Gordon May, the son of Charles Leon and Mabel Maria (Cottrill)
May, was born December 26, 1904 in Fairhaven, Vermont. May was
an internationally recognized linguist, cartographer, Biblical
translator, and theologian. Between 1934 and 1966, he was a professor
of Old Testament Language and Literature at the Oberlin Graduate
School of Theology (GST).
A graduate of Wesleyan University (1927), he received a Ph.D.
from the University of Chicago (1934), B.D. from Chicago Theological
(1930), and D.D. from Wesleyan University (1952). During the 1930s,
as a graduate fellow, he was part of the University of Chicago
archeological expedition to the Megiddo in Palestine (modern-day
and later he was involved in archeological, historical and geographical
research in Greece and other parts of the Middle East. Subsequently,
he joined Oberlin’s GST faculty, and was honored as a Charles
G. Finney Professor of Old Testament Languages and Literature in
1946. After the Graduate School of Theology was transferred to Vanderbilt
University, he held a joint professorship at Vanderbilt and Oberlin
from 1966 until his retirement in 1970. Post-retirement, he taught
at Yale Divinity School and Oberlin College.
Dr. May was a member of the Revised Standard Version Bible Committee
[originally the Standard Bible Committee], Division of Education
and Ministry of the National Council of Churches of Christ of the
U.S.A., 1945-1977. He was chairman of the Committee, 1966-1976,
and head of its Old Testament section from 1960 until his death.
co-editor of the Oxford Bible Atlas and the Oxford Annotated Bible
and Apocrypha, and one of four associate editors of the Interpreter’s
Dictionary of the Bible. He was author of Our English Bible in the
Making, Ezekiel: Introduction and Exegesis, and Material Remains
of the Megiddo Cult. Dr. May’s published works numbered over
200 items. In terms of his service to the wider profession, he was
past president of the American Oriental Society, Midwest Branch,
1947-1948, and the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, 1961-1962,
and held membership in a number of other organizations.
In 1928 Dr. May married Helen Porter (1902-1977). They had two
children: Gola Joyce Kina (b. 1933) and Helen Emily (b. 1941).
was both liked and respected. At Oberlin College where the term “Dr.” is
rarely used in referring to a professor, he was known by that title
while some of those close to him addressed him as “Uncle Herbie.” In
appreciation of this life and work, Oberlin College started the Herbert
Gordon May Lecture. Dr. May died in Jacksonville, Florida on October