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John Macquarrie FBA TD (June 27, 1919May 28, 2007) was a Scottish-born theologian and philosopher. Timothy Bradshaw has described Macquarrie as "unquestionably Anglicanism's most distinguished systematic theologian in the second half of the twentieth century."(Timothy Bradshaw, "John Macquarrie," in: Alister E. McGrath (ed) SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians, London: SPCK, 1998, p. 168.)


Macquarrie was born on 27 June 1919 in Renfrewmarker, Scotlandmarker (on the River Clyde, approximately six miles from Glasgowmarker) into a devout Presbyterian family (his father was an elder in the Presbyterian Church of Scotlandmarker) with strong Gaelic roots.

Educated at Paisley Grammar Schoolmarker, he read philosophy at the University of Glasgowmarker under the distinguished scholar Charles Arthur Campbell (M.A. 1940) and obtained a degree in theology (B.D. 1943).

He enlisted in the British Army and served from 1943-48. Ordained in 1945, he served in the Royal Army Chaplains Department 1945-48.

After demobilization he served as a parish minister in the Church of Scotlandmarker at St Ninian's Church, Brechinmarker (1948-53).

He died on 28 May 2007 at the age of 87. He is survived by his wife Jenny and by two sons and a daughter.

The archives of John Macquarrie are maintained by the Archives of the University of Glasgow .


Macquarrie returned to the University of Glasgow to study for a Ph.D., which he was awarded in 1954 while serving as lecturer in systematic theology at Trinity College, Glasgow. His supervisor was Ian Henderson who, despite having been a pupil of Karl Barth at Baslemarker, was theologically more closely aligned with his disputant Rudolf Bultmann.

In 1962 Macquarrie was appointed Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York Citymarker. During his time in the United States Macquarrie became a member of the Anglican Communion. He had long been attracted to the Anglican Church but in deference to his family's feelings and their strong Presbyterian roots maintained his worship in the Church of Scotlandmarker. He was later ordained deacon and priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. He was ordained priest by the Bishop of New York on June 16, 1965 and the next day (the Feast of Corpus Christi) he celebrated his first Eucharist at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in New York City.

He was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxfordmarker and Canon Residentiary of Christ Church, Oxfordmarker from 1970 until 1986. On retirement he continued to live in Oxfordmarker and was appointed Professor Emeritus and Canon Emeritus. From 1996 he had been the Martin Heidegger Professor of Philosophical Theology at the Graduate Theological Foundation in the United Statesmarker.

Macquarrie was awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1962. In 1964 the University of Glasgowmarker conferred the degree of Doctor of Letters on him and in 1969 the university awarded him the degree of Doctor of Divinity honoris causa. On his appointment to the Lady Margaret chair at Oxfordmarker he incepted as a Master of Arts. In 1981 he became a Doctor of Divinity of the University of Oxfordmarker and in 1984 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. He has also received the honorary degrees of Doctor of Sacred Theology from the University of the South (1967) and the General Theological Seminarymarker (1968), Doctor of Divinity from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (1981) and the University of Daytonmarker (1994), and Doctor of Canon Law from Nashotah House (1986).

He was the Gifford Lecturer for 1983-84, lecturing on the topic In Search of Deity.

Macquarrie can be safely categorised as both an existentialist and a systematic theologian. His most important philosophical influence is the work of Martin Heidegger. Macquarrie remains one of the most important commentators and explainers of Heidegger's work. His co-translation of Being and Time into English is considered the canonical version. Macquarrie is also perhaps the most important English-language expositor on the theological and philosophical work of Rudolf Bultmann.

Among Macquarrie's most widely read books are his Existentialism, meant as an introduction to the subject, and what is perhaps his masterpiece: Principles of Christian Theology, a work of systematic theology that aims both to harmonise existentialism and orthodox Christian thought and to offer a highly-intellectualised apology of the Christian faith. Macquarrie's work is characterised by a remarkable even handedness to all sides and viewpoints and, although not readily accessible to those without a good background in philosophy, his writing is considered engaging and often witty - at least judged by the standards of existentialism and systematic theology.

Further reading

  • A biography of Macquarrie's life and thought is Eugene Thomas Long's Existence, Being, and God: An Introduction to the Philosophical Theology of John Macquarrie (ISBN 0-913729-08-6), 1985 (out of print).
  • "John Macquarrie"; article by Timothy Bradshaw in Alister E. McGrath (ed) SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (ISBN 0-281057-45-3), London: SPCK, 1998, p. 168.

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