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Albright, William Foxwell (1891-1971) | Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Archives

Name: Albright, William Foxwell (1891-1971)
Variant Name:

Albright, W. F.

Awlbright, Wilyam F.

Historical Note:

William Foxwell Albright (1891-1971) was born to American parents who served as missionaries in Chile.  He was an Orientalist, who left his mark in various fields of research including philology, ancient history, epigraphy, paleography, and archeology.  His background in linguistics and language learning began while in Chile.  From his birth, Albright was bilingual, fluent in English and Spanish.  He continued learning languages in his classical studies of Greek and Latin in college, and he also studied German and French.  Along the way, he taught himself Hebrew and Assyrian, and published articles in these fields.  These articles would later catch the notice of another famous Assyriologist, Paul Haupt of Johns Hopkins University.  Because of these articles Haupt admitted Albright into the school with a $500 scholarship.


At Johns Hopkins University, Albright studied Assyriology under Paul Haupt.  Here he took classes in Hebrew, Assyrian, Arabic, Syriac, and Indo-European Philology. Aside from his language studies, he studied Old Testament Literature and Criticism, Geography, Archaeology, History and Epigraphy, in order to earn his doctorate degree.  He earned a Rayner Fellowship during his time at John Hopkins. Upon receiving the PhD degree, he earned the Thayer Fellowship of the American Schools of Oriental Research, which included a one-year stint in Jerusalem for the study of archeology.  This trip began Albright's career in archeology.


After Albright received his Ph.D. in 1917, his career was divided between teaching in the classroom and fieldwork.  In 1920, Albright took his first trip to Palestine in order to fulfill the Thayer fellowship.  The trip was supposed to be one year and turned into ten years.  In 1921, Albright became the acting director of ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research), and soon after he became the director of the same institute.  After this concentrated ten years from 1919-1929 in Jerusalem doing archeology, Albright spent the next seven years commuting between Baltimore and Jerusalem, and in 1936, due to the Arab rebellions and the Second World War, it was impossible for him to resume excavations in Palestine.


n 1936, Albright moved from Jerusalem back to Baltimore to become professor at Johns Hopkins University.  He remained here for the rest of his career as a scholar, but took occasional trips to the Holy Land to perform more excavations. W. F. Albright's accomplishments as a scholar are numerous.  Rightly, he has become known as the last of the "universals," those men who were very competent across a wide range of fields.  Albright was an expert in many fields including, Semitic epigraphy and paleography, history, philology, and archaeology.


In the first category, Albright made many contributions.  In 1937, He published a paper dating the Nash Papyrus, which contains the Decalogue and Shema, to the middle of second century BC. At the time it was uncommon for scholars to date the papyrus in the early centuries of the Christian era.  Another achievement that had great effects for biblical studies was Albright's dating of what are now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which Albright dated between the second century BC and before 70 AD.  Albright dated the Great Isaiah Scroll to the second century BC, which most contemporary scholars now affirm.


Albright never claimed to be an historian, but he published widely in the area of history.  His works include The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, From the Stone Age to Christianity, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, and Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan.  These books synthesized his various disciplines.

Sources: Running, Leona Glidden and David Noel Freedman, <em>William Foxwell Albright</em>. New York, Morgan Press, 1975.
Note Author: John Meade

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