Milestones: Edward Lipiński (1930–2024)

Leading scholar of Phoenician and Aramaic

Edward Lipiński, one of the giants in Aramaic, Phoenician, Semitics, and biblical studies, passed away on April 12, 2024, in Brussels, Belgium. He was 93 years old.

Lipiński was born in Poland in June 1930. He was Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Arts at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium). He received his appointment at the university in 1969, and for more than 40 years, taught Semitic languages and epigraphy, as well as the history, cultures, and religions of the ancient Near East and the biblical world. He was a prolific writer, authoring and editing many books and articles, especially on Aramaic and Phoenician epigraphy, along with Semitics. He was honored by his friends and colleagues with a festschrift: Immigration and Emigration within the Ancient Near East: Festschrift E. Lipiński (1995).

His significant work in Phoenician includes the editing of the Dictionnaire de la civilisation phénicienne et punique (1992) and the series Studia Phoenicia (from 1983). He also authored the monographs Itineraria Phoenicia (2004), Resheph: A Syro-Canaanite Deity (2009), and Peuples de La Mer, Phéniciens, Puniques: Études d’épigraphie et d’histoire Méditerranéenne (2015). His extensive monographs on Old Aramaic include a series, Studies in Aramaic Inscriptions and Onomastics, volumes 1–4 (1975, 1994, 2010, 2016), and his monumental The Aramaeans: Their Ancient History, Culture, Religion (2000). His important publications in comparative Semitic grammar are Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar (1997, 2001), as well as Semitic Linguistics in Historical Perspective (2014).

In the field of biblical studies, his works include the important monographs On the Skirts of Canaan in the Iron Age: Historical and Topographical Researches (2006), A History of the Kingdom of Israel (2018), and A History of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Judah (2020). He also wrote for popular audiences, including two articles in Biblical Archaeology Review: “Epigraphy in Crisis—Dating Ancient Semitic Inscriptions” (July/August 1990), and “Cult Prostitution in Ancient Israel?” (January/February 2014).

With so many publications in many different disciplines, it is difficult to assess Lipiński’s overall scholarly impact. Yet, there can be little doubt that his book The Aramaeans is his magnum opus. One reviewer acclaimed it as embodying “the accumulated insights of one of the greatest Semitic scholars of our time.”1 This work’s comprehensive coverage of all aspects of this important ancient Near Eastern people group—up to the time of its writing—made it deserving of reference for over two decades. Lipiński’s creative mind saw many ancient Near Eastern and biblical interconnections not seen by his contemporaries. He was a scholar who blazed his own path, often building on his own insights. For ancient Near Eastern and biblical scholars, Edward Lipiński’s work will demand attention for years to come.

K. Lawson Younger is Emeritus Professor of Old Testament, Semitic Languages, and Ancient Near Eastern History at Trinity International University, Divinity School. He is author or editor of various ancient Near Eastern and biblical publications, including A Political History of the Arameans: From Their Origins to the End of Their Polities (2016), winner of BAR’s Best Scholarly Book on Archaeology Award, 2017.


[1] Paul E. Dion, Review of Edward Lipiński, “The Aramaeans: Their Ancient History, Culture, Religion,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 327 (2002), p. 60.

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