It was a joy and delight for doctoral students of Professor John Barton, the former Oriel and Laing Chair of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture (1991–2014), to gather in Oxford in June 2018 to celebrate John’s 70th birthday. They came from far and wide – the UK, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the USA, and Canada – to offer short papers on biblical topics at a symposium held in John’s honour.
John is well-known in Oxford’s Faculty of Theology and Religion (an association lasting over 50 years), and in the wider worlds of Biblical Studies, Theology, and the Church. It was fitting to enjoy an enriching day of presentations and lively discussions that focussed on John’s specialist area, Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, in which the topics echoed many of his own interests: method, interpretation, theology, prophecy, ethics, and canon.
In grateful appreciation, John offered some wise and witty reflections at the end of the day, including the following limerick sent to him by an Oxford colleague, Dr Mary Marshall:
He’s one of John Wordsworth’s inheritors;
At Campion, sort of a peritus.
Happy Birthday to he – of St Cross, OUP,
Keble, Merton, and Oriel – emeritus!
At dinner, John’s successor, Professor Hindy Najman, with whom John has collaborated, expressed, on everyone’s behalf, warm recognition and heartfelt thanks to John for embodying ‘wisdom and discernment’, among his many other qualities.
The organisers, Hywel Clifford and Megan Daffern, would like to express their thanks to Dr Arjen Bakker for his assistance on the day, to Campion Hall (now John’s academic ‘home’) for hosting the event – Master James Hanvey SJ for the welcome, and Sarah Gray for the year-long planning – and to Oxford’s Faculty of Theology and Religion for their support.