On May 31, one of the most important Biblical scholars of our era, Professor Philip R. Davies, died. He studied at the universities of Oxford and St. Andrews, but his name would become synonymous with the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, which he helped develop into the cutting-edge center of Biblical scholarship from the 1970s to the 2000s.
Davies epitomized the changes that took place in the field over the past 40–50 years. A specialist in early Judaism, his early work was focused on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and he was instrumental in ensuring that the application of historical-critical approaches became part of Scrolls scholarship. In the 1990s, he was a leading figure in the so-called minimalist movement, which critiqued assumptions about the Hebrew Bible being a reliable source for Iron Age history and shifted the focus toward ideological and scribal processes involved in the formation of the Biblical texts and the emergence of Judaism. Controversial, polemical, and divisive though these debates often were (and sometimes played out in the pages of BARa), Davies’s emphases have since become part of the mainstream and helped expose the naivety of uncritical contextualization of archaeological finds and Biblical texts.