Crawford Howell Toy, professor of Old Testament 1869-1879, was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1836. Toy was named after his uncle, R. B. C. Howell, the second president of the SBC. An impressive student, Toy professed faith in Christ while attending the University of Virginia. He earned his B.A. in 1856.
After graduating, Toy taught at the Albemarle Female Institute until 1859, when he joined the first student class at Southern. Toy brought a keen intellect and a kindled heart to Southern. He passed examinations in Church History, Old Testament, Hebrew, New Testament, Greek, and Systematic Theology in one short year—an impressive achievement. He also organized missions prayer groups. Toy was courting a young missionary named Lottie Moon in this period, and they talked of pursuing missions work together in Japan. When the Civil War broke out, however, Toy joined the Confederate army and fought in several battles. Union forces captured him at Gaithersburg and he taught an Italian language course in the prison camp.
Toy traveled to Germany in 1866 to study theology and Semitic languages. In this period, his relationship with Lottie ended. When he returned from Germany in 1868, he joined the faculty of Furman University as a professor of Greek. In May of 1869, Toy was elected professor of Old Testament interpretation and oriental languages at Southern. Toy developed a progressive theology like that of his liberal German professors. He embraced the methods of higher criticism and sought to harmonize Scripture with Darwinian evolution. Toy’s views came under public scrutiny in 1879 when he published two pieces construing Isaiah’s suffering servant figure as national Israel, not Christ. Later that year, at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Toy presented the seminary trustees a defense of his opinions along with his resignation. To his surprise, the trustees accepted the resignation. Toy left Southern, never to return.
In 1880, Toy began teaching at Harvard University, where he was appointed the Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages and the Dexter Lecturer on Biblical Literature. Toy eventually became a Unitarian. His later works rejected nearly every doctrine central to Christianity. Toy retired from Harvard in 1909 and lived in Massachusetts until his death in 1919.
Sources: Billy Grey Hurt, “Crawford Howell Toy: Interpreter of the Old Testament.” Th.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1966.