Driver, Samuel Rolles°

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DRIVER, SAMUEL ROLLES ° (1846–1914), Bible scholar and Hebraist; from 1883 Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford. Driver's chief work, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, appeared in 1891 (19139). Among his early publications was A Treatise on the Uses of the Tenses in Hebrew (1874, 18923). He was a practicing Christian ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church and held various offices in that church. Nevertheless, he wrote his books in the spirit of the critical method established by J. *Wellhausen, at the same time stressing that his conclusions did not impugn the sanctity of the Bible or attribute literary forgeries to it. He was therefore attacked from both sides. Conservative theologians condemned his views as "dangerous," while some of his fellow Bible critics accused him of making concessions to orthodox extremism. Driver was alert to every new potential source of information on the Bible, as may be seen by the fact that he was among the first to write a book on archaeology and the Bible, Modern Research as Illustrating the Bible (1909). Driver was one of the editors of the "International Critical Commentary" series of scholarly editions of biblical books, and also contributed commentaries on Deuteronomy (1895, 19023), and Job (with G.B. Gray, 1905). His other works include commentaries on Genesis (19119), Exodus (1911), Daniel (1900), and other books of the Bible, and papers on specific points in the prophetic writings, as well as researches into the Masoretic text of Samuel (Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 1890, 19132). He also participated in the compilation of A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (with F. Brown and C.A. Briggs, 1907). This work, based on the lexicon of William *Gesenius, and popularly known as bdb (from the initials of its authors), remains in widespread use. Together with A. *Neubauer, he published The "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters (1877). All of Driver's books were well written and carefully researched and three of them are so basic that for all the progress that has been made since then the specialist still has occasion to consult them (his Introduction…, his Tenses, and his Notes on the Hebrew Text).

His son sir godfrey rolles driver (1892–1975), Bible and Semitic scholar, gained knowledge of the Middle East with the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force in 1919 for which he wrote A Report on Kurdistan and the Kurds (1919). Later he also published A Grammar of the Colloquial Arabic of Syria and Palestine (1925). From 1919–28 he taught classics at Oxford and from 1928 lectured there on Hebrew and comparative Semitic philology, becoming professor of Semitic philology (1938–62) and intermittently professor of Hebrew (1934, 1953–54, and 1959–60).

One of his important early works was "The Modern Study of the Hebrew Language" in The People and the Book (ed. A.S. Peake), 73–120. In 1935 he collaborated with J.C. Miles in editing The Assyrian Laws, which aimed to serve as a textbook for scholars of the Old Testament as well as of comparative law (revised as vol. two of Assyrian Laws and Babylonian Laws, 1952, 1955). The following year Driver published Problems of the Hebrew Verbal System in which he explained the peculiarities of the Hebrew tense system and other features of Hebrew as resulting from the origin of Hebrew as a mixture of Canaanite and the original language spoken by the Israelites. In 1948 he published his Schweich Lectures of 1944 under the title Semitic Writing where he examined the origin and development of the Semitic alphabet and in which he was one of the first to realize the significance of Ugaritic. In 1954 he edited and translated the Borchardt Aramaic documents in the Bodleian Museum under the title Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century b.c. (revised 1957). These were official and semiofficial documents from the court of the Persian satrap in Egypt. The following year he published Canaanite Myths and Legends, in which he translated Ugaritic legends and included an Ugaritic glossary.

His Judean Scrolls (1965) discussed the problem of the identity and date of the community of Qumran, which he identified with the *Zealots. On his seventieth birthday a volume of Hebrew and Semitic Studies (1963) was dedicated to him. It contains a selected bibliography of his works. He was joint director of the committee that prepared the translation of the Old Testament in the New English Bible (1970). He wrote numerous articles on Hebrew lexicography, in which, by the use of cognate languages, he uncovered hitherto unrecognized meanings of biblical words. Much of these he incorporated into the New English Bible and into his work on a new edition of F. Brown, S.R. Driver, and C.A. Briggs' Hebrew Lexicon.


T.K. Cheyne, Founders of Old Testament Criticism (1893), passim (esp. chs. 11–13). Add. Bibliography: J.A. Emerton, dbi, 308–10.