James Dunn Death – James Douglas Grant Dunn FBA also called Jimmy Dunn, was a British New Testament scholar, who was for many years the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham. He worked broadly within the Protestant tradition. He died on June 26, 2020.
Dunn was born on 21 October 1939 in Birmingham, England.
He had the following degrees:
BSc Economics and Statistics at University of Glasgow class II Honours, 1961.
BD at University of Glasgow, 1964, with distinction.
PhD at University of Cambridge, 1968.
BD at University of Cambridge, 1976.
Dunn was licensed as a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1964. He was chaplain to overseas students at Edinburgh University in 1968-70.
In 1970, Dunn became a lecturer in divinity at the University of Nottingham, and was promoted to reader (i.e. senior lecturer) in 1979. Whilst at Nottingham, he served as a Methodist local preacher.
He became professor of divinity at Durham University in 1982, and in 1990 became Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham. He retired in 2003, and was succeeded as Lightfoot Professor of Divinity by John M. G. Barclay.
For 2002, Dunn was the President of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, an international body for New Testament study. Only three other British scholars had been made President of the body in the preceding 25 years. In 2006 he became a Fellow of the British Academy.
In 2005 a festschrift was published dedicated to Dunn, comprising articles by 27 New Testament scholars, examining early Christian communities and their beliefs about the Holy Spirit in Christianity. In 2009 another festschrift was dedicated to Dunn for his 70th birthday, consisting of two forewords by N. T. Wright and Richard B. Hays and 17 articles all written by his former students who went on to have successful careers in either academic and ministerial fields around the world.
Dunn is especially associated with the New Perspective on Paul, along with N. T. Wright and E. P. Sanders.
Dunn took up Sanders’ project of redefining Palestinian Judaism in order to correct the Christian view of Judaism as a religion of works-righteousness. One of the most important differences to Sanders is that Dunn perceives a fundamental coherence and consistency to Paul’s thought. He furthermore criticizes Sanders’ understanding of the term justification, arguing that Sanders’ understanding suffers from an “individualizing exegesis”.
From Jeff Wisdom:
I am among the many who knew Jimmy as Doktorvator and as friend. I have many memories of him, but I will mention just one. During my first month at Durham University, Jimmy directed me to research on my proposed topic and to write my thoughts in a report due every two weeks. At the end of these papers, I was to indicate several questions to be pursued or ways to extend my research. After a month or so, I came upon an idea that I thought was worth investigation, but I had reservations. Frankly, the idea at the time seemed a bit crazy. And I realized that it may run against the grain of Jimmy’s own ideas, recently published in a paper. I didn’t know him very well at the time, and the thought of taking on such a scholar so early in my research was daunting. So I buried the idea last in a list. When I saw with him a few days later, Jimmy flipped the pages of my paper to the last page, and he went straight to that idea. He said to me that he thought it had the possibility of making a contribution to scholarship, perhaps better than his own. I’ll never forget his graciousness in putting a young student at ease.
I am grateful to be able to count Jimmy and his wife, Meta, as friends. Visits in their home, dinners shared at conferences, personal meetings to discuss my work – these are some of the precious memories I have of Jimmy Dunn, my friend. My condolences and deep sympathy to Meta, his beloved wife, and to their family.