Monday, June 23, 2008

Brevard Springs Childs (1923–2007)

One year ago today, June 23, 2007, marks the passing of one of the 20th century's most influential Biblical scholars. I can neither lay claim to having met Childs nor brag of having read any of his massive tomes. So far, I only own his commentary on Exodus and I've only read a few pages. However, in my dealings with theological books and through reading other theological works (and blogs) I am becoming more and more aware of the contribution Childs made in his field of expertise. Of course, one of the things I am most interested in is the measure to which a Christian benefits the church and the cause of the Gospel. Some of the articles I have read indicate that Childs was very interested in bridging the gap between academia and ecclesia. Like many modern biblical scholars, he was not an inerrantist. If I correctly understand what I've read, he was opposed to attempts at interpreting the OT by the NT and he argued for a Christological interpretation of both Testaments. Both liberal and conservative camps claim him, which puts him in company with a host of influential theologians throughout Church History. It seems to me that he strove to maintain a theological position somewhere between the 'biblicists' and the 'liberals.' Beyond these few details, I am still reading and learning.

Life -
Brevard Childs was born in South Carolina on September 2, 1923. G. T. Sheppard notes, in the HHMBI, that Childs "grew up in Southern Presbyterian churches," but Daniel Driver, per Christopher Seitz, contends that Childs was "baptized Episcopalian" and worshiped in Presbyterian churches in New York. Whichever it is, being a South Carolina resident for nearly 15 years, I enjoy learning of influential figures in Church History who hale from this state. (I recently listened to a lecture by Seitz in which he mentions having grown up in Charleston. How about that!)

Anyway, Childs grew up in Queens, New York and went on to earn an A.B. and M.A. from the University of Michigan and a B.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He pursued a doctorate at the University of Basel, Switzerland and took advantage of further studies at Heidelberg University.

While in Europe, Childs studied under Walther Eichrodt (noted for his Theology of the Old Testament, 2 vols.) and Walter Baumgartner. At Basel he became immersed in the methods of form criticism while he wrote his thesis. During this time he seems to have been greatly influenced by Karl Barth, who was also one of Childs' professors at Basel.

Works -
Among his major writings are the following:
Biographical Resources -
  • Yale Divinity School's notice of the passing of Brevard Childs (06/25/07).
Current Research
  • Daniel Driver is currently working on a doctoral thesis that deals with the work of B. S. Childs: “Scripture’s Textual Authority”: The Work of Brevard Childs in International Context. You can find his proposal here.
  • Philip Sumpter is working on a thesis on the work of Childs and Seitz and their canonical approach. Read his proposal here.
Miscellanious -
An interview with Brevard Childs conducted by Westminster John Knox Press regarding his canonical studies and his forthcoming commentary on Isaiah has been reproduced here.

Walter Brueggemann's review of Child's Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1993, 745 pp.): Against the Stream: Brevard Childs's Biblical Theology