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Born this day on September 9, 1880,

allis01Oswald Thompson Allis was born in Wallingford, Delaware county, Pennsylvania to Oscar Huntington Allis, M.D. and his wife Julia Waterbury Thompson Allis, on this day,September 9, in 1880. He was raised in the family home at 1604 Spruce Street, in Philadelphia. Decades later, this same location was to serve as the cradle for the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary.

His education included an A.B. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1901; the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1905; the A.M. degree from Princeton University in 1907; and finally the Ph.D. degree from the University of Berlin in 1913, with a dissertation focused on the study of selected Babylonian cuneiform texts.

Dr. Allis first served as Instructor in Semitic Philology at the Princeton Theological Seminary from 1910-1922 and then as Assistant Professor of Semitic Philology at the same institution, from 1922-1929. Reorganization of the Princeton Seminary placed modernists in control of the school and so prompted the resignations of Drs. Allis, J. Gresham Machen, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til. Over the summer of 1929, plans were laid for the organization of Westminster Theological Seminary. Classes began in that autumn and Dr. Allis served as Professor of Old Testament History and Exegesis at Westminster from 1929-1930 and then as Professor of Old Testament from 1930-1936. When Dr. Machen and others were forced in 1936 to leave the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. denomination over their involvement with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Dr. Allis chose to remain in the denomination, but retired from his teaching post. Independently wealthy, he was able to devote the remainder of his life to research and writing.

Dr. Allis was the editor of The Princeton Theological Review from 1918-1929 and, beginning in 1929, maintained a position as Editorial Correspondent for The Evangelical Quarterly up until the time of his death, with many of his articles appearing in that publication.

A 1931 promotional brochure for Westminster Theological Seminary prepared by the Student Committee on Publications had these comments regarding Dr. Allis and his teaching:

“It is the painstaking and thorough accuracy of Dr. Allis in whatever he does, that causes his students to marvel. We watch him unravel the intricacies of Hebrew syntax, and his patience is a constant example and inspiration to us.”
“Dr. Allis’ favorite class room pastime is to answer critics who seek to prove the Old Testament untrue and unreliable. He shows how these would-be Bible destroyers are often false or inaccurate, and frequently so even in the realm of sheer facts. To sit under his teaching is to have one’s faith renewed in the Old Testament as the altogether reliable inspired Word of God.”

Words to live by: The Word of God is sure and reliable, and the Christian can rely fully and completely upon His every promise to the believer. In all that comes against us in this life, He is our refuge. The very character and nature of God is our strong sanctuary in times of trial.

A Sample from the Writings of Dr. Allis:
That the Bible is a self-consistent, self-interpretive book has been the belief of Jews (as regards the Old Testament) and Christians alike throughout the centuries. It is clearly set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith in the following significant statement: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture in the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one,) it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” A distinguished theologian, Dr. Charles Hodge, has expressed it as follows: “If the Scriptures be what they claim to be, the word of God, they are the work of one mind, and that divine. From this it follows that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. God cannot teach in one place any thing which is inconsistent with what He teaches in another. Hence Scripture must explain Scripture.

[Excerpt from “The Law and the Prophets,” as published in The Evangelical Student 4.1 (October 1929): 11-28. To read the full article, click here.

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Snapshot of a Social Gathering at Westminster

macrae05February 11, 1902 marks the birthday of Allan Alexander MacRae, whose papers are preserved at the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis. Educated at Occidental College (1923), Princeton Seminary (1927) and the University of Berlin (1929), MacRae returned to the States at the urging of Paul Woolley to serve as one of the founding faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he remained 1929-1937.

Allan remained close to his parents and it is interesting to note among his papers, that he had carefully kept copies of every letter he sent home to his mother and father. And he wrote home nearly every day while away at school and even later in his new career as a professor. Transcribed below is one such letter, which provides an interesting insight into the social life of the early Westminster Seminary faculty.

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct.22, 1933.

Dear Folks,

Another week has passed by, and how it has flown.  It was quite a busy week.  There was the regular school work, there were the first classes of the year in the University and there were two special things.  These latter were the tea at the Allises last Wednesday afternoon and the party at the Wallaces on Friday evening.  Both these events were particularly pleasant.  The Allises gave a tea in honor of the Kuipers.  They invited over a hundred people.  They asked me, and the others of our faculty to stay most of the time from four to six to help entertain the visitors.  It was a very friendly reception.  Everyone was so cordial and harmonious.  Most of those who came knew most of the others.

On Friday evening the Misses Wallace, two maiden ladies who have been friends of the Seminary and have been present at most of our functions right from the start, entertained the faculty of the Seminary at their apartment in one of the suburbs.  They asked Dr.Machen to speak on mountain climbing.  He gave a very interesting talk indeed.  Then Jimmie Blackstone, who was also invited, sang several numbers for us, and one of the Misses Wallace read some poems she had written.  Dr.Kuiper was asked for a few remarks.  After that we had a spelling bee.  Most of those on the side on which I happened to be chosen were spelled down rather soon, and for a long time I was the lone survivor on our side, while the opposing team still had three standing.  These three were Dr. Machen, Paul Woolley and John Murray.  Then I put one ‘m’ too few in the word persimmon, and left the three of them alone.  So their side was victorious in the contest.  After that ice cream was served.  When we all came to leave, some one happened to look at a watch, and we could hardly believe it was actually past midnight, the evening had been so pleasant.  The only people invited who were not members of our faculty, beside Mr. and Mrs. Blackstone, were Mr. and Mrs.Freeman, whom I mentioned to you recently.  They took John Murray and me with them in their car, which was pleasant and also a great convenience
for us.

GriffithsHM1938H.M. Griffiths is having quite an unpleasant experience.  A week ago yesterday he developed a severe case of acute appendicitis, and that afternoon he was operated on.  They think the appendix might have ruptured soon if they had not taken it out.  Early this week some infection set in, so he had a disagreeable week.  I think they feel that that is pretty well over now,  I saw him yesterday.  He was quite uncomfortable, but is new getting along well, I believe.

Yesterday after faculty meeting John Murray and I went out to Germantown together and visited Griffiths.  Then John and I ate together in the neighborhood.  John had to come back to the city, as he was going right out to Oxford, Pa. to spend the week-end with one of our graduates.  I walked across Germantown to the Woolleys’ home.  I had a nice visit with Paul, and then had supper with both of them.  After supper I played a bit with Edward, who is very friendly.  Paul sat over in the corner, and seemed to have a great time, watching me playing hide and seek with Edward.  I took the train home early, leaving just as soon as I had said goodnight to Edward, so as to get a real good night’s sleep myself.

I am enjoying my beginning Hebrew classes again as much as anything I do.  I am presenting the material in a somewhat different order, and am surely enjoying it.  Early in the week my eyes bothered me a bit.  I stopped in at an optician’s and he spent a long time adjusting the glasses and the way they hung on my nose and ears.  They were hurting my nose.  Since that time, they do not hurt my nose at all, and the eyes have been very greatly improved.  Evidently they were not hanging right on my face.  I hope you are both well and happy as I am.  I will close, very lovingly,

[/s/, Allan A. MacRae]

Words to Live By:
Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Eph. 6:2-3, KJV)
Allan MacRae honored his parents first and foremost by himself living an honorable life before the Lord. But even in a small simple thing like frequent communication, he exhibited his care, concern, and respect for his parents. For those who are not so wise, the Lord teaches us to forgive, as we remember our own sins and failings and praise God that in Christ alone our sins are covered. But when we find a good example like Dr. MacRae, it is interesting to watch the rest of his life. Having lived long on the earth, Allan MacRae died in 1997, at the age of 95.

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