Sunday, August 28, 2011

R.I.P. C.K. Barrett

On Friday afternoon I decided to post something by C.K. Barrett. Before I got around to it, the news came that he passed away at the age of 94. Barrett was one of my academic heroes. He published his first book in 1947, his magisterial two-volume commentary on Acts 50 years later in 1994 and 1998. Barrett's The Gospel of John and Judaism was originally delivered as a series of lectures in German. The preface to his Romans commentary describes the "sustained enthusiasm and even excitement" he experienced reading Luther's 400 page Scholia on Medieval Latin. Robert Morgan's tribute to Barrett at 90*, mentions Barrett's close familiarity with Barth's Dogmatics; his preface to Romans says of reading Barth's commentary: "If in those [undergraduate] days, and since, I remained and have continued to be a Christian, I owe the fact in large measure to that book, and to those in Cambridge who introduced it to me." One of "those in Cambridge" was Francis Noel Davey, about whom Barrett wrote:
This is the first book I have published with S.P.C.K. since the death of its former Director, Dr Francis Noel Davey, and I cannot send it out without recording a sense of obligation that I shall never lose. It was in 1936 that I carried my first New Testament essay along Trumpington Street from Pembroke to his rooms in Corpus, and began an association that grew steadily in depth and in warmth. Information about the New Testament I had to collect for myself, but he more than anyone else helped me to see that to collect it, however great the labour, and to understand it, and the book itself, was the most responsible and rewarding task any scholar could undertake. He published my first book; and through the years a letter from him, the rare opportunity of conversation, have never failed to rekindle the flame. I can no longer thank him; but I am thankful to God for him. - C. K. Barrett, The Gospel of John and Judaism (London: SPCK, 1975), ix.
Barrett was a fine writer and he wrote a lot, and what he wrote is still worth reading because it was backed by scholarly substance. He had unmatched scholarly chops.
*Morgan's tribute to Barrett, published in The Expository Times 199.6 (2008): 226-228 is behind a pay wall, but it is well worth looking up a library copy.
**Also, I have reluctantly updated my list of nonagenarian NT scholars.

Update: Links to obituaries here.

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