John C. Whitcomb (1924-2020)

By Tom Davis, Ed.D.

Dr. Whitcomb was born on June 22, 1924, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC. His great grandfather lost a leg in the Civil War. His grandfather was an army surgeon, stationed in Cuba where the family became fluent in Spanish, and eventually was in charge of all medical supplies during WWI.  His father was a West Point graduate, fought in WWI and then again in WW2 where he was a Colonel in General George Patton’s Third Army.  From age three through six, Dr. Whitcomb lived with his family in China, where his life-long fascination with languages was developed (at this point in his life, Mandarin, Spanish, and English – later in life Dr. Whitcomb was president of the board of the Spanish World Gospel Missions for over 40 years).

Moving as his father’s military career dictated, he lived in New York, Georgia, Kansas, Washington, and Tennessee where he graduated from High School.  Due to poor eyesight, he could not attend West Point like his father, so he enrolled in Princeton University to begin preparations for international diplomatic service.  While fascinated by a geology course and the story of evolution, a former missionary from India and Afghanistan ministering on the Princeton campus led him to the Lord. This missionary (Dr. Donald Fullerton) discipled Dr. Whitcomb in theology, apologetics, and evangelism, leading the student John Whitcomb to share a gospel tract with a Princeton professor, Albert Einstein! 

After one year at Princeton, he was drafted and spent the next two years with the United States Army in Europe calculating artillery trajectories. After his war service, he returned to Princeton and earned a degree in history. Dr. Whitcomb entered Grace Theological Seminary as a student in 1948 where he earned a MDiv in 1951, ThM in 1953 and ThD in 1957. He then joined the faculty at Grace Theological Seminary where he served as Professor of Theology and Old Testament, Director of Postgraduate Studies, and other positions from 1951 to 1990. (For more biographic details see “A Biblical Tribute to John C. Whitcomb, Jr.” by Paul Scharf in Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth edited by Terry Mortenson and Thane Hutcherson Ury.).

Dr. Whitcomb is internationally known as an author and teacher. He is best known for his role as co-author with Henry Morris, PhD, of The Genesis Flood, published in 1961. The Genesis Flood is considered one of the most influential books of the 20th Century, and marks the beginning of the modern creation movement. In addition to The Genesis Flood, Dr. Whitcomb has published a number of books on science and the Bible, commentaries, and other works highlighted on his web site:

Whitcomb Ministries – Home

Dr. Whitcomb has been a frequent speaker at various Word of Life locations over the years, speaking at conferences or teaching at Bible Institutes in New York, Florida, Ontario, Germany, Argentina, the Philippines, and Brazil. The New York WOLBI Classes of 1981-2012 enjoyed his Genesis 1-11 course.  A number of Word of Life staff members have attended Grace Theological Seminary and attest to the incredible impact Dr. John Whitcomb has had in their life and ministry, such as Alex Konya, Marshall Wicks, and Tom Davis.

Those students who have had Old Testament Survey, Theology, Romans, Isaiah, or Dispensationalism with either Dr. Wicks or Dr. Davis have “gotten to know” Dr. Whitcomb whether they realized it or not!

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