 with the appearance of its first monograph. Members also receive the Tyndale Bulletin and the IBR Newsletter, which lists all current members and their publications, announcements and congratulations to members and memorials. Early in its history, IBR members also received the journal Themelios. In 1987, a festschrift to E. Earle Ellis was presented entitled Tradition and Interpretation in the New Testament edited by G. Hawthorne and O. Betz (Eerdmans). Beginning in 1992, Baker Book House published a series of IBR sponsored bibliographies on topics such as the Historical Jesus, Old Testament Introduction, New Testament Introduction, the Pentateuch and Pauline Letters.

Lynn Cohick
Wheaton College--May, 2007