William Robertson Smith

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William Robertson Smith (November 8, 1846 – March 31, 1894) was a Scottish philologist, anthropologist, and Biblical critic. He is best known for his work on the Encyclopædia Britannica and his book Religion of the Semites (1889), which is considered a foundational text in the comparative study of religion. He is credited as one who introduced, to the English-speaking world, a new methodology of the study of the Bible—Biblical Criticism—based on scientific principles. Such views were highly controversial at the time, and Smith was removed from his academic position and even tried for heresy.


  • Religion of the Semite, New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1889
  • Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, 1889; 2nd edition, 1894; 3rd edition, 1927.
  • Lectures on the Religion of the Semites: Second and Third Series, Sheffield Academic Press, 1995
  • W. Johnstone (ed.), William Robertson Smith: Essays in Reassessment, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995.