Saturday, October 20, 2012

Frank Moore Cross, 1921-2012

 Joseph Fitzmyer (left), Hershel Shanks (middle), and Frank Moore Cross 
(right and looking a lot like Sean Connery in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
discussing the James Ossuary*

Hershel Shanks (seen above in the middle), founder of the Biblical Archaeology Society and editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, sums it up well:

I will leave it to scholars to write of his scholarly accomplishments. I will write only of what I know: He stood at the very pinnacle of the profession, universally respected and admired. When he spoke, others stood in awe. The Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University, the third oldest endowed academic chair in the United States, Cross was a specialist in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in obscure ancient languages, in the science of dating ancient inscriptions based on shape of the letters, in the Biblical text and in archaeology, to name but a few.

My own personal encounter with Cross' work was his From Epic to Canon, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, his contribution to the BYU-published The Temple in Antiquity, and various other articles.[1] His essay "Kinship and Covenant in Ancient Israel" in From Epic to Canon single-handedly revolutionized my understanding of covenants and helped me recognize more fully the familial and social context of the temple worldview. It was due mainly to Cross' insights that early Mormon temple practices (e.g. polygamy, adoption) began to take on greater significance for me.[2] His Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic and JNES article "The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah" were two of my earliest readings on the subject of the divine council in the Old Testament.[3]

In other words, the scholarship of this man greatly influenced both my scripture study and my approach to covenant-making. I am deeply indebted to him because of this. He will be missed.

*Photo found at James Tabor's blog

1. From Epic to Canon: History and Literature in Ancient Israel (Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 1998); Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973); "The Priestly Tabernacle in the Light of Recent Research," The Temple in Antiquity: Ancient Records and Modern Perspectives, ed. Truman G. Madsen (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1984).

2. See Kathleen Flake, "The Emotional and Priestly Logic of Plural Marriage," Arrington Annual Lecture 15 (2009); Jonathan A. Stapley, "Adoptive Sealing Ritual in Mormonism," Journal of Mormon History 37:3 (Summer 2011); Samuel M. Brown, In Heaven As It Is On Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), "Part Two: Everlasting Communities."

3. Specifically "The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 12:4 (1953).

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