William Barclay on the Deity of Christ

Some of my best-selling commentaries are those by William Barclay. I have customers who consistently tell me how much they enjoy his writing. I’ve commented before how most of those same customers are surprised when I tell them Barclay did not believe in the miracles of Jesus. At least not in a supernatural sense. But I didn’t realize that he also rejected the deity of Christ. I discovered this in reading his autobiography, William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography. Here’s how he puts it:

“So then for me the supreme truth of Christianity is that in Jesus I see God. When I see Jesus feeding the hungry, comforting the sorrowing, befriending men and women with whom no one else would have anything to do, I can say: ‘This is God.’

It is not that Jesus is God. Time and time again the Fourth Gospel speaks of God sending Jesus into the world. Time and time again we see Jesus praying to God. Time and time again we see Jesus unhesitatingly and unquestioningly and unconditionally accepting the will of God for himself. Nowhere does the New Testament identify Jesus and God. Jesus did not say: ‘He who has seen me has seen God.’ He said: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father.’ These are attributes of God I do not see in Jesus. I do not see God’s omniscience in Jesus, for there are things which Jesus did not know. I do not see God’s omnipotence in Jesus for there are things which Jesus could not do. I do not see God’s omnipresence in Jesus, for in his days on earth Jesus could only be in one place at any given time, and once and for all revealed and demonstrated, the attitude of God to men, the attitude of God to me. In Jesus there is the full revelation of the mind and heart of God. And what a difference it means to know that God is like that!” (50, Emphasis his.)

I’m afraid I will have a host of customers who will be quite surprised to hear this. I shudder to think what they will do if I tell them he also believed in evolution and was “a convinced universalist.” (58) On top of that he wanted nothing to do with the penal substitutionary atonement. (51-58) The reason I suspect this reaction for some of my customers is because among those who love him most are some of my most conservative customers and who regularly chide other writers who espouse these same beliefs. I’m not surprised with the evolution, universalism or his views on the atonement but the denial of the deity of Christ was quite a surprise.


About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
This entry was posted in Biblical Studies. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to William Barclay on the Deity of Christ

  1. Ted says:

    Indeed, the totality of Barclay’s beliefs are surprising!

    Your revelation will make me go back and reread what Barclay says about John 1:1 (“and the word was God”), John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”) and John 20:28 (“My Lord and my God”).

    One of the best books that explains the abundance of Scripture’s claim for the deity of Jesus IMHO is “Putting Jesus in His Place” by Bowman and Komoszewski (Kregel, 2007)


  2. Sue says:

    How can Christian/nonChristian scholars be so opposite on the issue of Christ’s diety?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s