John M. G. Barclay

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John Martyn Gurney Barclay (born 1958) is a British Biblical scholar, historian of early Christianity, and academic. He 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.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Barclay was born on 31 July 1958 to Oliver and Dorothy Barclay.[2] 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.[3] He studied classics and theology at Queens' College, Cambridge, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1981.[2][4] He then undertook postgraduate research in theology, and completed a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in 1986.[2] His doctoral thesis was titled "Obeying the truth: a study of Paul's exhortation in Galatians 5-6".[5]

Academic career[edit]

Barclay's early career was spent at the University of Glasgow: he was a lecturer from 1984 to 1996, senior lecturer from 1996 to 2000, and professor from 2000 to 2003.[2] In 2003, he was named the successor to James D.G. Dunn as the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University.[6]

Barclay is the current President of the British New Testament Society.[7] He is the former editor of the academic journal New Testament Studies (Cambridge University Press).[8]

Paul and the Gift[edit]

One of Barclay's most recent works, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015), has drawn considerable praise from scholars around the world. It has been hailed by Markus Bockmuehl and Tim Foster as the most significant book on Paul since E.P. Sanders's Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977).[9][10] Douglas Moo has said it is "one of the best books on Pauline theology in the last twenty years."[11] 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."[12] Paul and the Gift was also reviewed by scholars in popular publications such as Books & Culture[13] and First Things.[14]

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.[15]

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."[16]

Criticism of N.T. Wright[edit]

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.[17] 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.[18] 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).[19]

Selected works[edit]

  • Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE to 117 CE). 2nd ed. Cornerstones. London: T&T Clark, 2018.
  • Paul and the Gift. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.
  • The Last Years of Paul: Essays from the Tarragona Conference. Edited with Puig i Tàrrech and Jörg Frey. WUNT 352. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015.
  • Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews. WUNT 275. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Reprinted, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016.
  • Against Apion. Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary 10. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
  • Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment. Edited with Simon Gathercole. LNTS 335. London: T&T Clark, 2006.
  • (Ed.) Negotiating Diaspora: Jewish Strategies in the ROman Empire. LSTS 45. London: T&T Clark, 2004.
  • Diaspora. Translated by Paolo Bernardini. Introduzione allo studio della Bibbia 17. Brescia: Paideia, 2004.
  • Colossians and Philemon. Sheffield Guides. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997. Reprinted, T&T Clark Studies Guides. London: T&T Clark, 2004.
  • Early Christian Thought in Jewish Conext. Edited with John Philip McMurdo Sweet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE-117 CE). Berkley: University of California Press, 1996.
  • Obeying the Truth: A Study of Paul's Ethics in Galatians. London: T&T Clark, 1988.


  1. ^ "Paul and the Gift - John M. G. Barclay : Eerdmans". Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  2. ^ a b c d 'BARCLAY, Prof. John Martyn Gurney', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 16 Sept 2017
  3. ^ "Oliver Barclay: Leading light of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship". 2013-10-24. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  4. ^ "Professor John Barclay". Department of Theology and Religion. Durham University. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  5. ^ Barclay, J. M. G. (1985). "Obeying the truth: a study of Paul's exhortation in Galatians 5-6". E-Thesis Online Service. The British Library Board. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Professor JMG Barclay - Durham University". Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  7. ^ "About the Society | British New Testament Society". Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  8. ^ "NTS volume 56 issue 1 Cover and Front matter". New Testament Studies. 56 (01): f1–f2. 2010-01-01. doi:10.1017/S0028688509990233. ISSN 1469-8145.
  9. ^ Bockmuehl, Markus (August 2016). "Paul and the Gift". Theology. 119: 382–284.
  10. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "John Barclay's Paul and the Gift and the New Perspective on Paul". Themelios from The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  12. ^ Gupta, Nijay (2016-04-08). "Foster's High Praise for Barclay's Paul and the Gift (Gupta)". Crux Sola. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  13. ^ "Grace Redefined". Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  14. ^ "Perfecting Grace | Peter J. Leithart". Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  15. ^ Barclay, John M.G. (2015). Paul and the Gift. Eerdmans. pp. 70–75.
  16. ^ "What's So Dangerous About Grace?". Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  17. ^ ""The Paul Dialogue": Barclay & Wright". Larry Hurtado's Blog. 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  18. ^ Gupta, Nijay (2007-11-22). "SBL San Diego: Review Part 1: Sessions". Crux Sola. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  19. ^ "Professor JMG Barclay - Durham University". Retrieved 2016-08-24.