Beware of William Barclay
July 6, 2021
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
The following is excerpted from The Modern Bible Version Hall of Shame.
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William Barclay

1. William Barclay (1907-1978) was a professor at Glasgow University for 28 years and a popular British Bible expositor who wrote several influential books on the Bible. He also published his own translation of the New Testament in 1969.

2. He denied the infallibility of the Scripture, the virgin birth, deity, and substitutionary atonement of Christ, the eternality of Hell, and other cardinal Bible doctrines, and promoted the critical modernistic views of the Old Testament. He interpreted the miracles of Christ in a naturalistic fashion, claiming, for example, that Jesus did not actually walk on the water but that he was probably walking in shallow water near the beach and it only appeared to the disciples that he was walking on the water.

In his book
Daily Bible Reading: The Gospel of John, Barclay said that Jesus is divine but not God. He denied the miracle of Christ walking on the water and explains away the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.

Introducing the Bible (1972), Barclay made the following clear denial of the infallible inspiration of Scripture: “The answer has sometimes been given that this book was written by God; that every word and syllable and letter, every page and paragraph and sentence is the writing of God; that the book is the verbatim word of God. THAT VIEW IS THE BASIS OF WHAT IS CALLED VERBAL INSPIRATION. … FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO HOLD THIS VIEW. … the Bible is rather the record and interpretation of these events rather than revelation in itself. The Bible is the story of God acting and men interpreting, or failing to interpret, the action of God” (Barclay, Introducing the Bible, pp. 138, 146). In this book Barclay claims that Moses did not write most of the Pentateuch (pp. 25,26), that the record of creation and the flood are composites and are not historically accurate (p. 26), that the book of Deuteronomy was not written until the days of the kings (p. 24), that the Pentateuch evolved over a long period of time (p. 28), that Isaiah was written by at least two unknown prophets (p. 35), that the authors of the Old Testament did not intend to write Scripture and their writings were not accepted as Scripture until centuries later (p. 42), that the record of the birth and infancy of Christ are legends which might not be historically accurate (p. 53), that the Gospels are “not primarily historical documents” (p. 54), that the Gospels contain errors (pp. 61, 141), that the Bible writers did not write under divine inspiration (p. 140), that Paul was merely giving his human opinion in 1 Corinthians 7 (p. 143), that the Greek of the book of Revelation is “so bad that a modern schoolboy would get into bad trouble for writing it” (p. 139).

The Making of the Bible (1961), Barclay claims that the Gospels were not written until forty years after the death of Christ and were not given by inspiration of God but were haphazardly formed from various oral and written testimonies. He claims that it is a mere accident of history that there are four Gospels, and he repeats his assertion that they contain contradictions and errors. He claims that Paul told his readers that he wrote as a mere man and not by divine inspiration (p. 66). Barclay thinks the churches were so lackadaisical toward the apostolic writings that Paul’s epistles were forgotten and not used for a generation from A.D. 60 to 90, “laid away in some chest amongst the archives of their Churches, covered in dust and buried in neglect” (p. 68).

William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography (Grand Rapids, 1977), Barclay wrote: “I am a convinced universalist. I believe that in the end all men will be gathered into the love of God” (p. 65).

Barclay’s contradictory stance on the deity of Christ was discussed in “The Enigmatic William Barclay” by Wayne Jackson, which appeared in the
Christian Courier, August 11, 2003: “If you were to read some of Barclay’s writings regarding Jesus, you would be convinced that he believed in the Savior’s deity. For example, in his discussion of John 1:1, the famous theologian said that Jesus was ‘of the very same character and quality and essence and being as God.’ But when two acquaintances of this writer visited with Barclay at his home in Glasgow, in the spring of 1970, the distinguished professor strongly denied that he believed that Jesus was divine, and he insisted he never had endorsed that idea. He claimed that the Lord himself believed that he was divine, as did others, but personally, he did not. When Paul was cited as evidence to the contrary, the professor snapped: “I don’t care what Paul said.”

Barclay testified that the only error he would condemn was that of intolerance. “I am not likely to condemn a man’s beliefs; I shall only think him wrong if he refuses to extend to me the same sympathy that I extend to him” (Barclay,
Testament of Faith, 1975, p. 30). Thus the following observation was applicable to Barclay, “The very thought of asking about heresy has itself become the new heresy. The archheresiarch is the one who hints that some distinction might be needed between truth and falsehood, right and wrong” (Thomas Oden, Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements, 1995, p. 47).

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