Memorials: Robert Laird Harris

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Memorials: Robert Laird Harris


Robert Laird Harris was born on March 10, 1911 in Brownsburg, PA, to Walter W. and Pearl (Graves) Harris. Laird was the fifth of eight children, but two died in infancy. At the time of Laird's birth, his father was pasturing the Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church (1906-23) in New Hope, PA. Laird trusted in Christ at an early age. The family moved to Erie, PA, when Laird was thirteen for just one year, then moved to St. Georges, DE. Laird was just fifteen years old when he enrolled at the University of Delaware. He received his B. S. in 1931.

In 1932, while Laird Harris was in an M.S. program in chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, he attended Memorial Presbyterian Church. There he was called to the gospel ministry when he heard a sermon on 1 Cor 9:16, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" He then earned the Th. B. and Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary in Chestnut Hill, PA, in 1935 and 1937, an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941, and his Ph.D. from The Dropsie College in Philadelphia, PA, in 1947.

R. Laird Harris was married to Elizabeth Kruger Nelson on September 11, 1937 at the Presbyterian Church in Snow Hill, MD. To this union three children were born, Grace, Allegra, and Robert. After 43 years of marriage Elizabeth went to be with the Lord in 1980. Laird was then married to Anne P. Kraus in Faith Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, DE, on August 1, 1981. In his retirement Laird and Anne lived in Wilmington, DE, until moving to Quarryville, PA in 2001.

When Laird Harris helped to found the Evangelical Theological Society in 1949, he was Professor of Biblical Exegesis at Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington, DE, and a member of the Bible Presbyterian Church. He served in that capacity from 1937 until 1956 when he became a founding faculty member of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO. He served as professor and chair of the Old Testament Department from 195681, and served as Dean of the seminary from 1964-71. He retired as professor emeritus. In 1982 Laird Harris was elected Moderator for the Tenth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America after concluding a merger of three conservative Presbyterian denominations.

Some of Laird Harris's writings include Introductory Hebrew Grammar (Eerdmans, 1950), The Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible (Zondervan, 1957), Man - God's Eternal Creation (Moody, 1971), The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols, with Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke (Moody, 1980), "Leviticus" in The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Zondervan), and Exploring the Basics of the Bible (Crossway, 2002).

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