We knew it would happen, but it’s still a shock. Frank Cross is dead.
I will leave it to scholars to write of his scholarly accomplishments. I will write only of what I know: He stood at the very pinnacle of the profession, universally respected and admired. When he spoke, others stood in awe. The Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University, the third oldest endowed academic chair in the United States, Cross was a specialist in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in obscure ancient languages, in the science of dating ancient inscriptions based on shape of the letters, in the Biblical text and in archaeology, to name but a few.
I’ve been at this desk almost 40 years and by now I can comfortably engage with senior colleagues. In the early years, however, I was a newcomer. I was a lawyer who had never had a course in archaeology or even in the Bible. In those days, I divided scholars into two categories—those who welcomed novices like me and the other kind, who looked at me from their empyrean heights. Frank was clearly in the former group, and I valued his friendship more than I can say.
Whenever I was up Boston way, I would visit Frank, often in his lovely colonial home in Lexington—“that neck of the wood / where once the embattled farmers stood”—where Frank lived with his wife, Betty Anne; by that time, their daughters were out of the house and on their own. Frank raised orchids, which seemed just right for him.