|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
At a Glance
The colleciton is organized into three series: Series 1: Correspondence, 1913-1926 (5 boxes, 2.50 lin. ft.); Series 2: Writings, 1883-1925 (1 box, 0.25 lin. ft.); Series 3: General, 1882-1921 (2 boxes, 1.00 lin. ft.)
Scope and Content
The collection is organized in three series for correspondence, writings, and other general information.
Part of Union Theological Seminary Collection
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Item description, UTS 1: Arthur Cushman McGiffert, Sr. Papers, series #, box #, and folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Correspondence, notebook, sermons, commonplace book Cataloged Lynn A. Grove 07/12/88.
2010-12-13 XML Instance created by Brigette C. Kamsler.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Arthur Cushman McGiffert was born in Sauquoit, New York on March 4, 1861 to the Rev. Joseph Nelson McGiffert and Harriet Whiting Cushman. Ordained first in the Presbyterian Church and, later, the Congregational Church, McGiffert distinguished himself as an academic, teaching and writing extensively on the subject of church history, and serving as the eighth president of Union Theological Seminary.
McGiffert married Eliza Isabelle King on June 9, 1885. Their union was brief as she died in 1887, but they had one daughter, Elizabeth McGiffert (later married Rev. Dwight F. Mowery). On November 12, 1891, McGiffert married Gertrude Huntington Boyce, with whom he had two more children, Arthur Cushman McGiffert and Katharine Wolcott McGiffert (later Mrs. John K. Wright).
McGiffert benefited from extensive education, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree and his first Master of Arts degree from Western Reserve University (later combined with Case Institute of Technology to form Case Western Reserve University) in 1882. He graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1885 and went on to study abroad for a year at the University of Berlin. In 1886-1887, he studied at the University of Marburg with prominent theologian and church historian Carl Gustav Adolf von Harnack. In 1888, he received a Ph.D. from Marburg in connection with his doctoral dissertation, "Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew."
He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Ohio in 1888 and commenced his teaching career at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio as an instructor and eventually professor in Church History from 1888-1890. McGiffert returned to Union Theological Seminary in 1893, where he taught Church History and eventually became the acting president from 1916 to 1917 and served as president from 1917 until his retirement in 1926. His term as president coincided with the first world war and related challenges. Also during his tenure McGiffert encouraged the enrollment of students from other institutions (known as "special students") and promoted the scholarly and professional aspects of theological education.
McGiffert later received a number of honorary degrees: the D.D. from Western Reserve University in 1892, Harvard University in 1906, Presbyterian Theological College (Halifax) in 1920, and the University of St. Andrews in 1922; and the LL.D. from Pennsylvania College (later Gettysburg College) in 1917 and Queen's University (Halifax) in 1919. He later served in a governance capacity with respect to various academic institutions, such as a member of Western Reserve University's board of trustees and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Harvard Endowment Fund. He took part in a large number of societies and associations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Philosophy Association, the Authors Club, the American Historical Society, and the American Church History Society.
He published a number of works during his career, such as a translation of Eusebius' Church History with Prolegomena and Notes (1890), A History of Christianity of in the Apostolic Age (1897), The Apostles' Creed (1902), Protestant Thought Before Kant (1911), Martin Luther, the Man and His Work (1911), The Rise of Modern Religious Ideas (1915), The God of the Early Christians (1924), and A History of Christian Thought (1933).
McGiffert's publication of A History of Christianity of in the Apostolic Age in 1897 in the wake of the heresy trials of Charles Briggs ignited some controversy. In 1900, the Presbytery of New York brought heresy charges against McGiffert in connection with passages of his book that were claimed to show a lack of belief in biblical inerrancy. Although the Presbytery eventually voted to not bring him to trial, the affair caused McGiffert to enter the Congregational Church.
McGiffert died at his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York on February 25, 1933, and was survived by his widow and three children. His son, Arthur Cushman McGiffert, Jr., was a published author and teaching as professor of Christian Theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary at the time of his death. McGiffert is buried in Beacon, New York.