The Greatest Scholar In The UK

A while back, I asked the question "Who is the greatest scholar in the United States?" The overall consensus seemed to lean towards Dr. Gordon Fee (even though he has taught and lived a great deal outside of the U.S.). So, I thought I'd ask a similar question about scholarship on the ohther side of the pond: Who is the greatest biblical scholar in the UK?


  1. Options:
    Francis Watson
    NT Wright
    Jimmy Dunn
    Charles Cranfield
    CK Barrett
    Morna Hooker
    Howard Marshall

    Anybody else?

  2. I agree with Daniel`s list but would include John Rogerson

  3. It'd probably have to be someone like Dunn who I see listed in every book I read. It seems no matter who it is they're interacting with Dunn.
    There are a lot of other really great scholars but a lot of them don't write that many books.

    Bryan L

  4. A scholar isn't great because he writes alot of books (eg NT Wright is no brilliant scholar) and a scholar doesn't have to write alot of books to be great. I think that if Dunn is cited in all the books you read Bryan, it is more a reflection of what you read. Dunn is quoted in a few of the books I have, often unfavourably. There are many scholars who do great work (and many who do not). I wouldn't pick any as the greatest of all.

  5. Wow, why would you not consider Wright a brilliant scholar? Resurrection of the Son of God might be the best theology book of the last 20 years. He has huge influence on almost all theological traditions and their academic divisions and his dissertation on Romans was groundbreaking along his Dunn and Watson in the early 80s. He does wright a ton of popular level stuff, and I certainly do not agree with all of his positions, but much of his work has made tremendous advances in NT study.

    Well of the 7 I listed I cannot choose just one, they are all tops, so for me 7 way tie!

  6. Steph,
    Someone can hardly read Pauline literature today and not find interaction with Dunn and Wright. I think you are wrong to suggest that Wright is not a brilliant scholar, dead wrong. He may not be your favorite but he has certainly been influential and has made tremendous progress in NT and Pauline studies. Come on, give credit where credit is due. Sure, there are a great many scholars who exist but have not published or are not as well known--and sometimes that is because they want it this way...like David Bauer, the great Matthean scholar here in the States; he's incredible but doesn't publish much because he really loves making time for his students.

    Certainly, CK Barrett has been influential as well. I might add Esler to Daniel's list, that is, if we're making a "list" instead of choosing one person. As for my top pick, I'm still not sure. However, I really like Esler's work, as I noted above.

  7. Of course he appeals to the poloi - he has a particularly appealing wrap. That doesn't make him great. Was Hitler great? But he suffers the same flaws as some other evangelical scholars. I'm glad you called him a theologian though. He's certainly no biblical historian. He's very poetic but often his poetry doesn't make sense and it seems he's making it up. But then should we be surprised when there is this from the beginning of his book on Jesus...?

    ‘If what I write could help in any way towards the establishment of justice and peace there [Israel and Palestine], or indeed anywhere else, I would be deeply grateful.’ NT Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, p. xv

    Is he really going to save the world? He's not a patch on Thiselton as a theologian.

    And come on, I'm not alone in this. Many, many respected scholars have refuted him and will refute him. I think we need to get over this hero worship thing of scholars whose work confirms our beliefs.

    I can't complain about Barrett at all (plus he's my DrVater's DrVater...) but Esler and the Context group have a grossly distorted view of the "Arab" world and ancient Mediterranean culture. There's a book just been released which deals with them very succinctly.

  8. May I brag...all of these on Daniel's list except for Marshall are associated with Durham.

    What about Graham Stanton or maybe Richard Bauckham?

  9. Ben, yes you may brag.

    Steph, I want to suggest to you that you are grossly in error here. Your "save the world" and "the need to confirm our beliefs" comments are just way off the mark. Clearly, you have been biased and will remain that way but that is only to your detriment. Your loss!!! Actually, if you teach, it is to the detriment of your students too. The thing that bugs me, and I've noticed this trend as of late, is that if a great scholar is able to communicate across the spectrum and take theology and exegesis to the layity, they are criticized. Here, in this case, we are talking of NT Wright. In the States, the same can be said of Witherington. They become popular and all of a sudden their credibility is thrown out the window? This is ridiculous!!! This is what we need to get over. Look, your over-exaggerating is uncalled for and unfounded. Nobody has ever claimed that Wright will "save the world" or that he is right about "everything". These are gross over-caricaturizations. This is bad scholarship. Again, if you want to overlook the research of these people, it is to your detriment and if you ever teach, it is to the detriment of your students. Enough of the caricaturing. Let's be honest here and give credit where it is due.

  10. Michael,

    I would have to go with several in no particular order:

    Jimmy Dunn, N.T. Wright, I. Howard Marshall, John Barclay, Markus Bockmuehl, Morna Hooker, Graham Stanton, Francis Watson, John Nolland, and Anthony Thiselton.

    I think if you were speaking as "influential" both within scholarly circles and also the wider public, Dunn, Wright, and Marshall would be the top 3 without a shadow of doubt.

  11. Ben,
    Yes, how could I forget Richard Bauckham? I change my vote to an 8-way tie now! By the way, if you could try to keep the all-star class at Durham for the next 2 years, I hope to join you.

  12. Matthew,
    Good call.

    I'm sure there are more that we've missed. But if you "had" to choose a #1 who would it be?

  13. Not my loss, Michael. And no, I am not being dishonest. I don't think he deserves the credit you give him. I have read all his works. It was he himself who said he hoped what he wrote would help establish world peace. But that is just indicative of some of the nonsense he writes. I would never push my viewpoint on students. The idea is that they read everything and make up their own minds, isn't it. One thing about him is that he is very much admired by very fierce defenders who get very cross when he is criticised. Perhaps you have heard of his fanclub 'Wrightsaid'? They discuss his writing and sermons, keeping up to date with what he is doing. You might also like to discuss him with at least half a dozen esteemed scholars, attending the Biblioblog dinner next year that Jim is organising, who do not think he is a "great scholar" either. C.K. Barrett, Tony Thiselton, Philip Goodchild, John Milbank, Richard Bell.... all far better theologians than Wright. And biblical historians are another list completely.

  14. again, you misunderstand and continue with caricaturing. where did i say that you or anyone else forced stuff on students? nowhere!!! the point was that they will miss out if someone of wright's caliber is totally ignored by you.

  15. "Wright's caliber"? Of course I don't ignore anyone of Wright's calibre. I often cite Wright, Evans, Craig, Witherington. And come on Michael, did I say that you said I forced stuff on people? No. You suggested my bias might be detrimental to students. I suggest it cannot be. Students are encouraged to explore the evidence themselves, read secondary sources of all types and create their own hypotheses. I think you are being over sensitive, Michael. As I suggest, why don't you take it up at the SBL dinner.

  16. Steph,
    I'm not sure I want to be an apologist for Wright. Certainly, I don't plan to spend time at the bible bloggers dinner making a case for him; there are other things I'd rather talk about. And if someone like Ben Blackwell comes again next year, who is Wright's assistant, I'm not sure our convo would go in the direction you want. Besides, if his remarks towards Tilling are any indication, I already know what Mr. West will say. Anyway, that's what the blog's for.

  17. I'm not talking about Ben Blackwell or any other phd students. I'm talking about at least half a dozen respected senior scholars I know on the list who are aware of Wright's flaws and the limits of his usefulness as a historian. I shouldn't think they'd want to waste time talking about Wright either. Perhaps you could just make yourself aware of more published critique of him. He is great for the church. He is not great for the furthering of historical study while he ignores, for example in the 'Son of God', the relationship of Christian traditions with other traditions and is unable to treat the Christian texts with the same degree of skepticism he applies to non-Christian traditions. This is a dubious practice for a historian.

  18. Steph, I sense a tone of sarcasm or cynicism.

    That side note taken from the preface of JVG is just that, a side note in a preface to a much larger work that does not have as its GOAL stability in the Middle East. It is not a bad thing, and it is actually honest, for a scholar to admit concerns that he has related to his work. It doesn't taint his work unless you then do not give it an honest reading.

    So if you claim that Wright is a bad historian then maybe you should cite some historical work of his--and just because he may holds to the credibility of the canonical gospels over others doesn't necessarily mean that he arrived to his conclusions only by following preconceived notions he would have as a Christian scholar.

    And the question was meant to spark discussion on a great "scholar," which does not always equal "historian"--with the supposed but unattainable objectiveness that you seem to endorse. Wright's works are theological, of course, but that does not diminish his status as a biblical scholar whether or not you agree with his methodologies, conclusions, etc.

  19. Nathan, Thanks for your thought out remarks. You are spot on.

    Steph, I think Nathan has hit the nail on the head in so many ways. Nobody has ever claimed Wright was perfect, the Messiah, never-wrong, etc. And so what if he hopes to accomplish peace through his writings!? Yes, the can accomplish other things too, but why not that? I'm sure you realize that prefaces and introductions are usually the last part of a book to be written. Thus, I think you misunderstand and misread the introductory quote. Probably, after Wright finished the book and was writing, he saw that this could possibly be one of the results of his work; it wasn't that this matter forced him to write things just to fit his beliefs or views. It seems to me that you've gone way off into left field with this subject through your unfair caricaturing, misreading and missing the point of the initial question. That said, thanks for sharing...and Happy Holidays.

  20. We say Happy Christmas here - it's a Christian festival and let it remain so. Cynicism yes - I don't see JVG being a hit in the Middle East so far and having written such a book I don't see him anticipating it either. I know when to write prefaces thank you, which is precisely why it seems strange that Wright could perceive his completed work in this way. I think we all wish we could achieve peace in the Middle East but more is needed than legitimising Jesus in history. Therefore his statement sounded good but didn't really make sense. I referred to his whole methodological approach in RSOG which is dubious for a historical scholar, and this has often been noted in published responses and conversations at conferences for example. It is an approach that would be laughed out of any other social scientific discipline - it is not credible history. Other Christian scholars are capable of comparing Christian and non Christian texts equally - Markus Bockmuehl is an example of an excellent Christian biblical historian. I think you use 'charicaturing' rather alot to describe something I am not in fact doing. I have not misread anything and I give credit where credit is due, just not to Wright.

    Happy Christmas.

  21. Steph:

    You said:
    "I think that if Dunn is cited in all the books you read Bryan, it is more a reflection of what you read"

    I think you are right. I can only judge by what I've read and I am in no way qualified to make an informed judgment on every field in Biblical studies or theology nor have I read every scholar in those field (or really even a fraction of them) to be able to compare them all with each other. I don't know who has. I was only noting that in the two subjects I am most interested in studying, Paul and Jesus I see Dunn showing up a lot as both a sparring partner and an ally. He seems to be very influential in those two fields even when people don't always agree with him. It's quite a feat to make a name for yourself in just one of those fields much less two.

    I was wondering what you think of Dunn's "Christianity in the Making" series? I've been hoping to get around to reading them at some point down the road.

    Anyway, if you were to look at the field of Biblical studies that you are most interested in and pick a living scholars who you think has been the most influential or who is constantly setting the conversation or direction and who all the others are forced to interact with who would it be?

    BTW it's Merry Christmas here ; )

    Bryan L

  22. Hi Bryan: I prefer Dunn's earlier work on Christology. I found that very helpful a long time ago. I have more problems with his more recent books particularly where he deals with the so-called "Q" material. Read it with a critical eye and you'll gain alot - just mind the footnotes. He's a bit generous with those! In my field you have to interact with Kloppenborg, Farmer, Goulder or Casey. I only agree most of the time with one of them of course.

    I think properly it's Merry Christmas here too.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year:-) The Muslim communities and other faiths are happy to recognise the Christian day as Christmas here.

  23. Belatedly and rather pointlessly, but because a friend reminded me ... to repeat: Wright the Christian apologist of dubious scholarly capablilities, does not treat the Christian texts with the same degree of skepticism he applies to non Christian texts which he can dismiss as 'no doubt fictitious'. Never does he question the historical reliability of a resurrected Jesus going around eating and drinking, or dead men rising from the tombs in Matt 27.52-23. Nor does he account for their whereabouts now.

    Perhaps as Philip Davies said, Wright knows it's true because he is one of those dead men.