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Happy Birthday, Frank Cross

Frank CrossFor 35 years, Frank Cross was the Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University—the third oldest university chair in the country and perhaps the most prestigious perch in Biblical academia.

His influence in the field has been vast. He has supervised the doctoral dissertations of more than a hundred students, many of whom went on to become senior scholars in their own right. As his student, now also a Harvard professor, Lawrence Stager has written: Cross’s high expectations of his doctoral students “often drove them to achieve at a higher level than they imagined for themselves.” (Larry has dedicated the upcoming third volume of the Ashkelon publication to Frank and another mentor, Benjamin Mazar.1)

Cross’s own scholarship was equally influential. A member of the original Dead Sea Scroll publication team, his volume The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (now in a revised third edition2) is a classic. His seminal essay on “The Development of the Jewish Scripts” established the paleography of Second Temple Hebrew scripts.3 When the dates proposed in this study were subsequently confirmed by means of carbon-14 analysis of representative scrolls, Frank was said to have remarked that he was pleased that his paleographical dates had confirmed the validity of carbon 14.

His two books of collected works—Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic,4 essays on the history of the religion of Israel, and From Epic to Canon,5 essays on history and literature in ancient Israel—have become almost “biblical” in themselves.

In 2003, 55 of his pathbreaking studies were published under the title Leaves from an Epigrapher’s Notebook: Collected Papers in Hebrew and West Semitic Palaeography and Epigraphy (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns). Included are articles on Hebrew, Aramaic, Old Canaanite and Phoenician inscriptions, as well as articles with intriguing titles such as “Inscribed Arrowheads from the Period of the Judges” and “The Origin and Early Development of the Alphabet.”

Now retired and having lost his wife Betty Anne, he is living in Pittsford, New York, to be near one of his daughters. On July 13, 2011, he turns 90. Happy birthday, Frank.


1. See Lawrence E. Stager, J. David Schloen and Daniel M. Master, eds., Ashkelon 3: The Seventh Century B.C. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011).

2. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2000).

3. In G. Ernest Wright, ed., The Bible and the Ancient Near East—Essays in Honor of William Foxwell Albright (New York: Doubleday, 1961), pp. 133–202.

4. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1973).

5. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1998).

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