Obituary for Marvin Hoyle Pope

Marvin H. Pope, 81, Yale University professor emeritus and a noted Bible scholar, died June 15 at the First Church of Round Hill in Greenwich, CT. He and his wife, Ingrid, had just completed reading passages from the Bible to the congregation, when he collapsed in his pew.

Professor Pope held the Louis M. Rabinowitz chair in Semitic Languages and Literatures and was a professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale. He also taught at the Yale Divinity School and in the Religious Studies Department.

Professor Pope served on the Revised Standard Version of the Bible Committee of the National Council of Churches. His scholarly specialties were the study of Ugaritic poetry and Biblical translation and commentary. He was author of “El in the Ugaritic Texts,” 1955; and wrote two magisterial commentaries in the Anchor Bible Series: “Job”, 1973; and “Song of Songs”, 1977, for which he won the National Religious Book Award. He also published numerous scholarly works.

Born in Durham, North Carolina, in 1916 to Charles and Bessie Cleveland Sorrell Pope, he earned his A.B. – 1938 and M.A. – 1939 – degrees from Duke University and his Ph.D. from Yale in 1949. He served in the United States Air Force from 1941-1945.

Professor Pope joined the faculty at Yale in 1949 as assistant professor of Hebrew. He was an associate professor from 1955-1964. He became professor of Semitic languages and literatures in 1964 and held that position until his retirement in 1986, at which time he was named professor emeritus.

In 1988, thanks to generous gifts from the Pope family and friends, Yale Divinity School established the Marvin H. Pope Scholarship in Biblical Hebrew and the Marvin H. Pope Prize in Biblical Hebrew, both to honor Professor Pope’s long and distinguished career at Yale.

“He was a master scholar and translator who was always sensitive to the nuances of languages,” said colleague, former student and friend Robert Wilson, the Hoober Professor of Religious Studies at Yale. “His legacy will continue as long as the English Bible is read. He was an insightful and encouraging teacher and a helpful mentor to generations of graduate students.”

“He was a wonderful person,” added the Rev. Frank Mullen, director of development at Yale Divinity School. “He was loved by so many people who knew him through the generations, right up to and past his retirement. Many of his students now teach at colleges, universities and theological schools throughout the world. They will be shocked and saddened by this news.”

William Hallo, the William M. Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature at Yale, noted, “Marvin was a delightful colleague, always ready to bring his wit and wisdom to bear on arcane bits of biblical or ancient Near Eastern lore. He spent his scholarly lifetime at Yale – ‘man and boy for 40 years,’ as he might have put it. He was proud to be the world’s only professor of Northwest Semitic languages, a title he held 1955-1964. He put his stamp on several generations of graduate students. He will be sorely missed.”

Professor Pope gave invited lectures at Oberlin College; Catholic University in Lublin, Poland; University of Aleppo, Syria; and many other universities. He was a visiting scholar at the Institute Ugaritforschung at the University of Muenster, Germany, in 1986 and again in 1990. During his career he won three Fulbright grants, grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and additional professional honors. He was a member of the American Oriental Society, the American Society for the Study of Religions, the Society for Biblical Literature, the Yale Club, Mory’s Club, and other associations, both learned and social.

He is survived by his wife, Ingrid Brostrom Bloomquist; his son Marvin H. Pope, Jr.; daughter Beverly Pope; stepchildren Dennis Bloomquist, Diane B. Connelly, and Laurel B. Shields; his sister Mary Gladys Hodges; and eight grandchildren. His first wife, Helen Thompson Pope, died in 1979.

A memorial service will be held at the First Church of Round Hill, 464 Round Hill Road, Greenwich, Connecticut, on Saturday, June 21, at 11 a.m. Donations may be made to the Yale Divinity School Building Fund, 409 Prospect Street, for a special memorial that will be designated to honor Professor Pope.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325