In Remembrance: Robert J. Bull ’50STM, ’56PhD Died on August 31 2013

The Rev. Robert J. Bull of Madison, New Jersey, died August 31, 2013, at the age of 92. A longtime civic and academic leader in Madison and at Drew University, he was world renowned for his work as an archeologist in the Middle East.

A story appeared in the Madison Eagle on September 1, 2013.

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    Robert Jehu Bull was born 21 October 1920 in Harrington near Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Finney R. Bull and Ethel Camper Bull. Known as “Bob”, Robert graduated from the Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1939.

    In 1942 Bull received his B.A. degree from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, and his B.D. from the Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. Yale University granted him the S.T.M. degree in 1950 and the Ph.D. in 1956. Dr. Bull was ordained in the United Methodist Church and a member of the Virginia Conference.

    When Robert Jehu Bull arrived in 1955 at Drew as an instructor of church history in the Theological School the curriculum included one semester in church history. By the time he retired as a full professor in 1991, Bull had so impressed the importance of church history upon his colleagues that the school offered four semesters in the discipline.

    Best known in far-flung parts of the globe as an ardent archaeologist, Bull was director of the Drew University Institute for Archaeological Research from 1968 to 1990. He began his archeological work in 1955 with the Drew-McCormick expedition to Tell Balatah (Shechem), Jordan. He excavated at that site over several years, including a dig at Mount Gerizim, as well as at Shechem, Balatah, Ai, Pella, Tell-er-Ras and Khirbet Shema. Bull served in Jerusalem, Israel, as director of the William Foxwell Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, and in Jordan as director of the Tell er Ras Excavation.
    From 1971 to 1996 Professor Bull directed field work by the Joint Expedition to Caesarea Maritima, a city in Israel built by King Herod more than 2,000 years ago. In 1980 the team found a series of crypts. The Christian Science Monitor reported:
    ‘It took courage and ingenuity to reach them,’ reported the ‘The American scholar (Professor Bull), and a select backup crew had to crawl 280 feet through a maze of underground vaults originally built by Herod to serve as warehouses for his once-bustling seaport. They inched their way through pitch darkness, wearing oxygen masks and scooping away vast accumulations of sand in their path. Caesarea’s crusader fortifications, Byzantine streets and Roman structures still impress thousands of visitors each year. Bull’s work uncovered the Herodian plan of the city, with its network of streets, monumental buildings, storage vaults and sewers that flushed into the sea. The Expedition also excavated later periods at the site, discovering, among other structures, a third-century A.D. Mithraeum—a place of worship for the mystery religion Mithraism—that had been converted from an earlier vaulted warehouse built in the Herodian period. This Mithraeum is the only one ever found in Israel—even though this cult of the Persian god Mithra was widely practiced in the Roman Empire from the first to fourth centuries, and was especially popular among the Roman military.

    The Joint Expedition to Caesarea was something of a Bull family affair. Professor Bull’s wife, Vivian Bull, then Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts of Drew University, was registrar for the dig. Their younger son, W. Carlson Bull, was born in Israel, and Professor Bull was known to remark that Carlson had been digging at Caesarea since he was two days old, along with his older brother, Robert Camper Bull.

    Bull was the author of more than thirty scholarly articles on topics ranging from the founders of the United Methodist Church to the world’s earliest irrigation systems in the Middle East. He was general editor and co-author of several volumes reporting on Caesarea Maritima. His extensive writings about the expedition’s early discoveries, “The Mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima,” were included in the 1978 book, Acta Iranica. Professor Bull’s also focused on the 1973 and 1974 excavation of Roman pottery vaults at Caesearea, with detailed analysis of their architecture, contents and function.

    A resident and civic leader in Madison, New Jersey, Bull was a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Madison and its former president, as well as a Madison Volunteer Ambulance Corps member. In retirement Professor Bull applied his archeological acumen to local projects. He was the principal investigator for the Pluckemin Archaeological Project in Bedminster Township, and for the Morristown Green in Morristown, New Jersey. He was the founder-and a past president-of the Northern New Jersey Society of the Archaeological Institute of America.

    Husband of Drew University’s Interim President, Vivian A. Bull, and father of sons Robert Camper and W. Carlson, Robert Jehu Bull died on Saturday, August 31, 2013. Friends, faculty colleagues, and family members celebrated his life at a memorial service on September 21 at the United Methodist Church in Madison.

    At his death, Bull was director emeritus of the Drew University Institute for Archaeological Research., and had been instrumental in attracting to Drew a gift of Nestorian Crosses, the second largest collection in the world of those Christian symbols from Central Asia. Associated with the Assyrian Church of the East, Nestorian Crosses have been found in Assyrian Christian tombs in ancient China.

    “History was so much more than dates and events to Dr. Bull,” said Virginia Samuel-Cetuk, Interim Dean of the Drew Theological School and a former student of Bull’s. “He had the singular ability to connect his students to the men and women who preceded them in the church centuries earlier. He radically changed my view of history—and that has made all the difference to me.”

    “Madison's Robert J. Bull, Drew University professor emeritus, dies at 92,” Madison Eagle, September 1, 2013, at
    “Life, times of Robert Bull’ theme for historical society,” Madison Eagle, April 15, 2004, at
    Jason Morris, “King Herod's capital yields treasures in Caesarea 'dig',” The Christian Science Monitor, Archive |1980 | August 20, 1980, at
    Maury High School, Norfolk, Virginia, 1939. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [with photo]
    Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, Virginia 1942. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [with photo]

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