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Canada Day Special: Top Ten Canadian Biblical Scholars

1st July 2007

Happy Canada Day!

For unaware readers, Canada Day is the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of “Canada” on July 1st. This year marks Canada’s 140th birthday. Happy birthday to us!

In honour of Canada Day, I thought I would list the top ten Canadian Biblical Scholars. To qualify for the list, the scholars must be Canadian citizens who spent a significant amount of their academic career in Canada. Beyond this basic requirement, these individuals were/are leading scholars in their disciplines as demonstrated by their teaching, research, and writing, as well as their contribution to the field of biblical studies in Canada. As you can see from the names below, this list is more historical in nature.

So, for what it is worth, here’s my list (in alphabetical order):

  • Francis (Frank) W. Beare. Beare was professor of New Testament at Trinity College, Toronto, and author of a number of books in New Testament studies, and contributed to the Interpreter’s Bible and the Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible. He served as president of CSBS in 1941-42 as well as the SBL in 1969. The CSBS has an annual prize named for Dr. Beare for an outstanding book in the areas of Christian Origins, Post-Biblical Judaism and/or Graeco-Roman Religions.
  • G. B. Caird. Beginning his career as Professor of NT at McGill (he finished it at Oxford), Caird was known for his many studies of the gospel of Luke and the book of Revelation as well as his monograph The Language and Imagery of the Bible. He served as president of the CSBS in 1957-58.
  • Peter C. Craigie. A specialist in Hebrew Bible as well as Ugaritic, Craigie was Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, where he later became Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Associate Vice-President (Academic), and, in 1985, Vice-President (Academic) just before his untimely death from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in 1985. His publications included commentaries on Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets, as well as a popular book on War in the Hebrew Bible. Craigie was also committed to bridge the gap between academia and the church. His term as president of the CSBS was cut short by his death. The CSBS holds a bi-yearly lecture in Craigie’s honour.
  • R.A.F. MacKenzie. Professor of Old Testament at Regis College in Toronto for 14 years, MacKenzie distinguished himself as one of the leading English-speaking Catholic scholars in Canada. Author of many book and articles in biblical studies, I personally found his work on biblical case law quite fascinating.
  • J. F. McCurdy. The “father” of biblical studies in Canada, McCurdy headed up the Department of Orientals at University College, Toronto.
  • Theophile Jame Meek. Professor at University College, Toronto, and author of many books and articles, including his influential Hebrew Origins. Probably best known as the translator of the Mesopotamian law codes in J.B. Pritchard’s ANET.
  • R. B. Y. Scott. Scott was a prolific scholar, an editor and contributor to the Interpreter’s Bible, a contributor to the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, and author of two commentaries (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) in the Anchor Bible series, among numerous other articles and books. His teaching career began in Vancouver, but spent the bulk of his academic career at McGill and Princeton. He was a founding member of the CSBS, its first secretary-treasurer, and served as president of the CSBS in 1971-71. He also was president of the SBL in 1960. The CSBS has an annual prize named for Dr. Scott for an outstanding book in the area of Hebrew Bible or the ancient Near East.
  • John William Wevers. A preeminent Septuagint scholar, Wevers also wrote in the area of Hebrew Bible. He spent his academic career at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Toronto. His work on the LXX Pentateuch in the Göttingen Septuagint series as well as his accompanying Notes on… series will serve generations of students and scholars alike.
  • Ronald J. Williams. Professor at the University of Toronto, Prof. Williams authored many books, including the still valuable Hebrew Syntax: An Outline. He was president of the CSBS in 1952-53.
  • _____________. Who would you complete the list with?

As you can see, I left the final slot open… who would you think deserves mention in this list? Also, can you think of any female scholars who deserve mention on this list?

If I was going to make a list of the senior Canadian biblical scholars who are still contributing to the field then the list would be quite different — and a bit more difficult since there are many world class Canadian scholars in biblical studies today. I imagine such a list would include the likes of Robert Culley, Paul Dion, Gordon Fee, David Jobling, John Kloppenborg, Al Pietersma, E.J. Revell, Eileen Schuller, John Van Seters, Bruce Waltke, among others.

Any other nominations?


17 Responses to “Canada Day Special: Top Ten Canadian Biblical Scholars”

  1. Duane Says:

    I not sure who I would add. For what it is worth, excepting something by Wevers, I have at least one work from every Hebrew Bible Scholar you listed in my library. I have read a few of Wevers papers and you are correct to have in on the list. Meek’s Hebrew Origins was a required supplemental textbook in the first Hebrew Bible course I took. That was at USC in 1964. I still look at it from time to time but not nearly as often as I look at Williams Hebrew Syntax.

  2. Steve Martin Says:

    I know one or two women that are currently writing very good stuff, but haven’t yet peaked… so maybe in a couple of years…

    What about Richard Longenecker?

  3. Bryan L Says:

    Gordon Fee!!!

  4. Chip Says:

    Tyler,

    Don’t forget to complete the Toronto Trinity with E.J. Revell!

  5. Tyler F. Williams Says:

    I was thinking about Revell, but not sure whether or not he was too recent. The other issue with many proposed names is the criterion of contributing to biblical studies in Canada. This puts question marks on scholars such as Fee, Waltke, Revell, and even Pietersma, since they tended to focus their careers in the larger biblical studies guild rather than anything Canadian. This may have been due to geography (Vancouver is rather isolated) or specialty (if LXX, then associations such as IOSCS will be more important than CSBS).

  6. Tyler F. Williams Says:

    Dick Longenecker is a real possibility, though I wonder if he would be more second generation?

  7. Bryan L Says:

    What exactly do you mean by contributing to the field of Biblical Studies in Canada? Can you give some examples? Does this mean specifically participating in Canadian Biblical Societies?

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  8. Tyler F. Williams Says:

    Good question, Bryan. I don’t want to limit it to participation in CSBS, so I guess I it could refer to stuff like developing and promoting biblical studies at one’s own institution or city. For example, Peter Craigie was involved with the CSBS, but also involved with the Interfaith community in Calgary.

    Perhaps this isn’t an important criterion, though I was thinking of something that represents a contribution to biblical studies beyond one’s own research or one’s immediate scholarly community.

    What do you think?

  9. Bryan L Says:

    Sounds like good criteria. Unfortunately not being in Canada or close enough to the action I wouldn’t know who has contributed in that way. All I can tell is who teaches in Canada (a whole lot of great scholars!)

    Speaking of who teaches in Canada, would you say there are differences in Evangelical biblical scholars in Canada and the US? I often see people speak of differences between Evangelical biblical scholars in Europe and the US and I was wondering if the same could be said of Canada? For instance, is inerrancy a big deal among Evangelical scholars in Canada the way it seems like it is in America?

    Thanks
    Bryan L

  10. Tyler F. Williams Says:

    Hey Bryan,

    I would say that in general Canadian evangelicals are more broadly minded than Americans, though this depends a great deal on the particular scholars.

  11. Robert Holmstedt Says:

    Tyler,

    While there are certainly differences between Canadians and Americans, which we’ve noticed after only 2 yrs up here (and I’m sure this applies equally to the Canadian church and the U.S. church), I think your “broad-minded” comment applies only given a certain (and perhaps too narrow) definition of “evangelical” in the U.S. Would you care to make explicit how you’re defining evangelical?

    I’d be curious to see George Barna’s definition (below) used to identify a similar test group in both places and then see if what kind of differences pop up.

    (Sorry to be picky; I just don’t like undefined terms, particularly “evangelical,” being used so casually — perhaps because I’m one of those who is either included or excluded depending on a very small set of definitional differences.)

    From http://www.barna.org
    “Evangelical”
    “Evangelicals” meet the born again criteria plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church they attend. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”

  12. Robert Holmstedt Says:

    Hi Tyler,

    An important addendum:

    I should have contextualized my comment so that it was clear I, too, was referring to Canadian and American scholars, for whom I’m not sure the typical usage of “evangelical” fits so well given the diversity I’ve observed. Thus, even more so than the typical pool for Barna’s surveys, I’d love to see something like this done on the academic crowd, with respondents identifying themselves as evangelical or not at the end of the survey.

    (I wonder why it is that even the thought of such a survey makes me chuckle with an evil grin, reminiscent of Calvin at the beginning of some nefarious plan to torture Susie. I may have to lie on the couch now and analyze myself for a while.)

  13. Tyler F. Williams Says:

    Hey Robert,

    I take your point. A huge problem is defining “evangelical.” I tend to prefer Marsden’s historical and sociological definition of evangelicals as holding five characteristics: biblicism (authority of the Bible, not necessarily equated with strict inerrancy), conversionism (importance of a spiritually transformed life), activism (teh importance of evangelism and mission), crucicentrism (salvation based on the redemptive work of Christ), and pan-denominationalism. If you take this definition and put it on a continuum where one side is a broad evangelical and the other side is a conservative evangelical, then I would hazard a guess (and that is all it is) that Canadians tend to be a bit more left-leaning. For example, if you compare the Evangelical Theological Society in the States with the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association, the latter requires not statement of inerrancy (they need only be “faithful to the primacy of Scripture”).

    If you are talking scholars, then I think the difference is still there, though there are many “broad-minded” evangelicals in the US as well (and vice versa).

    Part of the problem is that “evangelical” is often used synonymously with “fundamentalist”, which is unfortunate since I believe that the latter are more than just evangelicals who are angry about something (to paraphrase Marsden’s tongue in cheek definition). I cringed when the Christians profiled in the documentary Jesus Camp were called evangelicals (It made me want to finally abandon the term!)

    At any rate, I believe there is a difference, though I agree it is difficult to pinpoint. It is part theological but also part sociological/cultural.

    A survey comparing academics would be quite fascinating, I agree.

  14. John Hobbins Says:

    It’s easy to name a lot of excellent biblical scholars who teach in Canada today, beyond those already mentioned: at random:

    Ehud Ben-Zvi, Peter Richardson, Terry Donaldson, Stan Walters (a transplant, I realize); Craig Evans, Peter Flint (another transplant); W. Ward Gasque; Tim McLay, Francis Landy, Stanley Porter, Ian Provan, Adele Reinhartz, not to mention Robert Holmstedt and Tyler Williams. I have fond memories of John Hurd, R. K. Harrison, and George Montague from the good old days at U of T, but they are now retired, though perhaps writing still.

  15. Dan Sheffield Says:

    OT Scholar Daniel Block is second generation. he introduced me to Peter Craigie and R K Harrison.

  16. Chris Weimer Says:

    My vote is cast for John Kloppenborg, even though I disagree with him on his basic premise on Q!

  17. Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot » Blog Archive » Happy Canada Day, Eh!! Says:

    [...] If you are interested, check out my post from last year where I highlighted the Top Ten Canadian Biblical Scholars. [...]