Passing of Bible Scholar Alfred Edersheim

Published Apr 28, 2010
Passing of Bible Scholar Alfred Edersheim

Grey dawn was streaking the sky, when they who had so lovingly watched Him to His burying were making their way to the rock-hewn tomb in the garden. Considerable as are the difficulties of exactly harmonizing the details in the various narratives--if, indeed, importance attaches to such attempts--we are thankful to know that any hesitation only attaches to the arrangement of minute particulars, and not to the great facts of the case. And even these minute details would, as we shall have occasion to show, be harmonious, if only we knew all the circumstances."

That is how Alfred Edersheim began Chapter 17 of a book that appears in any substantial Christian library: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Chapter 17 describes Christ's resurrection.

Reared a Jew, Alfred was able to shine inside light on the Gospel narratives. Born in Vienna of Jewish parents on March 7, 1825, he was brought up in the Jewish faith. It was not until he tutored in Pesth that Alfred converted to Christianity when John Duncan, a Scottish Presbyterian chaplain, led him to Christ. Edersheim went with Duncan to Scotland and studied at the University of Edinburgh. Later, he entered the University of Berlin. His studies complete, he was ordained in the Scottish Presbyterian Church and spent a year as a missionary to Rumanian Jews before pastoring in Scotland. At times, ill health forced him to retire. Following one of these periods of retirement, he entered the Church of England. It was while serving as Vicar of Loders in Dorset, that he researched and wrote the Life and Times, a book that took him seven years to complete.

He had already published several works by that time. These included The Home and Synagogue of the Modern Jew; The Temple, its Ministry and Service in the time of Jesus Christ; a Bible History, and Prophecy and History in Relation to the Messiah. Scholars still benefit from these works.

All of Edersheim's books were written to help Christians understand the Jewish customs and the history behind Scripture, but Edersheim was not just interested in increasing Bible knowledge. He wrote that it was important for Christians not merely to know the meaning of the narratives of Scripture, but to "realize their spiritual application; to feel their eternal import; to experience them in ourselves...that is the only profitable study of Scripture, to which all else can only serve as outward preparation. Where the result is 'doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness,' the Teacher must be the Spirit of God,... But the end of all is Christ... He in whom all the promises of God are Yea and Amen.'"

Sixty-four year old Alfred Edersheim died at Mentare, France on this day, March 16, 1889. We believe that he met face to face the Messiah about whom he had written so eloquently.


  1. Adapted from an earlier Christian History Institute story by Diane Severance, Ph.D.
  2. Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah Numerous editions available.
  3. "Edersheim, Alfred." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  4. "Edersheim, Alfred. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1954.

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