Moore, George Foot°

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MOORE, GEORGE FOOT ° (1851–1931), U.S. teacher of religion. Moore graduated from Yale in 1872 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1877, was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1878, and became professor of Hebrew at Andover Theological Seminary in 1883. In 1902 he went to Harvard and was made professor of the history of religion in 1904.

Moore's work was of importance in four fields – the shaping of U.S. scholarship, the reshaping of U.S. concepts of religion, the study of the Hebrew Bible, and the study of tannaitic Judaism. For scholarship, he helped introduce the "scientific" standards and concepts developed in Germany into the U.S. His influence was exercised through his own example, teaching, committee work, editorship of the Andover Review (1884–93), the Harvard Theological Review (1908–14, 1921–31), and Harvard Theological Studies (1916–31), innumerable book reviews, articles, and lectures, and participation in learned societies. He was president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Society of Biblical Literature. Thus he also did much to shape the concept of religion as a universal human activity of which the various religions are particular instances, and the study, one of the "humanities." This conception was important for the ecumenical movement, cooperation between Christians and Jews, reorientation of missions from conversion to social work, and introduction of courses on the history of religion into college curricula. The professor of history of religion appeared as a new social type, distinct from the chaplain and the professor of theology, and Moore's works – Metempsychosis (1914), The Birth and Growth of Religion (1923), History of Religions (2 vols., 1913–19, 1927–28) – were used in many courses.

In the study of the Hebrew Bible Moore not only introduced German methods, standards, and conclusions, but added his own common sense and enormous learning. Beside his many articles in the Andover Review and Cheyne's Encyclopaedia Biblica, his Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges (1895) remains most valuable. Finally, his Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim (3 vols., 1927–30, 19662) is an outstanding study of rabbinic Judaism. Although it too much neglects the mystical, magical, and apocalyptic sides of Judaism, its apology for tannaitic teaching as a reasonable, humane, and pious working out of biblical tradition is conclusive and has been of great importance not only for Christians, but also for Jewish understanding of Judaism.


dab, 13 (1934), 124–5, incl. bibl.; M. Smith, in: Harvard Library Bulletin, 15 (1967), 169–79.

[Morton Smith]