Born 24 March 1890 at Leicester, son of Richard and Emma Rowley. He went to Bristol Baptist College and Mansfield College, Oxford, graduating M.A. at Bristol, B.Litt. at Oxford and D.D. of London University. He won many prizes and scholarships, including the Houghton Syriac Prize. He was minister of the United Church (B and Congl.) at Wells, Somerset (1917-22) and a missionary in China (1922-30) where he was an Associate Professor at Shantung Christian University. He came to Wales in 1930 as a lecturer in Semitic languages at University College, Cardiff and afterwards was appointed Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages at the University College, Bangor (1935-45) and Dean of Bangor School of Theology (1936-45), and was respected as a hard worker and severe disciplinarian. He moved to the Chair of Semitic languages at Manchester University in 1945, where he was Dean of the Faculty of Theology of the University (1953-56), remaining there until his retirement in 1956. He was also president of the Baptist Union of Britain (1957-58).
Among his numerous published works are: Darius the Mede and the four world empires in the Book of Daniel (1935), The Relevance of the Bible (1942), The Relevance of Apocalyptic (1944), The Growth of the Old Testament (1950), The Biblical Doctrine of Election (1950), From Joseph to Joshua (1950). He also published three collections of articles, The Servant of the Lord (1952), Men of God (1963) and From Moses to Qumran (1963), and he was editor of a number of books and of The Jnl. of Semitic Studies (1956-60). His work is characterised by extensive footnotes, which provide endless sources for researchers.
In his day he was one of the most well-known Old Testament scholars throughout the world, as may be gathered from the honours bestowed upon him: honorary doctorates of the universities of Durham, Wales, Oxford, Manchester, Edinburgh, Uppsala, Zürich, Marburg, McMaster and Strasbourg; being made an honorary member of learned societies in several countries; a Fellow of the British Academy and awarded its Burkitt medal for Biblical studies. It was he, more than anyone, who succeeded in bringing Old Testament scholars into contact with each other after World War II; he was secretary of the Society for Old Testament Study (1946-60), and its president (1950).
In 1918 he married Gladys B. Shaw and they had a son and three daughters. He went to live in Stroud after retiring and died there 4 October 1969.
Published date: 2001
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