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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Stephen Barton

Reader & Honorary Fellow
(Sept 2012 - Aug 2021) in the Department of Theology and Religion

Contact Dr Stephen Barton (email at


I am a native of Sydney, Australia, but now live permanently in England having come here as a postgraduate student. In Sydney, I studied Ancient History and New Testament with Edwin Judge and Robert Banks at Macquarie University, and developed an interest in the study of early Christianity in its social context.

In 1977, I moved to England to study in the Department of Religious Studies at Lancaster University. There I did historical Jesus studies with David Catchpole, alongside studies in the sociology of religion and in modern religious and atheistic thought. Two years later I moved to King's College London to do doctoral studies with Graham Stanton. My thesis, on Discipleship and Family Ties in Mark and Matthew, published subsequently by CUP (1994), sought to combine the fruits of history-of-traditions, sociological and literary-critical analysis.

My full-time professional teaching career began with an appointment as Tutor in Biblical Studies at Salisbury and Wells Theological College, Salisbury, in 1984-88. There I enjoyed the opportunity to bring together academic biblical studies and issues of Christian faith formation in a lively ecclesial context.

In 1988, I was appointed to the Theology Department of Durham University as Lecturer in New Testament to succeed Fr John McHugh. I was made a Reader in New Testament in 2002.

Since coming to Durham I have also trained for ordained ministry in the Church of England. I was ordained priest in 1994 and served as Assistant Curate in the parish of St John's Neville's Cross Durham until 2006. I now assist in the parishes of Ulgham and Widdrington in the Diocese of Newcastle.

My research interests are wide-ranging and inter-disciplinary, but all in their various ways have to do with the quest for wisdom through responsible interpretation and appropriation of the Bible and the Christian tradition. Five collaborative, inter-disciplinary research projects which I have initiated over the past ten years or so have issued in edited volumes on the family, wisdom, holiness, idolatry, and the interpretation of Genesis 1-3, the details of which appear below.

In 1997, I published a short, popular book on how to read the Bible in the context of the life of Christian faith, called Invitation to the Bible (SPCK). In 2001, I also brought out a collection of some of my previously published essays called, Life Together. Family, Sexuality and Community in the New Testament and Today (T&T Clark). I also edited The Cambridge Companion to the Gospels (CUP, 2006).

My next monograph will be a study of the resurrection, commissioned for the Continuum series, New Century Theology.

As well as doing research, I enjoy supervising research postgraduates and teaching undergraduates. The modules I offer are New Testament Theology: Exploring Paul and John (co-taught with Professor Barclay); New Testament Ethics; Marriage and Family in Christian Social Teaching; and (at MA level) The New Testament and the Social Sciences.

My research postgraduates work mainly in the areas of New Testament and related studies (such as theological hermeneutics, ethics, and social-scientific interpretation). Past and present fields of research I have supervised include: 1. literary and theological approaches to the Fourth Gospel; 2. Christian baptism and the Gospel of Matthew; 3. the sheep/shepherd metaphor in Matthew; 4. discernment and revelation in Matthew; 5. the Gospel of Mark as transformative discourse; 6. conversion in the Gospel of Luke; 7. the love commandment in John; 8. the interpretation of 1 Cor 11.2-16 and debates over male 'headship'; 9. cultic metaphors in Paul; 10. atonement in Paul; 11. Christian maturity in Colossians and Ephesians; 12. christology and ethics in Colossians and 1 Peter; 13. the theology of the Book of Revelation in dialogue with Moltmann and Pannenberg; 14. the theology of the child in American Evangelicalism.

I would be very happy to correspond by email with prospective postgraduate students in New Testament and related studies who are considering an application to Durham.

Research Interests

  • Christian origins
  • New Testament interpretation
  • The resurrection
  • Theology of the family.
  • Use of the Bible in ethics


Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Barton, S. C. (2007). Johannine dualism and contemporary pluralism. In The gospel of John and Christian theology. Bauckham, R. & Mosser, C. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
  • Barton, S. C. (2007). Memory and remembrance in Paul. In Memory In The Bible & Antiquity: The Fifth Durham-Tubingen Research Symposium; Durham, September 2004. Barton, S. C., Stuckenbruck, L. T. & Wold, B. G. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. 321-338.
  • Barton, S.C. (2006). ‘The Gospel According to Matthew’. In The Cambridge Companion to the Gospels. Barton, S.C. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 121-138.
  • Barton, S. C. (2004). The unity of humankind as a theme in biblical theology. In Out of Egypt biblical theology and biblical interpretation. Bartholomew, Craig., Healy, Mary., Moeller, Karl. & Parry, Robin. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. 5: 233-258.

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Religion: the Bible
  • Religion: Christian theology
  • Religion: the family