Anson F. Rainey, Israel’s leading historical geographer of the land of the Bible and a master of cuneiform languages such as Akkadian and Ugaritic, as well as ancient Egyptian (hieroglyphic and hieratic), to say nothing of Hebrew and Arabic, succumbed to pancreatic cancer on February 19. He was 81.
Anson also participated in a dozen different archaeological excavations, from volunteer to area supervisor and was often a member of the core staff. One obituary accurately described him as “one of the last of the titans.”
His scholarly output was prodigious. His résumé includes 12 books, 112 scholarly articles, 48 chapters in books and 24 encyclopedia articles.
His last book, The Sacred Bridge (coauthored with Steven Notley who wrote the chapters on the New Testament [Jerusalem: Carta, 2006]), purports to be a Biblical atlas, but it is actually a compendium of scholarship unsurpassed in the genre. It is accurately described on the book’s cover as providing “comprehensive Near Eastern background to Biblical history.” The only defect in the book is that the type is too small. I once complained of this to publisher Emanuel Hausman, who explained that this was the only way he could get it all into 450 oversize pages.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Anson is almost certainly the only graduate of Brown Academy of the Ozarks in Sulfur Springs, Arkansas, to become a full professor at Tel Aviv University. Anson also taught at other institutions of higher learning in Israel and around the world from California to Korea.