Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Aileen Guilding

I was sorry to hear this morning of the death of Aileen Guilding, age 94 (via Loveday Alexander on the British New Testament Society list). Guilding, like Michael Goulder, was a student of Austin Farrer and like him became fascinated in the correspondences between Jewish lectionaries and the New Testament. (Michael once told me of an occasion when he went to give a guest lecture and someone looked up at him in a disappointed way and said, "Oh, we thought you were a woman").

Guilding's major publication was The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship (Oxford: Clarendon, 1960). Unlike Goulder, Guilding thought that there was a triennial lectionary cycle in the first century, and she mapped correspondences between John and the hypothetical cycle in great detail. Although she failed in the long term to convince the academy, the literature is littered with references to her discussions of interesting parallels that do shed light on John. Raymond Brown, for example, often referred to Guilding in his commentary on the Fourth Gospel.

My own interest in Guilding's work came through my research on lectionary theories of Gospel origins, on which I wrote my MPhil dissertation at the University of Oxford in 1990, under the direction of John Ashton and Ed Sanders. I devoted Chapter 6 of the dissertation to a test of one of Guilding's theories and found it wanting in that randomly chosen parallels in sequence within John generated as many parallels as Guilding's sequence.

Guilding was professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, and an interesting article by David Clines fills in some of the details of her career there:

The Sheffield Department of Biblical Studies: An Intellectual Biography
David J. A. Clines

The article reveals that Guilding was appointed at Sheffield by F. F. Bruce, the department's first professor:
Aileen Guilding, who had studied at Oxford, carried on Bruce’s tradition of precise textual scholarship,13 but with an added flair for the grand ingenious theory. She looked in others for what she called ‘top spin’ (was it a cricketing or a tennis metaphor?), and she had it herself. She was known for her hugely learned theory that John’s Gospel had been composed to follow the sequence of a Jewish lectionary of the Pentateuch, and showed in her The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship1 an intimate knowledge of the sources, rabbinic and Septuagintal as well as the two Testaments. Her theory found no following, as far as I know, but the scholarship itself was massive and impeccable . . . .

. . . . Alan Dunstone, who had worked in New Testament and published in patristics was to leave in 1964 for a position in theological education in Papua–New Guinea. Guilding was authorized not only to replace him but to make an additional appointment in Old Testament.

The result was that David Hill and I were appointed by Aileen Guilding in the same month of 1964, no doubt primarily for our linguistic promise—for she told us that we would be of no real use to her until we had served five years . . .

. . . . In September 1965 Aileen Guilding retired prematurely from the Department, and the Department went through a period of uncertainty . . . .
I recall it being said that Guilding was the first female professor of New Testament anywhere in the UK.

1 comment:

Steverino said...

I'm sorry to jump in here so late, but much sorrier to have just learned of the passing of Aileen Guilding in 2008. You see, I have been "dancing" with her theory for several years now and just yesterday (July 8, 2012) had at last introduced it to my church family via a sermon. With her brilliant and fascinating work fresh in my mind, and now percolating in the minds of several keen congregants, I thought it appropriate to see if more information about the blessed Miss A.G. was to be found. I even harbored a hope that, her health and station permitting, I might persuade her to come to NYC to lecture and interact on her thesis. You can understand, then, how I am deeply saddened at the news here discovered, yet gratified that our Lord kindly gave her 94 years!. If anyone can lead me to people or sources which may hold additional light concerning Ms. Guilding and/or her argument, I'd be grateful. I'm curious, too, about what the cause might have been for her so rapid departure from a prestigious post (not meaning to pry, of course, if it was entirely personal). Thanking you for your kindness and work, I wish you blessing from the One who is the source of every good and perfect gift.


Rev. Steve Schlissel