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

Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Supervision students