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William Barclay (theologian)

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Title: William Barclay (theologian)  
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Subject: Parable of the Master and Servant, Saint Andrew Press, William Barclay, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism, Eutychus
Collection: 1907 Births, 1978 Deaths, 20Th-Century Calvinist and Reformed Ministers, 20Th-Century Calvinist and Reformed Theologians, 20Th-Century Christian Universalists, Academics of the University of Glasgow, Alumni of the University of Glasgow, British Christian Pacifists, Calvinist Pacifists, Christian Universalist Theologians, Ministers of the Church of Scotland, People Educated at Dalziel High School, People from Caithness, People from Wick, Caithness, Presbyterian Universalists, Scottish Calvinist and Reformed Theologians, Scottish Christian Universalists, Scottish Radio Presenters, Scottish Television Presenters
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William Barclay (theologian)

William Barclay (born 5 December 1907 in Wick, Scotland; died 24 January 1978 in Glasgow, Scotland) was a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, Church of Scotland minister and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow.


  • Life 1
  • Religious views 2
  • Works 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Barclay's father was a bank manager. He attended Dalziel High School in Motherwell and then studied classics at the University of Glasgow 1925–1929,[1] before studying divinity. After being ordained in the Church of Scotland in 1933,[2] he was minister at Trinity Church Renfrew from 1933 to 1946, afterwards returning to the University of Glasgow as lecturer in New Testament from 1947, and as professor from 1963.

Religious views

Barclay's personal views, expressed in his own A Spiritual Autobiography (1977) and Clive L. Rawlins' William Barclay: prophet of goodwill: the authorised biography (1998) included:

  • scepticism concerning the Trinity: for example "Nowhere does the New Testament identify Jesus with God."[3]
  • belief in universal salvation: in his autobiography he wrote, "I am a convinced universalist. I believe that in the end all men will be gathered into the love of God."[4]
  • pacifism: "war is mass murder".[5]


While professor, he decided to dedicate his life to "making the best biblical scholarship available to the average reader". The eventual result was the Daily Study Bible, a set of 17 commentaries on the New Testament, published by Saint Andrew Press, the Church of Scotland's publishing house. Despite the series name, these commentaries do not set a program of regular study. Rather, they go verse by verse through Barclay's own translation of the New Testament, listing and examining every possible interpretation known to Barclay and providing all the background information he considered possibly relevant, all in layman's terms. The commentaries were fully updated with the help of William Barclay's son, Ronnie Barclay, in recent years and they are now known as the New Daily Study Bible series.

The 17 volumes of the set were all best-sellers and continue to be so to this day. A companion set giving a similar treatment to the Old Testament was endorsed but not written by Barclay. In 2008 Saint Andrew Press began taking the content of the New Daily Study Bibles and producing pocket-sized thematic titles called Insights. The Insights books are introduced by contemporary authors, broadcasters and scholars, including Nick Baines and Diane-Louise Jordan.[6]

Barclay wrote many other popular books, always drawing on scholarship but written in a highly accessible style. In The Mind of Jesus (1960) he states that his aim was "to make the figure of Jesus more vividly alive, so that we may know him better and love him more".

Barclay's books include:

  • The New Daily Study Bible (17 volumes covering the entire New Testament)
  • Insights (Series currently extending to 8 titles)
  • The Apostles' Creed
  • The Parables of Jesus
  • The Ten Commandments
  • Flesh And Spirit: An Examination of Galatians 5:19–23
  • The Plain Man Looks at the Lord's Prayer
  • Discovering Jesus
  • At the Last Trumpet: Jesus Christ and the End of Time
  • The Mind of Jesus
  • The Mind of St. Paul
  • The Gospels and Acts: Matthew, Mark and Luke
  • The Gospels and Acts: John and Acts
  • A Spiritual Autobiography
  • The Plain Man Looks at the Beatitudes
  • A Beginner's Guide to the New Testament
  • God's Young Church
  • The Old Law and the New Law
  • And He Had Compassion: The Miracles of Jesus (Judson Press)
  • Good Tidings of Great Joy
  • Great Themes of the New Testament
  • Growing in Christian Faith
  • Letters to the Seven Churches
  • The Lord is My Shepherd
  • The Lord's Prayer
  • The Lord's Supper
  • The New Testament
  • New Testament Words
  • The Promise of the Spirit
  • The Ten Commandments
  • We Have Seen the Lord!
  • Many Witnesses, One Lord
  • Fishers of Men


  1. ^ A man and his God intro by Allan Galloway to The Lord Is My Shepherd by William Barclay p1-8
  2. ^ Martin, Ralph P. (2007). "Barclay, William". In McKim, Donald K. Dictionary of major biblical interpreters (2nd ed.). Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic. p. 144.  
  3. ^ William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography, pg 50, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1977. cited in Anthony Buzzard, Charles F. Hunting The doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's self-inflicted wound 1999
  4. ^ William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography, pg 65–67, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1977.
  5. ^ Clive L. Rawlins William Barclay: prophet of goodwill : the authorized biography Fount, 1998 p83
  6. ^ Barclay, William (2009). Insights: Easter. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.  

The plain man's book of prayers

External links

  • Official site of the William Barclay Trust
  • Brief biography at Harper Collins (publishers)
  • The Enigmatic William Barclay, article in an online Christian magazine.
  • "I am a convinced universalist" by William Barclay
  • A collection of quotations from William Barclay.
  • Publisher of some of Barclay's major books
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