Herman H. Rocke
OUR BROTHER and fellow worker, Herman H. Rocke, has been put to repose. It is with sorrow and with a deep sense of loss that we make this announcement. Yet we are thanking our God and Father for the wise and gracious guidance He channeled to us for many years through this chosen vessel.
Born in Germany on July 21, 1908, he, in his own words, “received peace with God through the blood of Christ” as a boy of 15. He spent many years filled with questions, searching for answers in the established churches and schools. He wanted to know as clearly as possible just what God was saying in His Word, and toward this end he studied both Hebrew and Greek as taught in the universities.
It was during the last years of the Second World War that he visited a church in Berlin, pastored by Brother H. Grossman, where A. E. Knoch had enjoyed fellowship several years previously. In a letter to Brother Knoch written in 1946, Herman related: “The answers to my questions [were] given by Grossman’s sermons and the Concordant Literature which was made available to me by Brother Wolff at Stepenitz.”
His schooling in languages opened up jobs for him as English interpreter and later as a coordinator of cultural events for soldiers in the American army. In the meantime, he was engrossed in reestablishing the Concordant work in Germany. By 1954 he was living in Hamburg and serving as managing editor of the magazine and other German publications.
Then in the January 1960 issue of Unsearchable Riches, it was announced, “At the time of writing, we have received word of the impending departure of the Editor of our German magazine, Brother Herman Rocke, and his wife, from Hamburg, for the United States. Our brother plans, D.V., to take up residence in Los Angeles, where he will assume the duties of editorial assistant to A. E. Knoch, the Compiler of the Concordant Version.”
Thus, while still continuing his labors with the Konkordanter Verlag, Brother Rocke and his wife Luise, moved to Los Angeles, living for awhile nearly next door to Brother and Sister Knoch, and so he became much involved in the English work as well. I remember well my own first visit to Los Angeles in July 1960, when I was privileged to meet Brother Knoch and his family, and also Herman and Luise, as well as their two children who had previously moved to the United States. The humble setting only made the thrill of witnessing the daily conferring of A. E. Knoch and Herman Rocke, along with David Knoch, on the Concordant Version of Isaiah, all that more striking. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gratuity (as Herman so often repeated)!
My real acquaintance with Brother Rocke began when I moved to California in 1972 and assumed many of the duties previously carried on for many years by Brother Ernest Knoch. The Rockes were then living in Carpinteria, California, in a mobile home near the ocean shore. They would drive to the office in Canyon Country each week, putting in long hours on the Concordant Version of the Old Testament and the preparation of Unsearchable Riches.
Herman seldom spoke about himself or family concerns. He immersed himself in his work with great discipline and dedication. It seems to me that I came to know him best during the last few years when we were separated by many miles of distance (after Luise’s death in 1992, Herman lived first with his son in Davis, California, and then more recently with his daughter in Beaverton, Oregon). Our communication was principally by mail, sometimes by telephone, but the fellowship of mutual solicitude by prayer and petition as we labored together on the Old Testament translation was the highest of privileges for me in our association for the last 24 years.
Up to about eight weeks ago, Herman was still working 40 hours or more a week on the Concordant translation and on both the German and English magazines. He occasionally mentioned intestinal distress, and his age had taken its toll. But it did come as a shock to me when I learned in early March that he had terminal cancer and had been forced to leave his desk completely. He was able to stay at home under his daughter’s care. I spoke with him briefly by telephone on April 22 and felt it was for the last time in this life, as it came to be. He died the evening of April 25.
I would like to share some lines from his letters and reports of the past few years and months. Perhaps his words will be as encouraging and uplifting to others as they have been to me (the first citation is much earlier than the others and seems especially timely in light of Bro. Rocke’s death as well as the current studies on the book of Job in the magazine):
April 19, 1985. “I have spent some time on Job 19:25-27 . . . . Job was inspired to speak these words; so the expectation of resurrection lies at the very heart of Job’s faith. Hence he may be called a prophet in his own right; for by many portions and modes, of old, God was speaking to the fathers . . . . Another important point is the fact that Job expected to perceive Eloah with his own eyes (i.e., from my flesh), not El, not Elohim. So Job used the divine title that reflects the general direction of Christ’s activity, Godwards.
“The scroll of Job stands out from all the other books of the O.T. in that the title Eloah occurs 41 times in Job, and only 17 times elsewhere. In this way the scroll as a whole points to Christ, the Redeemer. The expressions, ‘with my own eyes, from my flesh, behind my skin,’ show that it is indeed Job in person who will be present and stand erect and perceive Eloah, his Redeemer.”
September 29, 1991. “My daily prayer is not only for spiritual wisdom and revelation of the divine thoughts, but also for a full mental grasp of the intricacies of the Hebrew texts that will come before me in the course of the day. I also pray for the ability to accurately translate them into English. I pray for the gift of logical thinking and for a good memory so as to be able to recall the occurrence of similar Hebrew phrases.”
September 20, 1993. “This morning I woke up at 5:48 (Oregon time). I do not rise this early now, but I wake up around 5:00 almost every morning. Since this is 8:00 your time, I start praying for you and ye all for the Lord’s blessing for the new day–blessing for all endurance and patience with joy: that we may be endued with all power, in accord with the might of His glory.”
July 10, 1994. “If the Lord should ever be willing, and I shall be living (James 4:15), I would like to write a few articles about Samuel, the Last of the Judges . . . . About four weeks ago, I became sick with jaundice [and] had to spend 24 hours in the hospital for continuous intravenous drip of antibiotics . . . . Right now, I have no pain. ‘Wherefore we are not despondent, but even if our outward man is decaying, nevertheless our inward [man] is being renewed day by day’ (2 Cor.4:16).”
August 23, 1994. “Thank you for your mail of Aug. 17 and the description of the star gazing session. This brings to mind Col.3:1-4 . . . . be seeking that which is above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.–So often I am looking up to the heavens from where He will be descending, with a shout of command. Then we will be snatched away together, to meet the Lord in the air. While we are waiting, the Father makes us competent for a part of the allotment of the saints in light. And He says to us: ‘Look to the service which you accepted in the Lord, that you may be fulfilling it.’ ”
October 1995 (Report to the Board of Directors): “The revision of 1 Samuel was completed earlier this year. Then I started rechecking and retyping 2 Samuel. We had found the Hebrew text of 1 Samuel in a relatively poor shape, and we had to add many emendations based on the evidence of LXX and Qumran.
“The Hebrew text of 2 Samuel is in a better shape, though it is often defective in certain respects and must have suffered in the process of textual transmission, mainly due to scribal errors, such as haplographic omissions in particular (the first [or the final] letter or syllable of a Hebrew word dropped out, when it occurred also in the preceding [or in the following] word). Bro. A. E. Knoch had discovered most of these defects in his sublinear translation; he advised us to compare our emendations with the recommendations of conservative commentators. (‘They spent a lifetime on these things, and they know better,’ he once said.)”
October 13, 1995. “This week I tried to memorize the Greek text of 2 Cor.12:9. I am so happy and thankful for [these] words . . . . In my bodily weaknesses, the power of Christ is tabernacling over me! On my way to our mailbox, I have to descend fifteen steps; and I remember this verse, while I have one hand on the banister, and the other on my metal cane.”
January 28, 1996. “The snow outside keeps me in the house. In the morning, on my weak legs with the support of my sturdy metal cane, I used to go out to the edge of the sidewalk to our mailbox where I deposited my outgoing mail, and in the afternoon I picked up incoming mail. I have been thanking the Lord daily for having full vision on my right eye (there is a cataract on the left one), and the recent inflammation is receding. Praise the Lord, there is no stomach pain today as has been every day in the past weeks.”
The final note from his hand was attached to some work on Amos that he was returning to me; it is dated February 25, 1996, and is here given in its entirety: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you! Yours in Him, Herman.”
Brother Rocke nearly completed the revision work on 2 Samuel but was unable to do this for the two books of Kings as he had hoped. Yet always he reminded himself of the praise and prayers of Paul, centered in confidence in the One Who will be completing the work He has begun in us (cf Phil.1:6). This is reflected in his study, The Prayer of Faith, which appeared in Unsearchable Riches for March 1960 and in his book, CHECK YOUR PANOPLY, from which we have excerpted the present article, “The Prayer of Faith.”
The article on 2 Corinthians 5:18,19 that appeared in our March issue was prepared at Brother Rocke’s request. For one who lived through two world wars at close hand, this message of God’s achievement of conciliation held special meaning, and it seems fitting that he was so concerned in his last months that we continue to give it stress. He knew it was because of the truth that God was in Christ conciliating the world to Himself that our prayers are broadened toward all mankind, and we may find something of what Paul called “a mild and quiet life” (1 Tim.2:2) even in these stressful days.
Memorial services were held by his family in Oregon, and friends in California and Michigan. We say good night for now, in expectation of the morning that begins that blessed time when we will always be together with our Lord.
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