Friday, October 19, 2012

Frank Moore Cross, Rest in Peace

The Biblical Archeology Review is reporting that Frank Moore Cross, arguably the senior Old Testament scholar in North America, has passed away.  The full obituary is here.

Cross was a student of the "dean" of American Old Testament scholars, William Foxwell Albright, and for most of his career taught at Harvard.  Cross was the Doktorvater (dissertation director) of my own Doktorvater, James C. VanderKam.  So I guess that makes him my Doktorgrossvater.   

In any event, he was a scholar almost without peer.  An accomplished paleographer, he was one of the first scholars to see and work on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  But for me, his most valuable contributions concerned the understanding of the Old Testament concept of "covenant," especially in the first chapter of his classic From Epic to Canon: History and Literature in Ancient Israel. In my own little book Bible Basics for Catholics, I make a big deal about the covenants in salvation history, and how covenant is related to kinship. In this, I am drawing in part from Cross (see BBFC, p. 159), who famously said: "Often it has been asserted that the language of ‘brotherhood’ and ‘fatherhood,’ ‘love,’ and ‘loyalty’ is ‘covenant terminology.'" But this is “to turn things upside down. The language of covenant, kinship-in-law, is taken from the language of kinship, kinship-in-flesh" (Epic to Canon, p. 12).  This insight, that covenant forms kinship, is key to understanding Scripture.

The past few years have seen the passing of so many "greats": Moshe Greenberg, Moshe Weinfeld, Jacob Milgrom, David Noel Freedman, and now Cross. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen!" (2 Sam 1:19).

Frank Moore Cross, rest in peace. 

1 comment:

Brenda L. Lindley said...

Jewish scholars respect his contributions to the deciphering of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He had travel a lot of times in Israel and Jordan to see the unearthed Nag Hammadi library. Even to this day, he still inspired young Jewish scholars to map the literature of Israel.