Monday, August 18, 2008

Peter C. Craigie - A Cautious Conservative Biblical Scholar

I was first introduced to Peter C. Craigie via his commentary on Psalms 1-50 in the Word Biblical Commentary series. I found a tremendous amount of help in this well-packed volume, and I recommend it to you. As I read through portions of this commentary it became obvious to me that Craigie was seeking to maintain a difficult position in the midst of mainstream, Biblical schoraship. While it was abundantly evident that Craigie was aware of text-critical methods of OT scholarship, it was equally evident that he didn't bow to them.

I recently purchased a used copy of Craigie's The Old Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content and have found a similar posture. Although he felt that it was not within the scope of this particular book to discuss the doctrine of inspiration, nevertheless he insisted on acknowledging the unique nature of the Biblical text. He concludes his comments on the survival of the Old Testament by stating the following:
It is the conviction of both the Jewish and the Christian faiths (though exrpessed in different ways), that the Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, is more than just an ancient book. It is the Word of God, the divine revelation, a sacred text. In this sense, the Old Testament books differ fundamentally from works such as those of the Jewish historian Josephus, or the Christian theologian Augustine. Thus from the perspective of Christian or Jewish faith there is an aspect of the authenticity and preservation of the ancient manuscripts that cannot be easily submitted to the historian's investigation or the scientist's microscope. The faith that believes this ancient Scripture to be the Word of God may also exercise faith that in some mysterious fashion God has preserved the integrity of that word in its transmission. This approach is one of faith, consistent with the larger religious belief to which it belongs; it may be informed by a knowledge of the history of the transmission of the Hebrew texts, and indeed should be so informed, but it is not a natural consequence of that study. (p. 37)
As his biographer, Lyle Eslinger, repeated emphasizes, Craigie was had resolved "to tackle the job of mediating biblical scholarship to a conservative popular audience" ("Peter C. Craigie" in BI20C, p. 416). In a certain sense Craigie appears to OT scholarship what George Ladd was to NT scholarship. That said, both Craigie and Ladd came from fairly different backgrounds and served in very different academic circles.

Eslinger also notes that "Craigie's characteristic caution set him as much against that brand of fideistic bibliolatry as it did against the speculations of historical criticism" (BI20C, p. 421).

Peter Campbell Craigie was born on August 18, 1938, in Lancaster, England. Religiously, he was reared in the Anglican tradition. However, he did his share of exploring as he matured; becoming involved with Baptist and Evangelical Free churches. Although he gravitated back to the Anglican tradition, Eslinger notes that Craigie avoided working in a confessional environment.

Having lost his opportunity of being a pilot in the Royal Air Force, Craigie went to Canada to study at Prarie Bible Institute (PBI). At that time, L. E. Maxwell (author of Born Crucified & Crowded to Christ) was the principal of this school. Although he only remained for two years, his biographer notes that the influence of this school remained with Craigie throughout his life. After PBI, Craigie enrolled at the University of Edinburgh. In 1965, he completed an M.A in Semitic languages. While working on this degree, Craigie spent a summer in Lebanon studying Arabic at the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies. Craigie continued his studies by pursuing and completing the requirements for a diploma in theology at St. John's College, University of Durham. Craigie moved on to the University of Aberdeen for post-graduate work where he earned a Masters in Theology. Finally, Craigie returned to Canada where he completed the requirements for a Ph.D. at McMaster University.

Upon the completion of his studies (1970), Craigie was offered a teaching post at Carleton University. One year later (1971), Craigie returned to McMaster to fill a similar position. In 1974, Craigie moved to Alberta where he took up a lectureship at the University of Calgary. At the University of Calgary, Craigie was well received and quickly elevated to higher levels of leadership.
  • 1977 - head of the religious studies department
  • 1979 - dean of the faculty of humanities
  • 1984 - associate vice-president (academic)
  • 1985 - vice-president (academic)
However, the providence of God intervened taking Peter Craigie home after he sustained severe injuries in an automobile collision. He died on September 26, 1985.

Note (from the CSBS website):
The Craigie Lecture is held bi-annually during the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, in late May or early June. It is named after Dr. Peter Craigie, who died tragically in a car accident in 1985 at the age of 47. He was much beloved by his colleagues at the University of Calgary, and in the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, and died while Vice-President Academic of the University of Calgary and President of the CSBS. During his abbreviated academic career, Craigie authored seven books and over forty articles. Following his death, funds were raised by the CSBS, with the support of his family, in order to sponsor public lectures by scholars of international stature.

Biographical Sketches & Bibliographies -
  • Stephen G. Wilson, “Peter Campbell Craigie, 1938-1985: In Memoriam,” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 14 (1985) 233.
  • H.G. Coward, "Academic Biography of Peter C. Craigie," Ascribe to the Lord: Biblical & Other Essays in Memory of Peter C. Craigie (vol. 67; eds. L. Eslinger and J. G. Taylor; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1988), 593-97.
  • Rebecca G. S. Idestrom and J. Glen Taylor, “Addendum to the Bibliography of Peter C. Craigie,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 51 (1991) 115-17.
  • Lyle Eslinger, "Peter C. Craigie," Bible Interpreters of the 20th Century: A Selection of Evangelical Voices. (eds. W. A. Elwell and J. D. Weaver; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999) 411-22. [This resource is available for the Libronix Digital Library System from Logos: here.]

Bibliography of Works -
  • Craigie, Peter C. The Book of Deuteronomy. The New international Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976. [WTS | Amazon | CBD]
  • _____. Ugaritic Studies, 1972-1976: Reprint of the "Newsletter for Ugaritic Studies," No. 1/1972 -No. 10/1976. Calgary, Alta.: Dept. of Religious Studies, University of Calgary, 1976.
  • _____. The Problem of War in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978. [Amazon]
  • _____. Ezekiel. Daily Study Bible. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983. [Amazon | CBD]
  • _____. Psalms 1-50. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Dallas: Word, 1983; 2nd ed., updated by Marvin Tate, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005. [WTS | Amazon | CBD]
  • _____. Ugarit and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983. [Amazon]
  • _____. Twelve Prophets. Daily Study Bible. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984-85. [Amazon | CBD & CBD]
  • _____. The Old Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986. [Amazon]
  • _____. Jeremiah 1-25. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 26. Dallas: Word, 1991. [WTS | Amazon | CBD]