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- Smith, Prof. Robertson
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(from Wikipedia entry)
William Robertson Smith FRSE (8 November 1846 - 31 March 1894) was a Scottish orientalist,Old Testament scholar, professor of divinity, and minister of the Free Church of Scotland. He was an editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica and contributor to the Encyclopaedia Biblica. He is also known for his book Religion of the Semites, which is considered a foundational text in the comparative study of religion. Smith was born in Aberdeenshire and demonstrated a quick intellect at an early age. He entered Aberdeen University at fifteen, before transferring to New College, Edinburgh, to train for the ministry, in 1866. After graduation he took up a chair in Hebrew at the Aberdeen Free Church College in 1870. In 1875 he wrote a number of important articles on religious topics in the ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. He became popularly known because of his trial for heresy in the 1870s, following the publication of an article in the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Smith's articles approached religious topics without endorsing the Bible as literally true. The result was a furore in the Free Church of Scotland, of which he was a member. As a result of the heresy trial, he lost his position at the Aberdeen Free Church College in 1881 and took up a position as a reader in Arabic at the University of Cambridge, where he eventually rose to the position of University Librarian, Professor of Arabic and a fellow of Christ's College. It was during this time that he wrote The Old Testament in the Jewish Church (1881) and The Prophets of Israel (1882), which were intended to be theological treatises for the lay audience.
In 1887 Smith became the editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica after the death of his employer Thomas Spencer Baynes left the position vacant. In 1889 he wrote his most important work, Religion of the Semites, an account of ancient Jewish religious life which pioneered the use of sociology in the analysis of religious phenomena. He was Professor of Arabic there with the full title 'Sir Thomas Adams Professor of Arabic' (1889-1894). He died in 1894 of tuberculosis.
For more information, see Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Robertson_Smith .
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