Clergyman and professor was Oriel College’s 50th provost

Rev Prof Ernest Nicholson

Rev Prof Ernest Nicholson

First published in News

A FORMER provost at an Oxford college has died aged 75.

Rev Prof Ernest Nicholson was provost of Oriel College between 1990 and 2003, when he retired.

He took up the post against the background of the decline of state funding of the university sector but during his tenure the college built additional student accommodation and launched a nationwide drive to fund bursaries.

But throughout his years as head of house at Oriel, Prof Nicholson never lost touch with his subject.

He published a major book called The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century, a definitive study of academic investigation of the five ‘books of Moses’ of the Old Testament from 1900.

The work for the book was mostly written in moments snatched from other obligations, often before breakfast.

It is now considered one of the most important and convoluted areas in biblical study, and he was a master of it.

Prof Nicholson also contributed greatly to the work of the British Academy, which draws together expertise on the humanities and the social sciences, and was a member of its council.

Ernest Nicholson was born on September 26, 1938 in Portadown, Northern Ireland, where he went to school.

In his teens he met Hazel Jackson, his life-long love, who he married in 1962.

He attended Trinity College Dublin on which he had set his sights before moving to Glasgow to study for a PhD.

After his marriage he moved back to Dublin to take up a teaching post at Trinity College and five years later the couple moved to Cambridge where he was a lecturer in Old Testament Studies and fellow of University College, which has since been renamed Wolfson College.

He later became chaplain and then dean of chapel at Pembroke College, all the time teaching and writing in Old Testament Studies.

He first came to Oxford in 1979 after being appointed Oriel Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture.

He was appointed Oriel College’s 50th provost in 1990 and held the position until he retired, though he continued publishing until the time of his death.

Revd Prof Ernest Nicholson died on December 22, 2013 and his funeral took place at St Peter’s Church in Wolvercote on January 10.

He is survived by his wife, three of his four children and four grandchildren.

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