A week ago Sunday, Neale Pryor, a longtime preacher, scholar, and Bible professor at Harding University passed away after a lengthy illness. Originally, I hadn’t planned to write anything about him here, but as time passed, I felt that I couldn’t let the passing of such a man go unmentioned.
Dr. Pryor was one of three absolutely outstanding Bible teachers that I had at Harding, and I sat through a lot of his classes—he was my teacher in multiple college courses, I often went to his mid-week Bible study, and I sat through his Sunday morning auditorium class at the College Church of Christ for most of my time at Harding. In a Bible class setting, I would estimate that I’ve heard more lessons from Dr. Pryor than I have from any other teacher.
Of course, there were reasons that I kept coming back for more. In all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered someone who simultaneously so impressed me with his biblical knowledge and scholarship and his humble spirit. As we discussed what were sometimes controversial issues in class, you could always tell that Dr. Pryor had good reasons and support for his views, but he never made anyone feel stupid for disagreeing with or not understanding him, and he was willing to admit that he didn’t have all the answers (One thing Dr. Pryor said that has always stuck with me was that he had come to suspect that when he got to heaven, he might find that more people had “made it in” than he expected. If that was the case, he assured us that he wouldn’t find a corner to sulk in—he would enjoy their company!).
In 1 Corinthians 11.1, the Apostle Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” A lot of the people that Paul was writing to in Corinth probably hadn’t known Jesus personally, so imitating the lifestyle of Paul (someone they did know personally) as he himself attempted to imitate the life of Jesus was something that was easier to grasp. I think the same thing could be said of Dr. Pryor—during his years at Harding, he gave a tangible example to countless students of what imitating Christ looked like. To me, that was what was most impressive of all about him—as good of a teacher as he was, he was an even better man.
Dr. Pryor liked to quote his favorite verse a lot: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16.26). For him, the main priority in life was always clear, and he lived his life accordingly. Congratulations to him for finishing the course and keeping the faith, and for joining that great cloud of witnesses.
I look forward to meeting him again.