Basil Atkinson

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Dr. Basil Ferris Campbell Atkinson (1895–1971) was the under-librarian of the University of Cambridge from 1925 to 1960, and a writer on theology. He was born in Tonbridge, Kent, where he went to the old Tonbridge School, followed by a Classics degree at Cambridge. Atkinson gained his Phd after his MA from Magdeline college in 1926. He then became active outside of his work as librarian in the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union in the formation of the Inter Varsity Fellowship, and also as a writer of academic literature, and Christian books and Bible commentaries. He stayed in Cambridge until his death.


Linguistic Books: 'Ancient Ilyrian' 1931. 'The Greek Language'1932. 'A Theology of Prepositions' as an application of linguistics to Theology 1945.

Evangelical Literature: 'Is the Bible True?' 1934; 'Valiant in Fight' (a title taken from Hebrews.11. 34), an overview of Church history from an evangelical perspective, 1937; 'The War with Satan', an historicist (as opposed to a futurist or preterist) interpretation of The Book of Revelation 1940 - in which he adopts the Thomas Brightman view of the seven churches, the synchronicity principle of Joseph Meade and several of the ideas of Isaac Newton; 'The Christian's use of The Old Testament' 1952 and 'The Times of the Gentiles' a commentary on the Book of Daniel 1968, intended to complement 'The War with Satan'. Atkinson also wrote a series of commentaries on the Books of Genesis to Numbers from 1952 to 1962. His final work, published privately, is his Life and Immortality in which he uses all his rhetorical skill to propose the doctrine of conditional immortality. He formats his commentaries with reference to chapter and verse in the left margins and instructs his readers to refer to the appropriate Bible Text as they study.

Literary style[edit]

Atkinson was keen to cover a broad scope, especially historical, in his subjects and to avoid specialist terminology. In the foreword to 'The Greek Language", for example, he states it is "a summary history of the whole language from its origins to the present day" and of the difficulty of "the tendency of the linguistic chapters to become too technical and those upon literature too elementary". Nevertheless, as a Latin scholar he is unafraid of giving even whole verbatim quotations from the original sources in that language in his evangelical works intended for wider readership. In the latter works, while he writes in plain language and draws on a wide range of facts, his style often becomes highly rhetorical in criticism of The Roman Catholic Church (particularly the Inquisition) and Liberal Christianity. In many ways he was the pioneer of popular evangelical literature written in a plain style.


Atkinson was most notable for his advocacy of soul sleep and conditional immortality.[3] within the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (CICCU) and the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) in the 1920s where he influenced, among others, John F. Wenham.[4]

See also[edit]

  • Annihilationism, the belief of some Christians that the unsaved ultimately cease to exist
  • Historicism view of apocalyptic prophesy that sees it as synchronous with church history.
  • Postmillenialism view that Christ will only visibly come after the millennium.


  1. ^ Alan Pibworth, "Basil Atkinson" webpage, 10/03/01
  2. ^ Obituary in Grace Magazine
  3. ^ Basil F. C. Atkinson, Life and Immortality: an Examination of the Nature and Meaning of Life and Death as They Are Revealed in the Scriptures Taunton, England
  4. ^ Pibworth: "It is in this book that Wenham says "I had learnt the doctrine from Basil Atkinson (as recounted in Chapter 8) [of his autobiography, Facing Hell] in about 1934". The role of Basil Atkinson, conditional immortality and other evangelicals is discussed extensively in Wenham's autobiography. Wenham states that J. Stafford Wright, Robert Clark and Norman Anderson and Michael Green also shared conditional immortality views. It is worth noting that they also all studied at Cambridge."

Further reading[edit]

  • John Wenham, "The Case for Conditional Immortality" in Nigel M. de S. Cameron, ed., Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992, p162–163
  • Le Roy Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, volume 2, especially p881–888 DjVu
  • Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment. Houston: Providential Press, 1982, p407