BR 8:04, Aug 1992
A boat against the current. F. Scott Fitzgeralds phrase aptly applies to Frank Moore Cross, the recently retired Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University. In an age of ever increasing academic specialization, Cross remains a resolute generalist. Many a scholar would be content to master just one of Crosss numerous fields of expertise: biblical history, the decipherment and dating of ancient texts, history of religion, the development of the biblical canon, ancient languages and cultures, the development of the alphabet, the Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology on both land and sea, historical geographythe list could go on. Shortly before his retirement, Cross met with BR editor Hershel Shanks for a wide-ranging interview. The result was so rich that it will constitute three articles. In the first installment of Frank Moore CrossAn Interview, the focus of the conversation is Israelite origins, especially Crosss contention that the earliest members of what was later to become Israel lived in the the land of Midian after having fled Egyptnot in the Sinai peninsula as is popularly supposed. Cross describes how this ancient memory of Midianite roots embedded itself into two of the strands that make up the Pentateuchpreserved in a positive light in one strand and in a negative one in the other. Cross also explains how contradictory viewpoints can be incorporated within the biblical tradition. Parts Two and Three of the interviewto appear in our October and December issueswill focus on Israelite religion and on the development of the alphabet.