Bernhard Maier

William Robertson Smith

His Life, his Work and his Times

[William Robertson Smith. Sein Leben, sein Werk und seine Zeit.]

2009. VIII, 341 pages.

Forschungen zum Alten Testament 67

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Published in English.
Bernhard Maier presents a new biography of William Robertson Smith (1846–1894), a champion of Old Testament criticism who is also regarded as a pioneer in Social Anthropology, the Sociology of Religions and the Comparative Study of Religions.
William Robertson Smith (1846–1894) was successively the embattled champion of the emergent »higher criticism« as applied to the Old Testament, chief editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Professor of Arabic at Cambridge University. Today he is acknowledged to have been a pioneering figure in both social anthropology and the study of comparative religion, deeply influencing the thinking of J. G. Frazer, Emile Durkheim and Sigmund Freud. The first full-length biography of Robertson Smith to be published for almost a hundred years, this text makes use of hitherto unknown material preserved by the Smith family and draws upon the extensive range of correspondence between Smith and such scholars as Albrecht Ritschl, Paul de Lagarde, Julius Wellhausen, Abraham Kuenen and Theodor Nöldeke. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, the biography locates and defines the place of this remarkable polymath within the context of Free Church Calvinism, the Scottish Enlightenment and 19th century German Protestant theology. It highlights Smith's interest in physics and philosophy, his friendship with contemporary artists, his Oriental travels, and his involvement in the social life of Edinburgh and Aberdeen. In recent years, the image of Smith as a comparative religionist has come to dominate all other perspectives and indeed tends now to overshadow his fame as an Old Testament scholar. This book seeks to redress the balance, aiming to discover the theological drive behind Smith's manifold activities.

Bernhard Maier Born 1963; 1989 PhD in Religious Studies; 1998 Habilitation Religious Studies; 2004–06 Reader and Professor at the University of Aberdeen; since 2006 Professor for Religious Studies and the European History of Religions at the University of Tübingen.


The following reviews are known:

In: Salesianum — 73 (2011), S. 370–371 (Rafael Vicent)
In: Journal of Ecclesiastical History — 61 (2010), S. 426 (W. R. Ward)
In: Religion — 40 (2010), S. 143–145 (Gordon Booth)
In: Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni — 76 (2010), S. 614–625 (Riccardo Contini)
In: Orientalistische Literaturzeitung — 106 (2011), S. 108–109 (Rudolf Smend)
In: International Review of Biblical Studies — 55 (2008/09), S. 1949
In: Vetus Testamentum — 61 (2011), S. 700–701 (R.E. Clements)
In: Old Testament Abstracts — 32 (2009), S. 599 (C.T. Begg)
In: Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (ZAW) — 122 (2010), S. 151–152 (C. Bultmann)
In: H-Soz-u-Kult —–2-061 (04/2012) (Henning Trüper)