David Dorsey, longtime professor of Old Testament at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, died last week. The local newspaper carries his obituary and the seminary website provides his faculty profile. Carl Rasmussen shares some personal reminiscences on his blog.
The first I heard of Dr. Dorsey was in a class with Anson Rainey. He described one of his students who purchased a motorcycle so he could drive throughout the country, studying the sites and roads.
One result of his dedication was the discovery of biblical Makkedah, location of the cave where five Canaanite kings hid from Joshua (Josh 10:16).
Photo by David Dorsey.
This research led to Dr. Dorsey’s dissertation on The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel, published by Johns Hopkins in 1991. This work is the standard reference on the subject and I’ve benefited it from it in numerous ways. One of my dissertation readers had little to say in one of his passes through my early chapters, but of all the works he could have chastised me for neglecting, the one he chose was Dorsey’s book. While all who knew Dr. Dorsey could testify to the impact that Israel had on his life, Dr. Dorsey forever left his mark on historical geography of ancient Israel through this book.
Another way that Dr. Dorsey changed lives was through his trips to Israel. His passion brought many to Israel and some caught the bug and returned. One of those became a close friend to my wife and me more than 20 years ago and she served our students at IBEX for more than 10 years. Without Dr. Dorsey’s vision and work, many hundreds would have missed out from just this one relationship.
On a family vacation several years ago, I asked Dr. Dorsey if we might visit with him. He and his wife Jan provided the warmest possible welcome and while our kids swam in the backyard, they shared with us their lives, treasures, and dreams. It was a splendid day and I left with the desire to imitate Dr. Dorsey’s gracious spirit.
Several things remained. Dr. Dorsey had been long at work on a two-volume project on every law in the Old Testament from a Christian perspective. For years I have prayed weekly that the Lord would sustain his health to complete this project. Dr. Dorsey also had an extensive collection of photos from his motorcycle years, and while I included a handful in the recent edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, I wanted to reserve most of these for a separate collection in the future.
To many, Dr. Dorsey has been a model Old Testament scholar, an inspiring teacher in the classroom, and a faithful man of God. His departure is a tremendous loss.
Photo by David Dorsey.