John Barclay (born 1958) is the current holder of the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University in Durham, England and is largely considered one of today's most influential New Testament scholars. He is the current chair of the British New Testament Society and the former editor of the internationally recognized journal New Testament Studies (Cambridge University Press). He is the son of Oliver Barclay, who served as the General Secretary of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship (later the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) from 1964 to 1980.
Education and Early Years
Barclay was educated at Cambridge University, completing his B.A. in Classics before pursuing an M.A. and then a Ph.D. in Theology (the latter focusing on Galatians). His doctoral thesis was supervised by Morna Hooker. After teaching at Glasgow University from 1984 to 2003, Barclay was named the successor to James D.G. Dunn as the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University.
Paul and the Gift
One of Barclay's most recent works, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015), has drawn considerable praise from scholars in both the UK and USA. Douglas Moo has said it is "one of the best books on Paul’s theology in the last twenty years." Paul Foster likewise proclaims, "This book will be not only much-discussed in Pauline scholarship, it will be much-prized for the genuine advances it offers in understanding Paul’s thought." Paul and the Gift was also reviewed by scholars in popular publications such as Books & Culture and First Things.
One of the insights from Paul and the Gift which has led to its very positive reception is the manner in which Barclay develops Paul's theology of grace. By setting this concept in the context of ancient notions of gift, Barclay discerns six key ways in which gift, and thus grace, can be conveyed in Paul. These are: superabundance, singularity, priority, incongruity, efficacy, and non-circularity.
In an interview with Christianity Today Barclay explains, "So while I disagree with the New Perspective in its sidelining grace within Paul’s thought, I agree with its emphasis that Paul was fundamentally concerned with creating new communities that crossed ethnic and social boundaries."
Criticism of N.T. Wright
Although they maintain a warm relationship, Barclay has been an outspoken critic of N.T. Wright's work on Paul. This has led to several high-profile debates between the two, most recently at New College, Edinburgh University on June 15, 2016 concerning each author's most recent books. They also debated Paul's relationship to the Roman Empire (the 'Paul and Empire' conversation) at the 2007 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in San Diego. Barclay's plenary speech from this session is now published as a chapter in his most recent work Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews (Eerdmans, 2016).
- Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews (Eerdmans, 2016); reprint of 2011 edition published by Mohr Siebeck
- Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015)
- Flavius Josephus Translation and Commentary (Brill, 2007)
- Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment, edited with Simon Gathercole (T&T Clark, 2006)
- Obeying the Truth: A Study of Paul's Ethics in Galatians (T&T Clark, 1988)