William Barclay was a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, Church of Scotland minister, and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow. He was born on December 5, 1907 in Wick, Caithness, Scotland and died on January 24, 1978 in Glasgow, Scotland at the age of 70.
Barclay is best known for his Daily Study Bible series, a collection of commentaries on the New Testament published between 1955-1975. He wrote a 17 volume set of commentaries that provided background context and explanations for the books of the New Testament. His commentaries focused on making the New Testament more understandable for the average reader. He emphasized the relevance of the New Testament teachings for modern day life.
Some key facts about William Barclay:
– Born on December 5, 1907 in Wick, Caithness, Scotland.
– Studied at the University of Glasgow and was later appointed as Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism there in 1953.
– Ordained as a Church of Scotland minister in 1933. He served as parish minister in various charges before taking up his professorship.
– Wrote over 50 books, including Bible commentaries, translations of New Testament books, and books on Jesus, ethics, and theology.
– His Daily Study Bible series on the New Testament sold over seven million copies worldwide. It provided insightful commentary for lay people.
– Hosted religious discussion programs on BBC radio and television. This made his theological views widely accessible.
– Considered a theological liberal. He focused on making the Bible understandable and relevant.
– Died on January 24, 1978 in Glasgow at the age of 70.
Barclay was known for holding liberal theological views that were controversial at the time. Here are some examples of his unorthodox perspectives:
– Questioned the virgin birth of Jesus. He suggested it was a legend that expressed the conviction that God was at work in Jesus.
– Rejected the inerrancy of scripture. He did not believe the Bible was free from error.
– Argued that parts of the Gospel accounts were shaped by early Christian preaching. He saw the Gospels as expressing the theology of the early church rather than historical facts.
– Viewed miracles in the Bible as stories told to underline a truth, not literal events. He focused on their meaning, not historicity.
– Described heaven and hell as states of being, not physical places. Barclay argued against a literal view of the afterlife.
– Presented Jesus as the ideal human who embodied love, not necessarily as God in flesh. His Christology tended to be low.
– Emphasized God’s love and forgiveness. He rejected the concept of penal substitutionary atonement whereby Jesus died to appease God’s wrath.
Despite his controversial conclusions, Barclay retained a deep commitment to sharing the essence of the Christian faith. His Daily Study Bible series opened up the meaning of scripture for millions of readers around the world.
Here are some of Barclay’s most significant published works:
– Daily Study Bible Series (1955-1975) – His highly accessible commentaries on the books of the New Testament. This was his most popular and influential work.
– The Mind of Jesus (1960) – Examined Jesus’ teaching and life to understand his wisdom, values, and beliefs.
– A New Testament Wordbook (1955) – Provided background on key terms in the New Testament to shed light on their meaning.
– The Ten Commandments for Today (1962) – Explored how the Ten Commandments are relevant to modern society and ethics.
– William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography (1975) – Barclay outlined the development of his religious perspectives and thought.
– Many Witnesses, One Lord (1963) – Traced the history and origins of the New Testament.
– Ethics in a Permissive Society (1971) – Discussed how to live ethically in the context of a morally lax culture.
– Introducing the Bible (1972) – A guide to the background and history of the Bible aimed at newcomers.
– Train Up a Child: Educational Ideals in the Ancient World (1959) – Surveyed approaches to education in the biblical era.
William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible commentaries remain his most widely read works. These volumes made the message of the New Testament accessible for average readers. Barclay focused on explaining the biblical text in a clear, understandable, and practical manner. His commentaries contained:
– Introductory sections putting each book in context
– Passage-by-passage commentary explaining the meaning
– Word studies highlighting definitions and nuance
– Cultural and historical background to shed light on the text
– Life applications relevant for modern readers
– Maps, charts, and illustrations for enhanced understanding
William Barclay left behind a significant legacy through both his written works and his radio and television ministries. Here are some ways he made an impact:
– Introduced millions of people around the world to a thoughtful engagement with the Bible through his accessible commentaries.
– Promoted greater biblical literacy and understanding of Christian theology beyond only clergy.
– Challenged traditional interpretations of scripture and creeds through his unorthodox perspectives.
– Created a model for mass media as a tool for education and discussion about spirituality.
– Insisted that biblical texts must connect with modern minds and contexts to stay relevant.
– Democratized access to advanced biblical criticism outside of academia through his popular works.
– Shaped the faith of both lay people and clergy through his thoughtful communication style.
– Emphasized love, tolerance, forgiveness, and service as central gospel messages for Christians.
Though controversial in his conclusions at times, William Barclay played an important part in renewing interest in the study of the Bible in the 20th century. He made scholarly criticism accessible to ordinary people seeking to learn more about their faith. His legacy continues through those who have been impacted by his still widely read works.