Tribute to William H. Brownlee

Professor William H. Brownlee died unexpectedly on July 16 [1983] of complications following surgery. His death only a year after his retirement as Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate School came as a shock to the academic community. He will be greatly missed at the Institute, where he has been active over the years as the Director of the Institute’s Dead Sea Scrolls Project.


Brownlee was a junior Fellow at the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem at the time the Dead Sea Scrolls surfaced. The scrolls were brought to the school when its Director was away on a field trip. So it fell to Brownlee and John Trever, the other Fellow in residence that year, to make the first assessment of the scrolls. Their conclusions as to the age, authenticity and importance of the scrolls could have been passed off as youthful exuberance, if it were not that their report, sent to the dean of Old Testament scholars William F. Albright, received his stamp of approval.


Brownlee published the first study of the Habakkuk commentary in 1948. It was followed, in 1959, by a study of The Text of Habakkuk in the Ancient Commentary from Qumran, and in 1964 by a more general volume entitled The Meaning of the Qumran Scrolls for the Bible. His project at the Institute in more recent years produced the first commentary on the ancient Habakkuk commentary: The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk, published in 1979.


Memorial services were held in Claremont on July 19, at Claremont Presbyterian Church. The interment was at the family home in Kansas. Contributions may be made to the memorial fund of the Claremont Presbyterian Church or to that of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity.

--IAC Bulletin vol. 10, no. 3 (September 1983): 6.

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