Feast of George B. Caird (April 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Three of the Volumes to Which Caird Contributed

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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GEORGE BRADFORD CAIRD (JULY 17, 1917-APRIL 21, 1984)

English Congregationalist then United Reformed Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Hymn Writer and Translator

Also known as G. B. Caird

INTRODUCTION

George Bradford Caird comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible and two translations of the Bible.He wrote the introduction to and the exegesis of the Books of Samuel for Volume II (1953) of The Interpreter’s Bible.

Caird was one of the great Biblical scholars of the twentieth century.  He, a protégé of Charles Harold (C. H.) Dodd (1884-1973) and an influence on Nicholas Thomas (N. T.) Wright, was, depending on one’s perspective, too conservative, too liberal, or about right.  Fans of Burton Mack, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and other members of that school that argues for discontinuity from Jesus to the early Church consider him too far to the right.  However, fundamentalists think he was too far to the left.  Caird accepted the Sources Hypothesis regarding much of the Hebrew Bible  and did not try to harmonize divergent voices in the New Testament, for example.

I argue that Caird was usually about right.

I using knowledge I have gained from belonging to a Historical Jesus-early Church reading group for a few years, place Caird on the spectrum.  I position him to the right of Borg, Crossan, and Mack, and slightly to the right of Luke Timothy Johnson, an effective critic of Borg, Crossan, and Mack.  Caird belongs in the same camp as his mentor, C. H. Dodd.  Most of Dodd’s endnotes in The Founder of Christianity (1970) are merely scriptural citations.  Caird’s influence is evident in N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), my copy of which I insist on keeping, even as I reduce the size of my library.  Caird’s works are slightly more optimistic regarding the Gospels as sources of information about the historical figure of Jesus than James D. G. Dunn‘s Jesus Remembered (2003), my copy of which I also insist on retaining.

BIOGRAPHY

George Bradford Caird belonged to the Reformed tradition.  He, born in Wandsworth, England, to Scottish parents on July 17, 1917, grew up in Birmingham, England.  He graduated from King Edward’s School, Birmingham; Peterhouse, Cambridge (B.A., 1939); and Mansfield College, Oxford (M.A., 1943; doctorate, 1944).  Our saint, ordained a Congregationalist minister, served as pastor of a church in Highgate, London.  In 1946, he and his wife, Viola Mary “Mollie” Caird, moved to Canada.  Our saint spent the rest of his life in academia.

Caird spent 1946-1959 in Canada.  He was initially Professor of Old Testament at St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton, Alberta.  By 1951 he was Professor of New Testament at McGill University and Principal of the Theological College of Montreal, Quebec.

Caird spent 1959-1984 at Oxford.  He was a senior tutor (1959-1969) at then the Principal (1970-1977) of Mansfield College, Oxford.  One of his more noteworthy students was the Reverend Brian Wren (born in 1936), one of the greatest hymn writers of the twentieth century.  From 1977 to 1984, Caird was the Dean Ireland’s Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture.  His successor was E. P. Sanders, author of Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1985), Jesus and Judaism (1985), and The Historical Figure of Jesus (1993).

Caird translated portions of the Bible.  He translated part of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon of The New English Bible (1970), a project over which C. H. Dodd presided.  Our saint also worked on the The Revised English Bible (1989).  Caird preferred the dynamic equivalency approach to translating the Bible.  He criticized the Revised Standard Version (1952, 1971) for being overly literal, to the point of awkwardness in places.  Our saint’s preference for dynamic equivalency was consistent with his literary style, which was graceful and succinct.

Caird also translated and wrote hymns.  He translated “Shepherds Come, Their Praises Bringing” (1951) and wrote “Not Far Beyond the Sea, Nor High” and “Almighty Father, Who For Us,” for example.  Hymnal committees that possess good taste include at least some of his hymns in the volumes they produce.

Caird wrote books plus many articles and book reviews.  His books included:

  1. The Truth of the Gospel (1950);
  2. The Apostolic Age (1955);
  3. Principalities and Powers (1956);
  4. The Gospel of St. Luke (1963);
  5. Jesus and God (1965), with D. E. Jenkins;
  6. Jesus and the Jewish Nation (1965);
  7. The Revelation of St. John the Divine (1966);
  8. Our Dialogue with Rome:  The Second Vatican Council and After (1967); and
  9. Paul’s Letters from Prison (1976).

Death prevented Caird from completing New Testament TheologyLincoln Hurst completed this work, published in 1994.

Caird held some scholarly and theological opinions that would have made him anathema in some of the communities in which I grew up in rural southern Georgia. U.S.A.  He admired St. Paul the Apostle without crossing the line into hero worship.  Caird thought of St. Paul as a social revolutionary, including vis-à-vis equality for women.  Caird also disagreed with the great apostle sometimes.  Our saint, like his mentor, C. H. Dodd, argued for Realized Eschatology.  Caird wrote in his commentary on Revelation that the author (“John”) did not expect an imminent end of the age.  Caird would not have pleased anyone at a fundamentalist prophecy conference.

Caird was a social progressive.  He openly supported equality for women and opposed racism.  He, as the Moderator of the United Reformed Church  in 1975-1976, visited South Africa on denominational business.  While there, he confronted his pro-Apartheid counterparts in the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRCSA).  (The Congregational Church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England had merged into the United Reformed Church in 1972.)  The DRCSA eventually recanted and apologized for its theological defense of Apartheid.  Caird did not live to see that day, however.

Caird, a scholar and a preacher extraordinaire who used either few or no notes, died in Wantage, England, on April 21, 1984.  He was 66 years old.

CONCLUSION

The Bible shaped George Bradford Caird.  He combined intellectual rigor, cautious scholarship, and Christian faith into a synthesis that challenged institutionalized social injustice and individual obliviousness to the (not unanimous) chorus of voices in the Bible.  Our saint, a scholar’s scholar, loved God with his heart, soul, and mind.  His articulate, graceful prose and poetry survives him, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND PROMOTER OF MISSIONS; HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, LINGUIST, TRANSLATOR, AND MISSIONARY; AND ABDUL MASIH, INDIAN CONVERT AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SUSO, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC, PREACHER, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN EDGAR PARK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HORNBLOWER GILL, ENGLISH UNITARIAN THEN ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [George B. Caird and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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