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Thursday, April 15, 2010


Hi Sean,
John O'Neill was also my very dear friend Jim's uncle - so I know his brother and sister, (ie: Jim's mum) who are both wonderful, gentle and extremely intelligent people. I never met John though.
I don't think it looks like an interpolation either (not that my view is worth much!) but even if it is I reckon we still have to deal with the text as it is in some form or another - you can't use that as an argument to dismiss the relationship between that section and what follows. I remember reading Brendan Byrne SJ being very dogmatic about that point in relation to a section I was exegeting in 1 Cor - and I think it is a fair point.
Anyway - that's my two bob worth on the matter! :-)

On my way to a URC ministerial assessment conference in Birmingham in 1978, I met John on a local bus. He too was on his way to the conference - as an assessor. I didn't know him from Adam at the time. We talked about George Caird. John was very kind, and very unassuming.

I subsequently became aware of John's work, particularly his little Penguin commentary on Romans, huge chunks of which he argued were non-Pauline (a position of course dismissed by almost all of his NT colleagues). A friend of mine who studied under John at Cambridge said that his students referred to his "commentary on the Postcard to the Romans". Interestingly, while John was biblically radical, he was dogmatically conservative - just the reverse of his Cambridge colleague J.A.T. Robinson.

I hope you were gentle on the poor student. The only thing more intimidating than presenting the views in a seminar of a scholar known to your lecturer, is when you have to write an essay for a lecturer who happens to be one of the main international authorities on the topic, and whose name appears on most of the references in the reading list (ie writing an essay on Romans 8 for Brendan Byrne SJ).

John was a lovely man; he was teaching at Westminster College when I was at Ridley Hall. He was generous to those with whom he disagreed (which included me on a number of things!), and a real Christian gentleman of the old-fashioned sort.

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