Portraits of eminent theologians and social philosophers donated to Yale Divinity School

James McConkey Robinson, professor emeritus of religion at the Claremont Graduate University and former director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at the Claremont School of Theology, has provided Yale with a remarkable collection of formal photographic portraits of nineteenth and twentieth century theologians and social philosophers.

Collected over a lifetime of study and teaching, which included cherished personal associations with many of those depicted, this unique collection was donated as a tribute to former Yale Divinity School dean and Sterling Professor of Divinity Harold Attridge on the occasion of the Attridge’s retirement as dean.

EventThe gift made its way to Yale by way of the friendship between Robinson and Ronald Evans ’70 B.D., both residents of the United Church of Christ-related Pilgrim Place retirement community in Claremont, CA. Evans, a member of the YDS Advisory Board, learned that Robinson was moving to a smaller home and asked him to consider giving his collection to Yale.  Robinson then donated the collection in honor of his long and close friendship with Attridge, who stepped down from the deanship at the end of June. 

Included in the collection are portraits of theological giants such as H. Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr, Rudoph Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Karth Barth, Ernst Käsemann, Karl Rahner and numerous others.  For many years, these photographs were displayed on Robinson’s office and study walls in institutions were he taught, including the Candler School of Theology, Claremont School of Theology, The Claremont Graduate University, University of Zürich, the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, the University of Strasbourg, the University of California at Berkeley, The Institute of Ecumenical Studies, the University of Tübingen, and elsewhere.

In concert with his long academic record as a prominent voice for the importance of the “Q” source in biblical studies, Robinson has long been a popular teacher and lecturer in this country and overseas.  As the principal scholar of the “Nag Hammadi Library,” his translations and commentaries have become an invaluable source for scholars throughout the world.  He has also been a prominent voice in, and commentator for, the work of the “Jesus Seminar.”

In keeping with Robinson’s wishes, “The James M. Robinson Collection of Photographic Portraits of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Theologians and Social Philosophers” will be placed in an appropriate venue at Yale Divinity School as a unique unified collection.

December 3, 2012
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