Skip to main content

Professor John Barclay

Lightfoot Professor of Divinity

AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology and ReligionAbbey House 104+44 (0) 191 33 43951
Member of the Centre for the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean and the Near East  
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies  


After undergraduate studies (at Queens', Cambridge) in Classics and Theology, I did my PhD (on Galatians) at Cambridge, before becoming Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer and then Professor at Glasgow University (1984-2003). I have been at Durham as Lightfoot Professor of Divinity since 2003, delighted to be part of a very strong team of scholars in New Testament and early Judaism, and a lively research community of postgraduate students. During my Glasgow years, I worked on the social history of early Christianity (especially in Pauline churches) and researched and published on Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora (1996). From that I moved to a translation and commentary on one of Josephus' most interesting texts, his defence of Judaism called Against Apion (2007), which involved me in study of Judaism in the Roman world and some elements of post-colonial theory.

I have put together a collection of essays on Pauline Christians and Diaspora Judaism called Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), since published in paperback in 2016 by Eerdmans. This includes some hitherto inaccessible pieces and some new ones, including a revised version of my response to N.T. Wright on Paul and the Roman empire ('Why the Roman empire was insignificant to Paul').

My most recent major book is a study Pauline theology from the perspective of his theology of grace, called Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015). If we read Paul's theology of grace in the light of ancient notions of gift, I believe we can understand in a new way his relationship to Judaism, his theology of the Christ-event and his ethic of reciprocal generosity. Paul and the Gift explores the theological and social significance of the incongruity of grace in the formation of innovative communities, going beyond Sanders and the current antithesis between old and new perspectives on Paul. This book, focusing on divine gift/grace, is the first of a two-part series. The second (currently in the reserach stage) will be on human gift-reciprocity and the construction of community in Paul's letters, in the context of social reciprocity in antiquity and as a challenge to some (in my view problematic) notions of 'altruism' that have taken root in the modern world.

I have also published recently a very short introduction to Paul and his legacy called Paul: A Very Brief History (London: SPCK, 2017).

At undergraduate and Masters levels I teach a number of topics in the New Testament and early Christianity: gospel passion narratives, Pauline theology, the social formation of the early church, and (at Masters level) the history of interpretation of Paul (from the beginning to today).

I have had a long history of supervising postgraduate (MA and PhD) students, bringing 46 doctoral students thus far to successful completion. I am currently supervising doctoral students on a range of topics including: hermeneutical issues in women's response to Ephesians 5.21-31; Pseudo-Philo and Romans 9-11; sensitivity to the views of outsiders in the Pauline corpus; Paul and the Stoic notion of adiaphora; Christ and the ethic of love in Galatians; the social level and social experiences of believers in Thessalonica and Corinth; the paradox of strength-in-weakness in 2 Corinthians; and a comparison between Paul and Philodemus on community upbuilding.

I am open to supervising research in a range of fields relating to the New Testament and early Judaism and am happy to respond to email enquiries at any stage of interest or application. Most years I am also present at the SBL Annual meeting and am glad to meet prospective students there.

I am currently President of TRS-UK, the body that represents and co-ordinates all the Departments of Theology and Religion/Religious Studies in the UK, together with twelve subject associations.. Out of the study I enjoy my family, cycling, music, and watching rugby. Having spent three sabbatical periods in New Zealand (University of Otago, Dunedin), I am also a fan of the All Blacks!


Authored book

  • Barclay, John M.G. (2017). Paul: A Brief History. SPCK.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2015). Paul and the Gift. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2011). Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
  • Barclay, John M. G. (2007). Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary, Volume 10: Against Apion. Leiden: Brill.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (1997). Colossians and Philemon. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (1996). Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE - 117 CE). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (1988). Obeying the Truth. A Study of Paul’s Ethics in Galatians. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Book review

Chapter in book

  • Barclay, John M.G. (2022). Remember the Poor: Early Christian Reception of a Jewish Communal Responsibility. In The Reception of Jewish Tradition in the Social Imagination of the Early Christians. Barclay, John M.G. & Crabbe, Kylie T & T Clark. 8: 197-212.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2020). What Makes Paul Challenging Today? In The New Cambridge Companion to St Paul. Longenecker, B.W. Cambridge University Press. 200-218.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2020). The Gift Perspective on Paul. In Perspectives on Paul: Five Views. McKnight, S. & Oropeza, B.J. Baker Academic. 219-236.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2018). Ioudaios: Ethnicity and Translation. In Ethnicity, Race, Religion: Identities and Ideologies in Early Jewish and Christian Texts, and in Modern Biblical Interpretation. Hockey, K.M. & Horrell, D.G. T & T Clark. 46-58.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2018). Paul, Reciprocity and Giving with the Poor. In Practicing with Paul: Reflections on Paul and Practices of Ministry in Honor of Susan G. Eastman. Burroughs, P.R. Cascade Books. 15-29.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2017). Benefitting Others and Benefit to Oneself: Seneca and Paul on 'Altruism'. In Paul and Seneca in Dialogue. Dodson, J.R. & Briones, D.E. Brill. 109-26.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2017). Crucifixion as Wisdom: Exploring the Ideology of a Disreputable Social Movement. In The Wisdom and Foolishness of God: First Corinthians 1-2 in Theoogical Exploration. Chalamet, C & Askani, H-C Fortress Press. 15-32.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2016). Koinonia and the Social Dynamics of Paul's Letter to Philemon. In La Lettre à Philémon et l'Ecclésiologie Paulinienne = Philemon and Pauline Ecclesiology. Marguerat, Daniel Peeters. 22: 151-69.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2016). Apocalyptic Allegiance and Disinvestment in the World: A Reading of 1 Corinthians 7:25-35. In Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination. Blackwell, B.C., Goodrich, J.K. & Maston, J. Fortress Press. 257-74.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2015). The Text of Galatians and the Theology of Luther. In Reformation Readings of Paul. Allen, M. & Linebaugh, J. IVP Academic. 49-69.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2015). The Last Years of Paul: What are the Issues? In The Last Years of Paul. Puig i Tarrech, Armand, Barclay, John M.G. & Frey, Joerg Mohr Siebeck. 352: 1-14.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2014). Grace and the Countercultural Reckoning of Worth: Community Construction in Galatians 5-6. In Galatians and Christian Theology. Elliott, M.W., Hafemann, S.J., Wright, N.T. & Frederick, J. Baylor University Press. 306-317.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2014). Humanity under Faith. In Beyond Bultmann: Reckoning a New Testament Theology. Longenecker, B.W. & Parsons, M.C. Baylor University Press. 79-99.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2014). Constructing a Dialogue: 4 Ezra and Paul on the Mercy of God. In Anthropologie und Ethik im Frühjudentum und im Neuen Testament. Konradt, M. & Schläpfer, E. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. 322: 3-22.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2014). 'Jews' and 'Christians' in the Eyes of Roman Authors c. 100 CE. In Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries: How to Write their Histories. Tomson, P.J. & Schwartz, J. Brill. 313-326.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2013). 'Because he was rich he became poor': Translation, Exegesis and Hermeneutics in the Reading of 2 Cor 8.9. In Theologizing in the Corinthian Conflict: Studies in the Exegesis and Theology of 2 Corinthians. Bieringer, R., Ibita, M., Kurek-Chomycz, D. & Vollmer, T. Peeters. 16: 331-344.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2013). Under Grace: The Christ-Gift and the Construction of a Christian Habitus. In Apocalyptic Paul: Cosmos and Anthropos in Romans 5-8. Gaventa, B. Baylor University Press. 59-76.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2011). Believers and the "Last Judgment" in Paul: Rethinking Grace and Recompense. In Eschatologie - Eschatology: The Sixth Durham-Tübingen Research Symposium: Eschatology in Old Testament, Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (Tübingen, September, 2009). Eckstein, H.-J., Landmesser, C. & Lichtenberger, H. Mohr Siebeck. 195-208.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2011). Paul, Judaism and the Jewish People. In The Blackwell Companion to Paul. Westerholm, S. Wiley-Blackwell. 188-201.
  • Barclay, J. M G. (2010). Unnerving Grace: Approaching Romans 9-11 from The Wisdom of Solomon. In Between Gospel and Election: Explorations in the Interpretation of Romans 9-11. Wilk, F. & Wagner, J. R. Mohr Siebeck. 91-109.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2009). Josephus’ Contra Apionem as Jewish Apologetics. In Critique and Apologetics: Jews, Christians and Pagans in Antiquity. Jacobsen, A.-C., Ulrich, J. & Brakke, D. Frankurt am Main: Peter Lang. 265-82.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2009). Grace within and Beyond Reason: Philo and Paul in Dialogue. In Paul, Grace and Freedom. Essays in Honour of John K. Riches. Middleton, P., Paddison, A. & Wenell, K. London: T&T Clark. 9-21.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2008). Grace and the Transformation of Agency in Christ. In Redefining First-Century Jewish and Christian Identities. Udoh, F. E. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 372-89.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2008). Manna and the Circulation of Grace: A Study of 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. In The Word Leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in Honour of Richard B. Hays. Wagner, J. R., Rowe, C. K. & Grieb, A. K. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 409-26.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2007). “Offensive and Uncanny” Jesus and Paul on the Caustic Grace of God. In Jesus and Paul Reconnected. Still, T. D. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1-17.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2007). Constructing Judean Identity after 70 C.E.: A Study of Josephus’ Against Apion. In Identity and Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean. Crook, Z. E. & Harland, P. A. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 99-112.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2007). Snarling Sweetly: Josephus on Images and Idolatry. In Memory in the Bible and Antiquity. Barton, S. C., Stuckenbruch, L. T. & Wold, B. G. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. 365-85.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2006). 'By the Grace of God I Am what I Am: Grace and Agency in Philo and Paul. In Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment. Barclay, J. M. G. & Gathercole, S. J. London.: T & T Clark. 140-157.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. (2006). Money and Meetings: Group Formation among Diaspora Jews and Early Christians. In Vereine, Synagogen und Gemeinden im kaiserzeitlichen Kleinasien. Gutsfeld, A. & Koch, D.-A. Tübigen: Mohr Siebeck. 113-27.

Edited book

  • Barclay, John M.G. & Crabbe, Kylie (2022). The Reception of Jewish Tradition in the Social Imagination of the Early Christians. The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries 8. T & T Clark.
  • Barclay, John M.G. (2021). Dying with Christ - New Life in Hope: Romans 5,12 - 8,39. Colloquium Oecumenicum Paulinum 24. Peeters.
  • Barclay, John M.G. & White. B.G. (2020). The New Testament in Comparison. Library of New Testament Studies. T & T Clark.
  • Puig i Tarrech, Armand, Barclay, John M.G. & Frey, Joerg (2015). The Last Years of Paul. WUNT. Mohr Siebeck.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. & Gathercole, S. (2006). Divine and Human Agency in Paul and his Cultural Environment. London: T&T Clark.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (2004). Negotiating Diaspora: Jewish Strategies in the Roman Empire. Library of Second Temple Studies. London: T&T Clark.
  • Barclay, J.M.G. (1998). Frequently Asked Questions on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Glasgow: Trinity St. Mungo Press.
  • Barclay, J. M. G. & Sweet, John P. M. (1996). Early Christian Thought in its Jewish Context. Cambridge: CUP.

Journal Article

Supervision students