Magazine article The Christian Century

George Emery Mendenhall

Magazine article The Christian Century

George Emery Mendenhall

Article excerpt

George Emery Mendenhall, who made pioneering contributions to the field of biblical studies, died August 5 at age 99 at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Mendenhall was professor of ancient and biblical studies at the University of Michigan from 1952 until his retirement in 1986.

"Many pastors and theologians were introduced to covenant through George Mendenhall's description of covenant as a treaty between conquering kings and vassals," William Johnson Everett wrote in the Christian Century in 1999.

However, Everett noted that the "model tended to reinforce patriarchal hierarchies of command as privileged paradigms of divine-human and human-human relationships." Recent research instead revealed "the rich variety of covenants in biblical life, all of which contain a strain of negotiation and consent."

The University of Michigan's regents praised Mendenhall for his "pioneering multidisciplinary research, which combined linguistics, sociology, and archaeology," according to the Faculty History Project. They also called his 1955 book Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East and his 1973 book The Tenth Generation: The Origins of the Biblical Tradition "milestones of biblical studies. …

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