Friday, January 04, 2013

Robert Dick Wilson: a man with a plan

My reading today focuses on old Princeton's great scholar, Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930). I always mentally put his middle-name in quotation marks, as if it were a nickname; it seems an odd middle name.

The man who eventually mastered twenty-six languages and dialects had been a successful evangelist, until he saw "a great need for a type of biblical scholarship that would deal objectively with the evidence." So he started his studies, and came up with a plan.

In the years 1881–83 Wilson did research in Semitic languages at the University of Berlin. There he concentrated on Assyriology under Eberhard Schrader, August Dillmann, and Eduard Sachau. It was during his student days in Germany that Wilson designed a plan for his life. He believed it would be well for him to divide his career into three blocks of fifteen years each. Not many young men would design a forty-five-year program for themselves, but that is another indication of the unique quality of the man. The first fifteen years would be spent studying the original languages of the Bible and various cognate tongues. During the second fifteen years he would focus on biblical textual matters in the light of his philological studies. His hope was to spend the last fifteen years in writing what he had learned. 
[Elwell, W. A., & Weaver, J. D. (1999). Bible interpreters of the twentieth century: A selection of evangelical voices (74). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.]
I don't know the man's life well enough yet to know how his plan worked out. But it seems to me that this is a good idea for parents to put in the hopper, to suggest to their children. It certainly is Biblical (Prov. 16:1, 3, 9), if done in the right God-fearing attitude (James 4:13-16; cf. Prov. 27:1).

POSTSCRIPT: not sure how exactly Wilson got to carry out his plan. He did die with what could have been a very important work on Daniel uncompleted.

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