Wednesday, October 18, 2006

James Barr

James Barr died on October 14, according to a report on the Agade list. Barr was the author of many important works in biblical studies, most notably The Semantics of Biblical Language (1961), Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament (1968), Fundamentalism (1978), History and Ideology in the Old Testament (2000), and others too numerous to mention. All of them are marked by keen intelligence, vigor of thought, and a clear prose style.

I had lunch with Barr once, years ago, at the UCLA faculty club, with Stanislav Segert and Vinton Dearing. I don't remember what was talked of, though I am sure that, callow grad student that I was, my own tongue remained tied throughout the course of the meal. I do remember that Dearing asked me some question about translation technique, which I dodged by passing the buck to Barr. Of the four of us who ate together that day, I am the only one still living.

After lunch Barr spoke to Segert's graduate seminar on Genesis 2-3. His thoughts on this subject were later to be published as The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality (1993). His own immortality in the field of biblical studies is guaranteed, and it is to be hoped that the new generation of students will not neglect his writings either as a source or as a model.


Conrad H. Roth said...

The Semantics of Biblical Language... excellent book, really put that schmuck Boman in his place.

Anonymous said...

work done in Fundamentalism put me on a course of study that shifted my paradigm of christianity to the deepest waters of truth. I live in the long suffering christian truth of faith that is often alone among the believing. I am able to become one with the faithless. I read his work while studying at an evangelical bible college it change My life and has forever marked my soul with a vantage of study far above my colleagues. I have much respect for Mr. Barr