Monday, June 25, 2007

More Details on Childs's Passing


Several web-sites and blogs are beginning to post tributes, memoirs, and overviews of Bard's exemplary contributions and character. For a good place to start with these, click here and here and here. These Web-pages are by Daniel Driver, PhD Candidate in Old Testament at St Mary's College, University of St Andrews, who is finishing a doctoral dissertation on Childs.

I received a summary account of the sad course of events from Robert Wilson at Yale Religious Studies today:

We received word yesterday that Brevard Childs died peacefully at Yale-New Haven Hospital at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 23, 2007. A couple of weeks ago he had been diagnosed with some sort of blood condition, and he was being treated with drugs. This treatment may have caused a fall that he suffered a little over a week ago. He suffered some internal bleeding from the fall, and surgery was planned... The doctors discovered that he also had pneumonia. They were treating the pneumonia as of last week but were not successful. Funeral arrangements have not been announced. There will be a memorial service at Yale in the fall.

Cards and letters may be sent to his wife Ann. Please email me (SLC) for her address.
Update: Yale Divinity School has posted the following announcement today:
Brevard S. Childs, one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the 20 th century, died Saturday afternoon in New Haven at the age of 83 from complications from injuries sustained in a fall in his home.
"I can think of no person who made a greater contribution to the work of unifying the Bible, theology and church life together in a very serious way, not in a flimsy or a pious way," said Christopher Seitz, a Biblical scholar at the University of Toronto who was Childs' student, colleague and friend. "I think of him as a sort of Isaiah figure who was given a very hard job to preach and teach but never complained. He just went about his business in a hopeful way."

As Sterling Professor of Divinity at Yale Divinity School from 1958 to 1999, Childs shaped several generations of students and helped define new approaches to post-war biblical scholarship. With at least eight of his books in print in three languages and a manuscript for a new book completed shortly before his death, Childs was a prolific author who did not shrink from fully engaging the academic debates of his day.
"His major contribution to the field was his insistence on the importance of the canonical shape and location of all the biblical books," said Yale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge. "Taking this perspective enabled him to recover the ways in which scripture has been read as a larger whole, with an integral witness to the God of Israel and of Jesus Christ."

Childs began teaching at Yale Divinity School in 1958 after completing a B.A. and an M.A. at the University of Michigan, along with a Th.D. from the University of Basel. There, in Basel, Childs had met his wife, Ann, while in a seminar conducted by Swiss theologian Karl Barth. Throughout his career, Barth remained one of Childs' defining influences and one of his few equals.

As Walter Brueggemann, a retired Old Testament professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, noted in a 1993 review of Childs' work, "With almost no conversation partners in the twentieth century whom he regards as consistently reliable or worthy of consideration (with the decisive exception of Barth), Childs has staked out a position and vocation for biblical theology that is sure to reshape our common work and that will require intense engagement by any who dare take up the task."

Childs' abilities as a teacher and sheer longevity at YDS – 41 years – helped his ideas and approaches resonate deeply through the guild of Biblical scholars and gain a faithful audience outside the English-speaking world, particularly Germany. One measure of his talents in the classroom was Yale's decision in 1992 to name him a Sterling professor, the highest academic honor given by the University to its professors. Another measure is the high praise of his former students, who twice – in 1988 and 1998 - took part in festschrifts for Childs.

Ellen Davis, now a professor of Bible and practical theology at Duke Divinity School, recalled Childs' generosity and flexibility as she worked on a Ph.D. on Ezekiel at Yale from 1983 to 1987. I said to him, 'I'm not really interested in comparative semitics. I don't really know that I need to spend two or three years on Akkadian.' And he said, 'That makes sense to me.'" she said. His scholarship was very fully integrated into his character, it would be very difficult to separate those two. He was a Christian. His work was a form of discipleship."
Davis continued, "Bard was the kind of teacher and colleague he was because he was a person of genuine humililty - not a common thing in the academic life altogether. I remember Bard saying that in order to teach OT, "you just need to get out of the way," because the text itself is so compelling and interesting. Many academics don't know how to get out of the way - of the text, of their own students - and let something interesting happen around them. Bard did. That is what made him so approachable, and so enjoyable to think with."

One result of this humility is that the Internet is largely silent on Childs. Daniel Driver, a Ph.D. student in divinity at Scotland's University of St. Andrew's who maintains the most extensive repository of Childs-related information, said, " Childs had never been an online person. He never sent e-mail. No one ever put up a web page."

Driver's blog may be found [here]
, where, according to Driver, he has witnessed hundreds of additional hits daily since Childs' Saturday death.

Childs retired in 1999 but continued publishing, most recently in 2004 with The Struggle To Understand Isaiah As Christian Scripture. Shortly before his death, Childs completed a manuscript analyzing Paul's letters, according to Seitz, who said the book is set for publication before year's end. Childs' other noted works include Myth and Reality, Memory and Tradition, Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis, Biblical Theology in Crisis, Old Testament Theology in Canonical Context, and Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments.

A longtime resident of Bethany, Childs is survived by his wife, Ann, and their children, Kathy and John.

"As a colleague dedicated to the highest ideals of rigorous scholarship and engaged theological reflection on Scripture, he will be long remembered and revered at Yale Divinity School," noted Attridge.

2 Comments:

Blogger spankey said...

Dr. Cook;

Thank you for keeping us up-to-date on the death of a man I know was so influential in your development. I consider Dr. Childs to be one of my go-to resources when it comes to biblical study. His Intro book sits prominently on my shelf in my new office. It is a reminder to me of how special a ministry teaching is. As Dr. Childs helped to form you into the scholar you are, so too you have formed so many of us into scholars, pastors, preachers, and teachers. Blessings to you in this time of grief.

your friend in Christ,
Steve Pankey

Mon Jun 25, 05:32:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger John said...

I have fine memories of Brevard Childs. The impact he made on evangelicals right away was remarkable.

I remember, after hearing Childs lecture in Toronto in the late 1970's, hearing Bruce Waltke lecture not long thereafter. Every other sentence had Childs and canon in it. While editor of a newsletter for TSF in that same time frame, I had to chop a review of a volume of his submitted to the newsletter by more than half. The reviewer was none too happy. A Childs mania existed for a time in some circles.

Still, I think his best pieces are not the ones often cited: his OTL Exodus commentary; his intro to the New Testament; and an essay on the sensus literalis of the Reformers in (one of!) the Rendtorff Festschriften.

John Hobbins
www.ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com

Sat Jul 07, 10:26:00 AM GMT-5  

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