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The following is a sampling of theological offerings at University of Edinburgh.

The Study of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh
David Fergusson

Divinity has been a core subject of study in the University of Edinburgh since its foundation in 1583. Although generally regarded as one of the four ancient universities of Scotland, following St Andrews (1411), Glasgow (1451) and Aberdeen (1495), Edinburgh is a post-Reformation institution that was established by the local town council. The Scottish Reformation had taken place in 1560, over twenty years prior to the foundation of a university in the capital city.

The first Principal, Robert Rollock (1555-1599), is generally regarded as the earliest exponent of covenant theology in Reformed Scotland. In his time, the University functioned as a college for the study of Arts and Divinity.[1] With gradual expansion, three chairs were established during the seventeenth century: Divinity (1630), Hebrew and Semitic Languages (1642), and Church History (1694). Throughout this period, the study of Divinity reflected the close relationship of church and society in Protestant Scotland. Divinity professors often held the pulpits of the leading churches in the city. David Dickson, Professor of Divinity from 1650-1662, was embroiled in the civil conflicts of the Covenanting period. William Carstares, minister of the Kirk and advisor to William of Orange, served at Principal of the University from 1708-1715. Many of the leading figures within the Moderate party of the church during the eighteenth century held posts in Edinburgh, most notably the historian William Robertson who served as minister of Greyfriars Kirk and University Principal (1762-1793). Ironically, in the time of the Scottish Enlightenment, the most distinguished intellectual achievements of ministers of the Kirk within Edinburgh University were in fields other than Divinity. Adam Ferguson (1723-1815), for example, emerged as a founding figure in the discipline of sociology.

The fracturing of the national Kirk in 1843 over the issue of patronage brought about the creation of a powerful rival institution in the center of Edinburgh. As the leading educational establishment of the new Free Church, New College, founded in 1846 on the Mound, was led by Thomas Chalmers, who had earlier resigned his post within the University.[2] The college established chairs in several disciplines, with the (unfulfilled) intention of functioning as a broad university rather than a theological seminary only. By 1847, five Divinity professors and three Arts professors had been appointed, and a new curriculum shaped. Student numbers were high, with over four hundred attending classes. One of the most impressive theological libraries in the world began to be assembled. For the most part, Free Church scholars in Edinburgh outshone their university contemporaries during the Victorian period. This was particularly true in the field of biblical studies, as methods of higher criticism were appropriated from the continent, though probably less so in philosophical theology. Leading works of German theology (including those of Schleiermacher, Ritschl, and Herrmann) were translated into English by scholars closely associated with New College. Vital links were forged with the American churches, producing in turn a steady stream of international students that continues to this day.

The Divinity professors of both New College and the University were heavily involved in the process that led to the reunion of the Scottish Presbyterian Churches in 1929. Not surprisingly, this precipitated a merger of the University's Faculty of Divinity with the United Free Church College. Migrating from Old College, the Faculty was housed in the New College buildings from 1934. The holdings of the libraries were united, thus creating the largest single-site theological collection in the United Kingdom. New College assumed hereafter a dual identity. It was part of a large, broad-spectrum University, but it also retained significant aspects of its earlier foundation as a seminary of the church. Not surprisingly, this would become the source of some tension as well as a recognized strength. Throughout the mid-twentieth century, it continued to function as a leading center of theological thought in the English-speaking world. Its scholars included H. R. Mackintosh, John Baillie, William Manson, J. S. Stewart, and T. F. Torrance, all of whom attracted large cohorts of overseas students to courses and degree programs on the Mound.

Since the 1960s, New College has become increasingly ecumenical and diverse in its staff body, student constituencies, and academic curricula, while it has now almost achieved a gender balance. Yet it continues to represent in part those traditions that have characterized the history of Divinity in Edinburgh. This largely successful transition was achieved under the leadership of John McIntyre, who held the Divinity chair from 1956-1986 and was an influential leader within New College. The ownership of the buildings was transferred from the Church to the University in the 1960s, thus securing their maintenance and regular refurbishment. Yet the conditions of the transfer ensured that the Kirk would continue to exercise a central role in the life of the institution. A degree program in religious studies was introduced in the early 1970s. Although this deployed the considerable expertise available in Judaism, Islam, and Indian Religions in the Faculty of Arts, the program was based in the Faculty of Divinity. A significant ecumenical marker was set down in 1979 with the appointment of James Mackey, a Roman Catholic theologian and laicized priest, to the Thomas Chalmers Chair of Systematic Theology. The nomination of Mackey aroused considerable controversy in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the national press. Almost thirty years later, it is hard to appreciate the storm of controversy that was aroused.

By the end of the twentieth century, around two thirds of all undergraduate students (approximately three hundred in total) were registered for the degree in Religious Studies as opposed to the more traditional degrees in Divinity. Fewer than ten percent of the student body now trains for ordination in the national Church of Scotland. The members of academic staff are currently divided into four subject areas (Biblical Studies, Ecclesiastical History, Religious Studies, and Theology and Ethics). Nevertheless, the School of Divinity (the University of Edinburgh abolished faculties and departments in 2003, replacing these with colleges and schools) continues to attract substantial numbers of overseas students, many to the traditional Divinity disciplines. Over one hundred candidates are currently registered for the Ph.D. degree.

An important development in the mid-1980s was the creation of a Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World under the leadership of Andrew Walls. Despite its cumbersome title, the Centre has a keen recognition of the significance of Christian churches in the very different cultural contexts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In turn, this has also facilitated an awareness of the ways in which the study of the Bible, theology, and church history has traditionally reflected a European bias. To this extent, the work of the Centre has had a wider impact upon the School's syllabus. The Centre for Theology and Public Issues was founded in 1984 by Duncan Forrester. Its work has enabled closer contact with other disciplines in the University and Scottish civic life. With emerging interests in global civil society and issues of gender, race, and interfaith relations, the two research centers can anticipate opportunities for closer collaboration in the time ahead.

Located within the College of Humanities and Social Science, the School of Divinity at New College today is amongst twenty one within the University of Edinburgh. With over 450 students and 27 full-time members of academic staff, it is larger than at any stage of its history. Future success will depend upon a capacity to serve increasingly diverse constituencies and to exploit new opportunities, while yet maintaining some traditional strengths.

Overlooking Princes Street, New College is situated in the center of one of the most scenic capi cities of Europe. We welcome the members of the Society of Biblical Literature to their conference this summer. Our hope is that the event will provide an opportunity not only for scholarly exchange but also for enjoying the city and its environs.

David Fergusson, University of Edinburgh

[1] For a recent account of Rollock see A. C. Cheyne, Studies in Scottish Church History (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), 33-39. The early history of the University is recounted by D. B. Horn, A Short History of the University of Edinburgh, 1556-1889 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1967).

[2] For discussion of the founding of New College, see S. J. Brown, "The Disruption and the Dream: The Making of New College 1843-1861," in Disruption to Diversity: Edinburgh Divinity 1846-1996 (eds. David F. Wright and Gary D. Badcock; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 29-50.

Hebrew and Old Testament Studies in the University of Edinburgh
Graeme Auld

Hebrew has been part of the curriculum of the Edinburgh "College" from its beginnings in the 1580s. Then, the studies of each annual cohort of some thirty students were directed by the "regent," who would teach them for the four years till graduation. One of their subjects in third year was Hebrew Grammar but, although it was taught to all third-year students, it did not feature among the smaller range of subjects on which they were examined for graduation: "Hebrew Grammar, Anatomy, Arithmetic, and Geography were regarded as hors d'oeuvres—useful in themselves, but not essential parts of the qualification for a degree in Philosophy."

In the 1620s, the duties of the regents were redefined, and they were assigned individual professorships. A Code of Regulations drawn up in 1628 prescribed five regular duties for the Professor of Divinity, of which the fifth was "To 'read a lesson' to the Divinity Students in the Hebrew Language once a week." Shortly afterwards, in 1642, an additional appointment was made of a "Professor of the Hebrew and Oriental Tongues." The first holder of this chair, Julius Conradus Otto, was recruited from Holland and is variously described as Jewish or as a convert from Judaism. According to the tercentenary history, it was the tenth holder of the chair (1751-1792) who was the first to be really qualified: James Robertson had studied in Leiden with Albert Schultens ("the greatest Oriental scholar in Europe of these days") and had "good qualities and abilities to teach in the Hebrew and Arabic." Robertson also made the first alphabetical catalogue of the books in the College library. When Dr. Samuel Johnson visited Edinburgh in 1773, he is said to have been "much pleased with the University Library, and with the conversation of Dr. James Robertson, Professor of Oriental Languages and Librarian."

The largely self-taught Alexander Murray, while still a country minister in the southwest of Scotland, was reckoned in London to be the only person in the United Kingdom competent to read a diplomatic letter in Ethiopic. He held the chair only briefly (1812-1813) and was said to have been killed by the strain of lecturing. Alexander Brunton, like Roberston before him, was University Librarian as well as Professor of Hebrew (1813-1854). In 1833, the content of his junior class was "the detail of the Hebrew Grammar; and the translation of parts of the Historical Books of the Old Testament, and of a considerable portion of the Psalms. The advanced Class read large portions of the Prophetical Books, and all the Chaldee part of the Old Testament. They acquire also the elements of Syriac and Persian. A few lectures are given on Biblical Criticism, and Jewish Antiquities; and many illustrations of both are mingled with the ordinary business."[1]

In the last century and a half, this Edinburgh tradition has been developed by teachers and researchers such as A. B. Davidson, A. R. S. Kennedy, A. C. Welch, Norman Porteous, Oliver Rankin, David Stalker, James Barr, George Anderson, John Gibson, Ronald Clements, Robert Davidson, Peter Hayman, Graeme Auld, Nicolas Wyatt, Iain Provan, Timothy Lim, David Reimer, and now Hans Barstad. Davidson's works on Hebrew grammar and syntax went through more editions than most books. Kennedy was the second president of the Society for Old Testament Study and, in the same period (1919-1920), prime mover of Edinburgh's new Postgraduate School in Divinity. Welch's studies of Deuteronomy and Chronicles have remained influential. Porteous grappled with Old Testament Theology, Rankin with the Wisdom Literature, and Stalker translated von Rad's Old Testament Theology. Barr's Semantics of Biblical Language was one of the seminal books of the twentieth century. Anderson's Critical Introduction to the Old Testament and his History and Religion of Israel were widely used textbooks, and he supervised a large number of doctoral candidates from many countries. Gibson produced editions of Ugaritic texts, of West Semitic inscriptions, and of Hebrew syntax.

The four colleagues currently in post are Graeme Auld (1972-), Timothy Lim (1994-), David Reimer (1999-), and Hans Barstad (2006-). All continue the Edinburgh tradition of seeing competence in Hebrew (and related Semitic languages) as fundamental to their work; and all are experienced doctoral supervisors. The following sketches can be readily supplemented by a visit to the Divinity pages of the University of Edinburgh website (, where some publications stemming from recent Edinburgh doctoral work within their field are also listed.

Graeme Auld holds a personal chair in Hebrew Bible. His long-standing and principal research interest is in closely related but significantly different texts such as Samuel, Kings and Chronicles; the Greek and Hebrew texts of Joshua, Samuel, Kings, and Jeremiah; and similar portions of Joshua and Judges, or of Joshua and 1 Chronicles. The recurrent sub-theme through many of these is the phenomenon (or genre?) of biblical prophecy. President of the Society for Old Testament Study (2005), he is currently at work on a commentary on the books of Samuel (Old Testament Library). The next major project is a commentary on Joshua for the International Critical Commentary.

Hans Barstad has recently taken up the established chair of Hebrew and Old Testament Studies. He held the chair of Old Testament Studies in the University of Oslo from 1986 to 2005 and is a former secretary of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Throughout his career, he has been interested in the impact that changes in the intellectual climate have had on the academic study of the Bible and also in multidisciplinary approaches to the text. He holds that important challenges follow from what is referred to as the shift from historicism to textuality. What does it imply when we say that we read texts from the past? What kinds of historical reality do the texts reflect?

Timothy Lim holds a personal chair in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, and he researches and publishes on late Hebrew Bible books, Second Temple Judaism, and the Qumran scrolls. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Biblical Literature. (His academic contribution is more fully detailed within the essay on Jewish Studies in the University of Edinburgh.)

David Reimer is Senior Lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament Studies and describes his niche as located historically in the exilic period, in literary terms in the prophetic and poetic writings, and thematically in the broad area of biblical theology and ethics. He is also involved with the Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database project. His recent published work includes articles on the historical aspects of the book of Jeremiah, Old Testament resources for thinking about Open Theism, and the relationship of psychology and theology in the small book of Lamentations.

Graeme Auld, University of Edinburgh

[1] Sir A. Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh, Vol. I (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1884), 153-54.

Jewish Studies at the University of Edinburgh
Timothy H. Lim

Although the Hebrew and Aramaic languages have been taught in Edinburgh for hundreds of years, research into Jewish topics and the teaching of Judaism began only in 1969 with Bernard Jackson,[1] a former lecturer of Edinburgh's Faculty of Law and now Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at Manchester. Jackson, an expert on Jewish and ancient Near Eastern law, taught Judaism within the undergraduate Religious Studies degree of the Faculty of Divinity. When he left the University in 1976, responsibility for teaching Judaism fell on the shoulders of Peter Hayman, a scholar who had worked on Sergius the Stylite (1973), a Syriac edition of a disputation between a Christian and a Jew.

From 1968, the year of his appointment, until his early retirement in 2005, Hayman was instrumental in teaching the Hebrew language, Feminist Hermeneutics, Second Temple Judaism, Aramaic, Syriac, Modern Hebrew, and, in recent years, Anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and Zionism. He published the Peshitta edition of Numbers in 1991 and in 2004 Sefer Yesira ("the book of Creation"), an important Jewish mystical text. A former president of the British Association for Jewish Studies, Hayman's interests centered on the reading and editing of ancient and medieval texts, although he also conducted research on a wide range of mythological, theological, political, and cultural topics.

In 1994, Timothy Lim joined the then Faculty (now School) of Divinity from the Oriental Institute in Oxford. A recognized expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lim has devoted much of his publication efforts to the study of the important manuscripts from the Judean Desert. He edited the first volume of the Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Reference Library (1997), produced the editio princeps of several Qumran fragments, and organized and published the proceedings of two Qumran conferences (2000 and 2001). He has also written three books: Holy Scripture in the Qumran Commentaries and Pauline Letters (1997), the Pesharim (2002), and A Very Short Introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls (2005). Lim's interests are not confined to the Dead Sea Scrolls. He has published on a wide range of subjects, from Ben Sira and Midrash to PYadin and intellectual property. Appointed to a personal chair in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism in 2005, he is presently editing (with Robert Rezetko and Brian Aucker) Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography in Honour of A. Graeme Auld (Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, forthcoming November 2006) and (with John J. Collins) the Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Oxford University Press). He is also writing a book on the nature of the book of Ruth. He holds the first chair in Jewish Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

In 2005, the School of Divinity appointed a lecturer in Modern Jewish Studies, Hannah Holtschneider. She is a specialist in Jewish-Christian relations and the Holocaust. Although her research area on the Christian and Jewish responses to the Holocaust puts her more naturally in the AAR, she also teaches ancient Judaism as part of the first year course, Religion 1.

Aspects of Second Temple Judaism are also taught by colleagues in the New Testament. Larry Hurtado, Professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology, is particularly interested in Jewish apocalypticism, messianism, and divine figures. Helen Bond, senior lecturer in New Testament, is an expert on Josephus and has published two ancient biographies on Pontius Pilate and the High Priest Caiaphas. And Paul Foster, a New Testament lecturer, has researched the Jewish background of the Matthean community.

Compared to the study of the Old and New Testament, research and teaching in Jewish Studies at the University of Edinburgh are relatively young. In the past, Jewish topics were treated as ancillary to the main occupation of elucidating the Christian Bible. Yet, in the past generation, much has changed. The School of Divinity, while justly proud of its reformed tradition, has fostered the teaching of other religions for their own sake, not least in the study of Judaism.

Timothy H. Lim, University of Edinburgh

Endnote [1] See A. Graeme Auld, "Hebrew and Old Testament," Disruption to Diversity: Edinburgh Divinity 1846-1996 (eds. David F. Wright and Gary D. Badcock, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996) 68-69.

New Testament and Christian Origins in Edinburgh
Larry W. Hurtado

The names of New Testament scholars who have graced the halls of New College (the School of Divinity) include some very well-known contributors to the field. Important twentieth-century figures include H. A. A. Kennedy, William Manson, Matthew Black, Hugh Anderson, and John O'Neill. Today, New Testament studies continues to have an important place in the School of Divinity, and we aim to remain one of the major UK research centers in the subject.

The present core academic staff in the subject represent a complementary variety of interests. Dr. Helen Bond's book, Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation (Cambridge, 1998), is probably now the standard treatment in English, and her recent book on Caiaphas the high priest (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004) further illustrates her strong research focus in the historical context of the New Testament. Dr. Paul Foster, who joined us in 2003 shortly after finishing his DPhil, already has a growing list of publications, including his monograph, Community, Law and Mission in Matthew's Gospel (Mohr Siebeck, 2004). He is currently writing a monograph on the Gospel of Peter. Professor Larry Hurtado's publications include his large volume, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Eerdmans, 2003), and studies on a variety of other matters, including New Testament textual criticism, Paul, and the Gospel of Mark. His recently completed book, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (Eerdmans, forthcoming 2006), reflects his interest in the wider historical significance of early Christian manuscripts.

The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins (CSCO) was established in 1997 to promote a wide range of research and to link scholars in various subject areas with interests in Christianity of the first two centuries. In addition to the New Testament staff members, CSCO benefits from the participation of Prof. Timothy Lim (noted especially for his Qumran expertise) and Dr. Sara Parvis and Dr. Paul Parvis (both patristics scholars). As its next project, CSCO will host an international conference on Justin Martyr, 20-22 July, featuring a small galaxy of respected scholars who will address various aspects of Justin's importance for the study of early Christianity.

Over the last ten years especially, there has been a steady growth in the number of Ph.D. students in New Testament/Christian Origins from various countries, a goodly number of whom have won scholarships. The supervision and mentoring of these future scholars is a major part of our mission. Along with the New College Library, Ph.D. students and staff have ready to hand the main University Library and the National Library of Scotland. These collectively comprise well over five million volumes.

Our undergraduate teaching ranges from introductory through a number of honors courses. The teaching of Greek continues to be a strong part of our commitment, with course offerings from elementary through advanced levels. Together with colleagues in Hebrew and Old Testament Studies, we have recently launched a masters degree in Biblical Studies.
We welcome the International SBL Meeting this year, and we hope to see many friends and make new ones!

Larry W. Hurtado, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

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Citation: David Fergusson, " The Study of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited March 2006]. Online:


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