Union Mourns George Landes

Categories: Union News

Union Mourns the Rev. Dr. George M. Landes, Sr.

Davenport Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Cognate Languages

When he retired in 1995 he had taught at Union for 39 years.  He is remembered with admiration and affection by countless alumni/ae, particularly for his Dead Sea Scrolls course.  He was also Assistant Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary 1957-1958.

The following obituary was published by the family in the Morning Call, Allentown, PA, on April 11, 2016

Rev. Dr. George Landes Sr.

1928 – 2016 Obituary

Old Testament Biblical Scholar and Presbyterian Minister, The Rev. Dr. George M. Landes, Sr., 87, passed away at the Inpatient Hospice Unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital, Allentown on Thursday, April 7, 2016. Son of the late George Y. and Margaret B. (Fizzell) Landes, he was born in Kansas City, MO on August 2, 1928, educated in Kansas City schools and graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO with a B.A. in philosophy in 1949 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Called to the Presbyterian Ministry, he attended McCormick Theological Seminary where he earned his M.Div. degree in 1952 and was awarded the Nettie F. McCormick Fellowship for further graduate study. He entered doctoral work under Prof. W. F. Albright at Johns Hopkins University from which he received his Ph.D in Old Testament and Semitic Studies in 1956.

Dr. Landes was called to the faculty of Union Theological Seminary, NY in 1956 as Instructor in Old Testament. He advanced through the academic ranks and in 1970 was appointed Professor of Old Testament. In 1972 he was appointed to the Baldwin Chair in Sacred Literature, and in 1981 to the Davenport Chair in Hebrew and the Cognate Languages, from which he retired in 1995 as the Davenport Professor Emeritus and moved to the Lehigh Valley.

Dr. Landes’ early interest was in Palestinian Archaeology which he taught at Union. On sabbatical in 1962 he joined the Drew-McCormick expedition to Tel Balata (ancient Shechem) where he studied ancient pottery and prepared it for shipment back to the states and eventual publication. He was Field Supervisor on the expedition to Araq el-Emir in Jordan. On sabbatical leave in 1967-68 he was appointed Annual Professor of the American Schools of Oriental Research, now The Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. During that year he was Archaeological Director at Suwanneteth-Thaniya in the Jordan Valley and did site survey work in the area of ancient Shechem.

Dr. Landes shifted his primary focus from Palestinian Archaeology to Biblical Exegesis, which he also taught at Union. During his 39 year career at Union he taught Hebrew and Hebrew exegesis, as well as many other Old Testament subjects, and became fascinated in the book of Jonah, to which he devoted a large portion of his published works. He authored many scholarly publications, far too many to enumerate here, and contributed to several of his Jewish and Christian colleagues’ Festschrifts. In 1961 Dr. Landes published his book, “A Student’s Vocabulary of Biblical Literature”, which remained in print for 40 years.

During retirement a new, much revised and expanded edition titled “Building Your Hebrew Vocabulary: Learning Words by Frequency and Cognate” was published. Dr. Landes has received many honors during his career and in retirement was presented with his own Festschrift (1999), titled “On the Way to Ninevah: Studies in Honor of George M. Landes”.

He was one of the team of Old and New Testament Scholars who translated the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, published in 1989. He was a member of various academic, religious and other boards, was guest lecturer at McCormick Theological Seminary and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was Visiting Professor of Hebrew at both Princeton and Moravian Theological Seminaries in retirement. As an ordained Presbyterian Minister, he served Second and Govans Presbyterian Churches in Baltimore. During his tenure at Union he served on NYC Presbyteries Preparation for Ministry Committee, lectured and preached at various churches and was Parish Associate at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, NYC. At First Presbyterian Church in Allentown Dr. Landes taught Adult Education Classes and was also a Parish Associate.

Survivors: His loving wife of 62 years Carol Marie; children, George M. Landes, Jr. and his wife Elizabeth of Crystal Lake, IL, Margaret “Peggy” Centanni and her husband Joseph of Westerville, OH, John Christopher and his partner Joan Sinopoli of Newtown, PA; grandchildren, George M. Landes III of Arlington Heights, IL, Tanner James Landes of Waukesha, WI, Kathleen “Kate” Dee Landes of Freiberg, Germany; brother, The Rev. Robert C. Landes and his wife Sherry of O’Fallon, IL.

Services: Memorial Service 11:00AM Saturday, April 16, 2016 in the sanctuary at the First Presbyterian Church, 3231 W. Tilghman St., Allentown.

Call 9:30 to 11:00AM Saturday in the church.

Arrangements by J.S. Burkholder Funeral Home, Allentown, www.jsburkholder.com <http://www.jsburkholder.com>. Contributions: In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Adult Education Program at First Presbyterian Church, 3231 W. Tilghman St., Allentown, PA 18104.

Published in Morning Call on April 11, 2016




University of Missouri 2012


Rev. Dr. George M. Landes

I am a graduate of the University of Missouri (AB, 1949), where I majored in Philosophy and minored in sociology. I spent only my junior and senior years at the university, since I had already earned an Associate in Arts degree from the Kansas City (MO) Junior College in 1947. It was at the Junior College that I took my first courses in philosophy, which whetted my interest in making philosophy my major at MU. However, I should point out that during my years at the Junior College I made a commitment to become an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, so despite my interest in philosophy, I probably would have made my major in religion, had MU at that time had a Department of Religion (as it does today). In view of that lack, I had to make do with courses at the old Bible College which in addition to the studies in philosophy and sociology gave me an invaluable preparation for my seminary work at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

I have no regrets about the work I did in philosophy at MU-except that my course of study was unable to accommodate every course the department offered! I am particularly sorry that I could not find room for Professor Benjamin’s course in the Philosophy of Science. But all my work in philosophy was highly relevant to my religious and theological studies, and provided a solid foundation for much of the work I did at McCormick, and well beyond. For it was at McCormick I fell in love with biblical studies, especially the First Testament, which moved me to study for my Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University. That work involved many philosophical underpinnings, and there were a number of times when the training in philosophy I had received at MU had no small bearing on the work I was pursuing in Hebrew Bible and Semitic studies, especially in the analysis of thought emerging from the exegesis of texts. And then when I accepted a teaching position in the Bible Department at Union Theological Seminary in New York, I found that in my teaching preparation, in the particular interests I cam[e] to focus on (e.g. exegesis and the philosophy of language), and in the theological issues I was called upon to address, there was always some tie-in to the philosophy studies I had done at MU. Hence, I owe a great debt of gratitude to MU’s philosophy department, and I recall the intellectual stimulation I received from them with both appreciation and fondness.

I retired from Union Seminary in 1995, becoming the Davenport Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and the Cognate Languages, after a 39-year career in teaching there. MY wife and I moved to the Lehigh Valley near Schnecksville, PA (ca. 7 1/2 miles north and west of Allentown), and we have been enjoying a peaceful but not uninvolved retirement. I’m still carrying on some research, and doing a lot of reading I did not have time for while teaching. I find the books that interest me most (aside from those in biblical studies) are those which grapple with intellectual issues, which often involve philosophical thought. So even in retirement I find myself engaged with subject matter which harks back to those heady days when I was a philosophy major at MU, but which also goes well beyond them.