I recently learned that Frank Moore Cross has passed on. Cross was a renowned scholar in the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern languages. I blogged through one of his books, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic. To read my posts on that, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.
There were two things that Cross said that stood out to me.
The first thing is not clearly in my mind, but he was addressing in an interview the issue of biblical maximalism when it comes to the Exodus. He said that there is a tendency among biblical maximalists to rob Peter to pay Paul. What he probably meant is that many biblical maximalists try to defend the faith by arguing that events in the Bible actually happened (on some level), and yet their arguments tend to undercut the faith. I forget the exact example that he used, but one that comes to my mind is how some maximalists contend that we can say that the Sea of Reeds parted for the reason that seas have parted at other times throughout history. On the one hand, this argument supports the historicity of the Sea of Reeds parting. On the other hand, it treats the parting as a natural event that has occurred at other times in history, which arguably takes supernatural intervention out of the picture. I was one time giving a presentation on the historicity of the Exodus for a class, and my professor chuckled when I quoted Cross’ remarks about the tendency within maximalism to rob Peter to pay Paul.
The second thing that stood out to me was something that I read on James Tabor’s blog. See here. Cross was talking about his own religious background as a Calvinist, a tradition that valued the Old as well as the New Testament. But Cross said that he preferred the world of the Old Testament because it’s more austere, whereas the New Testament has a lot of demons and spirits. I could identify with Cross’ comments on a couple of levels. I myself grew up in a religious tradition, Armstrongism, that put a lot of emphasis on the Old Testament, albeit not in the exact same way that Calvinists do. And, for some reason, like Cross, I myself prefer to study the Old Testament more than the New. My reason for this is not entirely the same as Cross’, for I don’t have a great problem with supernaturalism. Perhaps my reason is that the Old Testament is more of a mystery to me that I enjoy trying to unravel—-with its enigmatic laws and prophecies. And there could be other reasons that I have yet to identify!
R.I.P., Frank Moore Cross.