28 August 2011

Remembering C K Barrett

Following the sad news of his death, his colleagues and friends remember the Revd. Professor Charles Kingsley Barrett, Methodist minister and widely respected theologian.

Professor James D G Dunn escribes his colleague as "the greatest UK commentator on New Testament writings since J. B. Lightfoot, late nineteenth century (appropriately) Bishop of Durham. His first large scale commentary, on John's Gospel, was initially overshadowed by C. H. Dodd's major contributions on John, but has long outlasted Dodd's work. The esteem in which Kingsley's commentary is held internationally is indicated by the fact that the second edition of his John commentary was translated into German and included in the leading German New Testament commentary series.

"His contribution on Romans, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians in the Black's New Testament series ensured that the series became established and highly valued. And his two volume commentary on the Acts of the Apostles in the leading British New Testament commentary series (the International Criticial Commentary), completed after his retirement, climaxed his work as a commentator on the New Testament and ensured that his name will be revered by students of the New Testament the world over for decades to come. No one else has completed a series of major commentaries on what can justly be regard as the heart of the New Testament - John to 2 Corinthians. He was indeed the J. B. Lightfoot of the 20th century. His ministry as a Methodist minister in Darlington and the northeast continued for nearly 70 years.

"Although in post as Lecturer then Professor in the Department of Theology in Durham University from 1945 to 1982, he was regularly in the pulpit of Methodist chapels across the northeast every Sunday, often twice a Sunday. His preparation for a small village chapel was as thorough as for large-sized congregations, and 'Mr Barrett' was revered in almost countless chapels in Durham county and further afield.

"The C. K. Barrett Lectureship, set up on his 90th birthday, challenges lecturers to bridge the range between academy and chapel as he did so successfully for so long and to the academic and spiritual benefit of so many."

Professor Morna Hooker gave a paper at a special reception to celebrate Professor Barrett's 90th birthday. She recalls the man who was her doctoral supervisor, a friend and colleague since the late 1950's:

"Kingsley Barrett was a remarkable man. He was the last of a great line of notable British biblical scholars. And like others among them, he combined great scholarship with modesty. Very few - if any - members of the congregations of those Durham village chapels where he faithfully preached over so many years would have realized that they were listening to the foremost New Testament scholar in the country. Nevertheless, they knew that they were listening to the gospel, and gained great benefit from his exposition.

"I first met Kingsley in the autumn of 1958... Manchester had (at my request) appointed him my doctoral supervisor after T.W. Manson's death, but - modest as ever - he refused to treat me as a student. At the end of the year he persuaded the appointing committee to elect me to a Research Fellowship, and later he let me do a little lecturing for him while he was on sabbatical.

"So he is responsible for getting me started on the academic ladder. And always he found time for me, however busy he might be. But that is just my story, and there are many of his former research students who can thank Kingsley for what they are today.

"His influence extended, of course, far beyond the sphere of his own students, since thousands of students world-wide have been brought up on his books - in particular his commentaries on John and Paul. And his influence on Methodism has been extensive - amazingly so, for someone who spent almost his entire working life in a University! But that's because he never forgot he was first and foremost a Methodist minister."

Darlington District Chair the Revd. Ruth Gee pays tribute:

"Kingsley Barrett is held in great affection and respect by the Methodist people in County Durham. His scholarship and skill as a teacher of theology is widely known and celebrated and was rooted and grounded in his faith in Jesus and knowledge of the unfailing love of God.

"As a Methodist Minister, Kingsley never tired of preaching the gospel and, to the end of his life, was leading worship in the Durham area and further afield. He loved to preach in the churches in the former mining villages around Durham and would share the gospel wherever he was. In his last weeks in hospital the patients and staff on the wards heard the good news as Kingsley spoke of God and sang the hymns of Charles Wesley.

"Kingsley cared deeply for his family and friends and those who met him were soon aware of his humility, integrity, his gentle humour and his genuine interest in them and care for them.

"In his home church, North Road Methodist Church in Durham, Kingsley was a friend and a companion on the Christian journey. To his students he was an inspiring and challenging teacher. To all he was a caring pastor. Above all he was a disciple of Jesus Christ. He will be greatly missed." 

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