The Life of Professor John C. Whitcomb
June 1924 – February 2020
Professor John Clement Whitcomb Jr., Th.D., was born on June 22, 1924, in Washington, D.C., to John Clement and Salome Josephine Whitcomb. He was the only child in a military family, growing up in Tientsin, China (1927-1930), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (1930-1933), Seattle, Washington (1933-1939), and Fort Benning, Georgia. He attended McCallie Military Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee (1940-1942), where he excelled scholastically. He was then accepted to Princeton University with a career goal of becoming an American Ambassador. During his freshman year, he met Dr. Donald Fullerton of Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, and he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. This changed his life, resulting in the decision to be a missionary.
In 1942, John was drafted into the US Army and served in the 909th Field Artillery Battalion, 84th Infantry, which fought in the Battle of the Bulge at Marche, Belgium. He returned to Princeton University and graduated with honors (1948). He then attended Grace Theological Seminary from 1948-1951 in Winona Lake, Indiana (M.Div.), with plans to return to China as a missionary. When the Lord closed the doors to China, he opened another door when the President of Grace Seminary, Dr. Alva J. McClain, offered him a faculty position.
Two years later, he met his first wife, Edisene Hanson, at a Bible conference, and they married in 1953. They had 4 children—David, Donald (Don), Constance (Connie) and Robert (Bob). Edisene developed an autoimmune liver disease and died in 1970 at the age of forty. About the same time, Norma Pritchett’s husband, who was a doctoral student at Grace Seminary, suddenly died of a heart attack. Norma had two sons, Daniel (Dan) and Timothy (Tim), who were the ages of Dr. Whitcomb’s children. John and Norma later married, uniting the families in January 1971.
John was a professor of the Old Testament at Grace Seminary for nearly forty years and served as the director of postgraduate studies. He and Norma founded Whitcomb Ministries in 1990. From 2016 until his death, he held the title of President Emeritus.
As an author, he published over twenty books on the Bible and science; commentaries on multiple books of the Bible, eschatology, and other topics; and numerous technical articles. His M.Div. defense of the historical accuracy of the book of Daniel (Darius the Mede, 1959) and his Th.D. defense of a literal six-day creation and world-wide flood (The Genesis Flood, published with Dr. Henry Morris, 1961) remain the definitive works on these subjects. The Genesis Flood became a classic and is the foundation of the modern Creationist movement. He also developed a series of chronological Bible history charts that revolutionized Bible study around the world. They remain widely used today.
Throughout his entire life, Professor Whitcomb was heavily involved in foreign missions, including serving as Chairman of the Board for both the Spanish World Gospel Mission and Grace Brethren Missions. He made many international trips over the years to support these efforts.
Although internationally acclaimed, Professor Whitcomb remained a humble, gentle, approachable, and caring man. He loved humor. He had a quick, subtle wit and would roar with laughter at a good joke. He was also brilliant. But, as one Christian leader remarked, “Although he was intellectually high above everybody else, he had a way of taking complex truths and making them applicable and exciting to people.”
He approached the Scriptures with an awe, reverence, and deep understanding that was also impactful to his students. Professor Whitcomb’s life-guiding Bible verse was 2 Timothy 2:2— “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Thousands of his trainees are now teaching others throughout the world.
Professor Whitcomb never wanted positions of power. He, like a good soldier, wanted to please his commanders, and later, the great men of faith that preceded him. And he received true words of great praise from all of them. But there was one more accolade for which John Whitcomb was longing. The one from his Heavenly Father, who on February 5, 2020, surely said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Professor Whitcomb is survived by his wife Norma and children Dan & Pam Pritchett, David and Chris Whitcomb, Tim Pritchett, Don and Kim Whitcomb, Connie and Mark Rosendahl, and Bob Whitcomb. Grandchildren include Jessica, Laura, David, John, Jill, Jamie, Jocelyn, Janessa, Kian, Weston, Kelsey, Morgan, Josiah, Nathanael, Anna, Daniel, and Sarah and twelve great-grandchildren.
Norma Whitcomb is a homemaker, a dedicated contributor to her husband’s ministry and to Whitcomb Ministries. She was a former elementary and junior high school teacher, and a missionary and Bible College teacher for eleven years in the Philippines. She is a Bible teacher and seminar speaker to ladies in the U. S. and abroad. See A Window for Women or Mrs. Whitcomb's blog for a complete biographical sketch of Mrs. Whitcomb, her life story, her books and other material that she is offering to women.