Role Biblical Scholar
Name Brevard Childs
|Children Kathy, John|
Spouse(s) Ann Childs
|Born 2 September 1923Columbia, South Carolina|
Occupation Erstwhile Professor of Old Testament at Yale University
Notable work Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible (1992)
Era Late 20th and Early 21st Century
Died June 23, 2007, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Education University of Basel (1955)
Awards Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities, US & Canada
Nominations National Book Award for Religion/Inspiration (Hardcover)
Books Introduction to the Old Testamen, Biblical theology of the Old a, Old Testament theology i, Biblical Theology in Crisis, The book of Exodus
Brevard Childs Old Testament Theologian
Brevard Springs Childs (September 2, 1923 – June 23, 2007) was an American Old Testament scholar and Professor of Old Testament at Yale University from 1958 until 1999 (and Sterling Professor after 1992), who is considered one of the most influential biblical scholars of the 20th century.
Childs is particularly noted for pioneering canonical criticism, a way of interpreting the Bible that focuses on the text of the biblical canon itself as a finished product. In fact, Childs disliked the term, believing his work to represent an entirely new departure, replacing the entire historical-critical method. Childs set out his canonical approach in his Biblical Theology in Crisis (1970) and applied it in Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (1979). This latter book has been described as "one of the most discussed books of the 1980s".
Childs' influences included Karl Barth and Hermann Gunkel.
Christopher Seitz argues that
Professor Childs single-handedly effected major and sustained changes in the conceptual framework of modern biblical studies through appeal to the canonical presentation of biblical books and the theological implications of attending to their final form.
Seitz has also noted that "there is a small cottage industry in evaluating the contribution of Brevard Childs." For example, John Barton writes about Child’s response to those who claimed that historical criticism “deliberately took away the Bible’s religious claims in order to subject it to analysis”. In Child’s canonical approach, writes Barton, “the interpreter of the Bible should not confront the biblical text as if it were a newly discovered documment.” To the contrary, as Barton reads Childs, “a properly theological reading of the Bible, by contrast, would treat it just as it stands as a vehicle of a living faith.”
Childs’s formal education was interrupted during 1943-45 while he was serving in the United States Army during World War II. After being discharged, he continued his academic work at the University of Michigan.
In addition to his earned degrees, Childs was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Theology by the University of Aberdeen in 1981 and by the University of Glasgow in 1992.
Most of Childs’ professional life was spent in the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. From 1958-1999, he was Professor of Old Testament at Yale University. In 2007, shortly after returning from his spring residence in the United Kingdom, Childs suffered a severe fall at his home in Connecticut from which he did not recover. He had continued writing and publishing until the end.
Childs was survived by his wife, Ann, and their children, Kathy and John.
Ellen Davis of Duke Divinity School studied under Childs and notes:
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.
In 1990, a Festschrift was published in his honor. Canon, Theology, and Old Testament Interpretation: Essays in Honor of Brevard S. Childs included contributions from James Barr, John Van Seters, Ronald E. Clements, and James Luther Mays.
In addition to the following books, during the 1955-2006 period, Childs wrote some eighty articles and reviews.