Barr, James 1924-2006

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Barr, James 1924-2006


See index for CA sketch: Born March 20, 1924, in Glasgow, Scotland; died October 14, 2006. Educator, minister, and author. Barr was a highly respected scholar of the Old Testament, Hebrew, and religious fundamentalism. After serving in the Royal Navy during World War II, he graduated from Edinburgh University with an M.A. in 1948 and a B.D. in 1951. Barr then worked as a minister in Israel for three years before pursuing an academic career. During the 1950s, he taught biblical literature at Presbyterian College in Montréal, Quebec, and then at Edinburgh University. During the early 1960s, he was a professor of Old Testament literature and theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, and from 1965 to 1976 he taught Semitic languages and literature at the University of Manchester. Barr next went to Oxford as Oriel Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, and from 1978 until 1989 held the prestigious post of Regius Professor of Hebrew. He then surprised many of his colleagues by leaving Oxford to teach Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University until he retired in 1998. As a scholar, Barr began his career promisingly with the publication of his acclaimed first book, The Semantics of Biblical Language (1961). He asserted that scholars too often lend weightier meanings to language in the Bible than its authors intended. He continued to criticize biblical scholarship in Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament (1968) and other books. Barr thus became renowned for his interpretive skills, especially of the Old Testament and other Hebrew writings. Later in his career, however, he shifted his focus to fundamentalism, composing such books as Fundamentalism (1978) and Beyond Fundamentalism (1984). Among his many other writings are The Bible in the Modern World (1973), The Scope and Authority of the Bible (1981), The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality (1993), and History and Ideology in the Old Testament: Biblical Studies at the End of a Millennium (2000).



Times (London, England), October 18, 2006, p. 71.