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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive Hugh Winder Nibley (1910-2005)

Born 27 March 1910, Nibley was educated at UCLA (A. B. summa cum laude) and Berkeley (Ph.D. in history). He wrote his dissertation in three weeks. He taught at Claremont Colleges before World War II. During the war he enlisted in the army and served in military intelligence, seeing combat in D-day, and Operation Market-Garden, and being on the scene at Dachau. He correctly predicted the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he was employed at Brigham Young University. For well over a half a century, until his doctor ordered him to stop researching in 2002, he was a permanent fixture in the BYU library, whose Ancient Studies library is now named after him.

A wide variety of fields interested Nibley, and he was at home in ancient history, apocryphal literature, biblical studies, Book of Mormon studies, classics, Dead Sea Scrolls, Mormon studies, patristics, and Egyptology. He made important contributions in all these fields. Nibley was willing to take unpopular and controversial stands, like publishing against loyalty oaths during the McCarthy senate hearings, and speaking out against materialism and the destruction of the environment.

Nibley's most noted publications in the field of biblical studies were: "Christian Envy of the Temple." Jewish Quarterly Review 50/2 (October 1959): 97-123; 50/3 (January 1960): 229-40."The Passing of the Church: Forty Variations on an Unpopular Theme." Church History 30/2 (June 1961): 131-54."Qumran and the Companions of the Cave." Revue de Qumran 5/2 (1965): 177-98."Evangelium Quadraginta Dierum." Vigiliae christianae 20/1 (1966): 1-24.The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1985-present) just published its fifteenth volume with more still in the editing stage.

Nibley's most important contributions have been in the field of Mormon studies, where his work has been pioneering, perceptive and prolific. He was one of the first academics to take the Book of Mormon seriously. His way of looking at the Book of Mormon and other scriptural texts has been extremely influential among Latter-day Saints.

He is survived by his wife and eight children.

More information is available in his biography: Boyd J. Petersen, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2002).

Citation: John Gee, " Hugh Winder Nibley (1910-2005)," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited March 2005]. Online:


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