Family members said the cause of death was complications of pneumonia. He was the Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages Emeritus at Harvard University, where he taught for thirty-five years before retiring in 1992. The influential scholar specialized in the texts, cultures, and languages of the ancient Near East and how those elements shape and inform interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. He was also a leading expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr. Cross’ most influential work was Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic.
Dr. Cross was born on July 13, 1921 in Ross, California. He was the son of Rev. Frank Moore Cross, pastor of Ensley Highlands Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama where he grew up. Dr. Cross received his Bachelor of Divinity from McCormick, where he was awarded the Nettie F. McCormick Fellowship in Old Testament Studies, in 1946. He moved on to John Hopkins University to begin work on his doctorate, which he received in 1950, and became one of the most prominent students of William F. Albright, whose work is part of the foundation of biblical archaeological studies.
Leaving Hopkins, where he had been a junior instructor and, Dr. Cross went to teach at Wellesley College as an instructor of Biblical History. From 1951-1953 he taught at McCormick Theological Seminary as an Instructor in Old Testament and as an Associate Professor from 1954-1957.
He also received a Master’s Degree at Harvard in 1958 and was awarded a Doctorate in Philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1984 and a Doctorate in Science from the University of Lethbridge in 1990.
Cross was appointed Associate Professor in Old Testament at Harvard Divinity School in 1957. The following year he was appointed Harvard University’s Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages, the third oldest university chair in America. He held the position from 1958-1992.
During his tenure at Harvard, Cross supervised more than a hundred dissertations, with the result that many of today’s senior scholars in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern studies are his former students. Of special note to the McCormick community, Dr. Cross served as the dissertation adviser to Ted and Paula Hiebert. President Yamada added, “Dr. Cross was the most influential scholar of many of my OT professors at Princeton Seminary.
Dr. Cross is survived by his daughters, Susan Summer, Ellen Gindele and Rachel Cross, and six grandchildren. His wife of more than 60 years, the former Elizabeth Anne Showalter, died in 2009. A memorial service is planned at Harvard University, the Memorial Church, on Saturday, November 10, at 4 PM with a reception to follow.