Feast of William F. Albright and G. Ernest Wright (September 6)   2 comments

Above:  The Seal of The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-18405

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WILLIAM FOXWELL ALBRIGHT (MAY 24, 1891-SEPTEMBER 19, 1971)

mentor of

GEORGE ERNEST WRIGHT (SEPTEMBER 5, 1909-AUGUST 29, 1974)

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U.S. BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND ARCHAEOLOGISTS

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According to an old joke, an Evangelical is one who says to a liberal,

I will agree to call you a Christian if you agree to call me a scholar.

This witticism, like many other jokes, depends on a stereotype.  Stereotypes are overly broad generalizations, of course.  You, O reader, might know or have known at least one person who fits that stereotype.  I know and have known some who do.  (I have taught some of them too.  My experiences as a bookish, ritualistic, introverted, and left-of-center outsider with inherent Catholic tendencies growing up in and in the vicinity of Protestant churches in rural southern Georgia, U.S.A., have left me with an overall negative impression of Evangelicalism.)  

Albright was an exception to that stereotype.

Albright came from Methodist stock.  He, born in Coquimbo, Chile, on May 24, 1891, was a son of missionaries Wilbur Finley Albright and Zephine Vila Foxwell.  Our saint, a graduate of Upper Iowa University, earned his doctorate from The Johns Hopkins University in 1913.  In 1922-1929 and 1933-1936 Albright was the Director of the American School of Oriental Research, Jerusalem.  Furthermore, he was a professor of Semitic languages at The Johns Hopkins University from 1927 to 1958, when he retired.

Albright was an Evangelical, but not a Biblical literalist.  He, a leading figure in Biblical archaeology, followed the evidence to conclude, for example, that the Jewish people were originally polytheistic, and that they become monotheistic over time.  (I have repeated that conclusion, much to the consternation of some people.)  Albright also argued against German literary criticism, asserting that, for example, the historical parts of the Hebrew Bible are mostly accurate.

Albright, a great scholar, helped to authenticate the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948.  He also wrote an article, “The Old Testament World,” for The Interpreter’s Bible.  Albright also edited the volumes on Jeremiah on Jeremiah, Matthew, and Revelation in The Anchor Bible series and co-wrote the volume on Matthew.  For his scholarship Albright received many honors, including the title Yakir Yerushalayim, or “Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem.”

Albright, aged 80 years, died in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 19, 1971.  A posthumous honor was the renaming of the American School of Oriental Research, Jerusalem, as the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research.

Albright was an influential professor who mentored men who went on to become great scholars.  One was Father Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998), about whom I have planned to write a post.  Another student and worthy successor was G. Ernest Wright.

George Ernest Wright, born in Ohio on September 5, 1909, was a Biblical scholar and archaeologist, as well as an expert in dating ancient pottery.  The son of a Presbyterian minister and graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary became a Presbyterian minister in 1934, the year of his graduation.  He continued his studies at The Johns Hopkins University (M.A., 1936; Ph.D., 1937) under the guidance of William F. Albright.  Wright was Professor of Old Testament History and Theology at McCormick Theological Seminary (1939-1958).  Then he moved to Harvard University (the Divinity School, to be precise), serving as the Parkman Professor of Divinity (1958-1974) and the Curator of the Semitic Museum (1961-1974).  He died of a heart attack on August 29, 1974, aged 64 years.

Wright, like his mentor, was a prominent and influential Biblical scholar.  One of Wright’s primary assertions was that study of the Hebrew Bible was germane to the Christian faith.  (That might seem obvious, but obvious statements need scholarly support sometimes.)  He also wrote two commentaries on Isaiah (one of them for The Layman’s Bible Commentary in 1972), and founded The Biblical Archaeologist magazine.  Furthermore, Wright was a General Editor of The Westminster Press’s Old Testament Library series, for which William McKane (1921-2004) wrote Proverbs:  A New Approach (1970).

Albright and Wright were great Christian scholars and Biblical archaeologists.  Their conclusions have continued to come under scrutiny, some of it baseless.  These saints were mere mortals, so, of course, they did not get everything right.  Nevertheless, they got more right than they got wrong.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOANNA, MARY, AND SALOME, WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [William F. Albright, G. Ernest Wright, and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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2 responses to “Feast of William F. Albright and G. Ernest Wright (September 6)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Bernhard W. Anderson (September 23) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of John Bright (September 26) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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