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Biblical Archaeology Review 2:2, June 1976

A Life of Albright

By Hershel Shanks

Leona Running has written an adoring biography of the dean of Biblical archaeologists, William Foxwell Albright.a Now Professor of Biblical Languages at Andrews University, Dr. Running served as secretary and assistant to the great American archaeologist during the last years of his life. The book, as she says in the preface, is “a labor of love undertaken in grateful homage by a devoted disciple toward a revered teacher—yet at the same time a genuine attempt to present objectively the man as he really was.”

The biography’s major flaw is its failure to place Albright’s scholarly achievement within the context of the intellectual history of his time. Indeed, Dr. Running describes Albright’s scholarly achievement itself only in the most casual way. We are told, almost ad naseum, the title of a paper he delivered here and a lecture there. Each of his almost 30 honorary degrees is mentioned. Innumerable positions in academic societies are catalogued and scholarly honors recounted. But of the content of his intellectual contribution, precious little is said.

The spectacular breadth and encyclopedic scope of Albright’s scholarly concerns are referred to again and again. In an age of specialists, he was truly the last of the great generalists. Frank M. Cross, Jr., described this aspect of his scholarship at a luncheon near the end of Albright’s life:

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