Friday, September 15, 2006

The Hebrew Bible at VTS (6)

Well, it is past time for a new post in my occasional series on the teaching of the Hebrew Bible at Virginia Theological Seminary. Installment 5 was on 8/19/06, installment 4 on 8/9/06, installment 3 on 7/23/06, and installments 1 & 2 on 7/19-20/06. This post brings us up to 1940 and the board's appointment of Robert O. Kevin as professor of Old Testament language and literature.

Dr. Kevin came to VTS in 1940, having done his Ph.D. training at Johns Hopkins University, a premier center for scientific OT studies. His approach emphasized archaeology and philology, in keeping with the emphases of the Hopkins program. Apparently, you had to pay close attention to his lectures to extract much in the way of OT theology. At the same time, he was profoundly dedicated evangelical.

From his portrait, which hangs in our refectory, I always had the impression that Dr. Kevin was a towering figure, but recently some of our alumni have told me that that was not at all the case. He was of average height, and much less foreboding than he looks in his painting.

By the late 1940s, several VTS faculty were making positive moves in the direction of including African American students on seminary hill. I do not know the full details, but Dr. Kevin apparently convinced the board of trustees to allow a student from Howard University in D.C. to attend his O.T. lectures, which was a small but significant start in changing the seminary for the better.


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