A Giant Has Fallen: Frank Moore Cross Dead at age 91
by James Tabor
Just after noon today the sad news slowly began to trickle in from colleagues around the world: Harvard Professor Frank Moore Cross died last night in a hospice in Rochester N.Y at age 91. He had been ill for some time but the news of his death was nonetheless a sobering moment for generations of biblical scholars who either knew him or were influenced by his work. Although I never studied under Dr. Cross he and I knew one another as colleagues and we have carried on a warm and fruitful correspondence over the past decade, mostly about Jerusalem ossuary inscriptions, but also other wider issues. I was just looking through my e-mail and reading some of our last messages. He always called me “Jim” but I could never call him anything but Professor Cross. In a few days I am sure there will be some fine and full obituaries from students and colleagues who loved and admired him. I won’t even attempt anything like that here. I did want to refer my readers to my favorite interview with Prof. Cross, with Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks. You can find the link here.
I will be posting various tributes to the late great Frank Moore Cross, updated as they come in.
A memorial service is planned at Harvard University, the Memorial
Church, on Saturday, November 10, at 4 PM, with a reception to follow.
Sidnie White Crawford has also announced the following special session at the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting in Chicago next month:
Honoring the Legacy of Frank Moore Cross
5:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: W183a – McCormick Place
Frank Moore Cross (1921-2012) passed away on Oct. 17 at the age of 91. A legendary scholar whose reach extended over the entire field of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, he also supervised over 100 dissertations, leaving an indelible mark on biblical scholarship in the 20th century with his own contributions and those of his students. Join friends and colleagues for tributes and an opportunity to reminisce and share appreciation.
Jim Davila one of his hundreds of students who have populated our field so widely here.
The New York Times obituary here.
Jonathan Rosenbaum on the ASOR Blog here.
From Peter Machinist <email@example.com> with permission to repost:
Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages
Frank Moore Cross
Frank Moore Cross, one of the premier biblical scholars of the past
century, died early Wednesday morning, October 17. 2012 in Rochester,
New York. He was 91. Cross had been Hancock Professor of Hebrew and
Other Oriental Languages Emeritus at Harvard University, where he
taught for thirty-five years before retiring in 1992. After
retirement, he and his wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Anne, remained at their
home in Lexington, Massachusetts, and then moved in 2008 to a suburb
of Rochester, New York, to be near one of their daughters, Ellen
Gindele, and her family; Betty Anne Cross died in May, 2009.
Born on July 13, 1921, the son and grandson of Protestant ministers,
Cross was educated at Maryville College (1942), where he studied
chemistry and philosophy and was a competitive swimmer, and McCormick
Theological Seminary (1946), and then took his doctorate at Johns
Hopkins University (1950). At Hopkins, his mentor was the renowned
ancient Near Eastern scholar, William Foxwell Albright, and he quickly
became one of Albright’s most important pupils. Leaving Hopkins, where
he had been a junior instructor, he went on to teach at Wellesley
College and McCormick Seminary, before coming to Harvard in 1957.
Cross had a broad and deep command of the study of the Hebrew Bible
and its multiple historical contexts, and achieved distinction in
several areas of this field. He was an expert in the interpretation of
biblical literature, making lasting contributions to the understanding
of biblical poetry, particularly its earliest phases, of the
compositional development of the great historical narratives of the
books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Ezra and Nehemiah, and of
biblical prophecy and apocalyptic. He was in the forefront of those
investigating the history and culture of ancient Israel, from which
the Hebrew Bible emerged, and of its relationships to the ancient Near
Eastern and Mediterranean cultures around it. Especially incisive and
important here was his work on the character and history of ancient
Israelite religion, emphasizing its background in and adaptation of
beliefs and practices from its Canaanite neighbors and forebears.
Cross was also a master of the ancient Semitic languages and their
interrelationships, particularly the Northwest Semitic group, from the
eastern Mediterranean and north Africa, that included Hebrew, Aramaic,
Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Punic. In these languages and their
inscriptions he achieved special recognition as an epigrapher and
palaeographer. As an epigrapher, he was regularly consulted by
scholars from all over the world for his uncanny skill at deciphering
and making sense of these inscriptions. As a palaeographer, he
produced meticulous studies of the scripts in which the inscriptions
were written, reconstructing the chronological developments of these
scripts and thus providing a vastly improved foundation for dating the
inscriptions on the basis of the type and character of the script
used. Most famous in this regard was his study of the scripts of the
Dead Sea Scrolls, originally completed in 1958, and with but minor
adjustments, still the essential resource for the analysis and 2
dating of these important texts. Cross also was a major specialist in
the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible; his research on the ancient
manuscripts and versions of the Bible yielded new and far-reaching
conclusions as to how the biblical text was composed and transmitted.
Last and perhaps most well known was Cross’ scholarship on the Dead
Sea Scrolls, those texts from the last centuries BCE and first century
CE that came from a dissident Jewish community which had gone into the
Judaean wilderness to await the end of history and the coming of a new
age. Cross was one of the core members of the original team of experts
piecing together and deciphering the often fragmentary Scrolls, and
worked on all aspects of them, publishing editions especially of the
biblical manuscripts, and a path-breaking study of the entire Dead Sea
Scroll community, The Ancient Library of Qumran, which went through
three English editions and one German from 1958 to 1995.
Several features distinguished the scholarship just described. There
was first a combinatorial talent: Cross’s ability to bring to bear on
a particular problem an integrated range of skills, linguistic,
literary, historical, archaeological, philosophical. Cross also was
able to move in a fluent dialectic between the painstaking examination
of minute details and a vision of the larger issues and structures to
which the details could belong. And one cannot forget the skill at
communication: the explanations were always lucid, if at times
complex, and in a chiseled prose that could manage in a few pages what
others would need many more to express.
These same features also distinguished Cross’ teaching. His courses
introducing the Hebrew Bible and on the history of ancient Israelite
religion became staples for a large and broad range of students from
beginners to more advanced. At the doctoral level students came to him
from North America and beyond, and in his three and half decades at
Harvard, he was the primary director of over one hundred of them and
their dissertations, serving many more as a member of their
dissertation committees — ] a record unsurpassed and probably
unequaled internationally in his field. Cross was a demanding teacher,
setting the bar high in terms of technical competence and broad,
humanistic learning. He also had a remarkable knack for taking his
students to the very frontiers of knowledge in the field, and imbuing
them palpably with the excitement of standing at the brink of new
discoveries. To be sure, he could at times appear formidable, even
fearsome, but beneath the austerity was a warm human being who
followed his students’ careers long after they had graduated, and who
loved hearing as much as telling good jokes. Humor was indeed a deep
part of his character, and Mark Twain one of his favorite authors. The
gentleness could be found as well in his passion for horticulture: he
was an expert cultivator especially of orchids.
The honors that come from such a record of achievement were many.
Seven honorary doctorates from universities in the United States,
Canada, and Israel; elections to several scholarly academies,
including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American
Philosophical Society; the presidencies and directorships of several
of the major professional organizations in his field, like the Society
of Biblical Literature and the American Schools of Oriental Research;
co-founder and co-chair of the Hermeneia Biblical Commentary Series
and editor or editorial board member of other major series and
journals; recipient of several major awards for scholarship, including
the Percia Schimmel Prize in Archaeology of the Israel Museum,
Jerusalem, and the Medalia de Honor de la Universidad Complutense of
Madrid, Spain; three volumes of studies in his honor (Festschriften)
by colleagues and former students, with a fourth in preparation.
Frank Moore Cross is survived by three daughters, Susan Summer, Ellen
Gindele, and Rachel Cross, and six grandchildren.