Very Rev. Dr. John Behr
Very Rev. Dr. John BehrDean, Professor of Patristics
Father John Behr is the Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary and Professor of Patristics, teaching courses in patristics, dogmatics and scriptural exegesis at the seminary, and also at Fordham University, where he is the Distinguished Lecturer in Patristics.
Father John hails from England, though his family background is Russian and German - and clerical on both sides. From the Russian side, his great-grandfather was sent to London by Metropolian Evlogy to serve there as a priest in 1926; his father was also a priest, ordained by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), as are his brother (at St. Paul’s Monastery on Mt. Athos) and his brother-in-law (Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Terryville, CT). His maternal grandparents met at Karl Barth’s graduate seminar in Basel, and served in the Lutheran Church in Germany, where his grandfather was a Lutheran pastor.
After completing his first degree in Philosophy in London in 1987, Fr. John spent a year studying in Greece. He finished an M.Phil. in Eastern Christian Studies at Oxford University, under Bishop Kallistos (Ware), who subsequently supervised his doctoral work, which was examined by Fr. Andrew Louth and Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Canterbury. While working on his doctorate, he was invited to be a Visiting Lecturer at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in 1993, where he has been a permanent faculty member since 1995, tenured in 2000, and ordained in 2001. Before becoming Dean in 2007, he served as the editor of St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, and he still edits the Popular Patristics Series for SVS Press.
His early work was on issues of asceticism and anthropology, focusing on St. Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria. After spending almost a decade in the second century, Fr. John began the publication of a series on the Formation of Christian Theology, and has now reached the fifth and sixth centuries. He has recently completed an edition and translation of, and introduction to, the remaining texts of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia. He has also published a synthetic presentation of the theology of the early centuries, focused on the mystery of Christ.
His other passion is cycling, especially restoring and riding vintage bicycles (see some pictures) including a historic Hetchins. The Tour de France dominates the Behr family life during July, dictating the scheduling of important family events. Father John’s wife, a Tour de France enthusiast and armchair cyclist, teaches English at a nearby college, and their two sons and daughter are being taught to appreciate the finer points of French culture: the great “constructeurs” of the last century, Le Grande Boucle, and ... cheese.
- B.A. in Philosophy, Thames Polytechnic, London, 1987
B.A. dissertation: "Of God, Man, and Creation: A Comparative Study of the Anthropology of the Greek Fathers and Emmanual Levinas"
- M.Phil. in Eastern Christian Studies, Oxford University, 1991
M.Phil. Thesis: "Sexuality, Marriage, and Asceticism in Second-Century Christian Writings"
- D.Phil. in Theology, Oxford University, 1995
D.Phil. Thesis: "Godly Lives: Asceticism and Anthropology, with Special Reference to Sexuality, in the Writings of St Irenaeus of Lyons and St Clement of Alexandria"
- M.Th., St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1997
M.Th. Thesis: "Translation of Irenaeus' Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching with Introduction and Notes"
Current Projects and Research Interests
I've just finished a new critical edition and translation of Origen's On First Principles for Oxford University Press, and am about to begin a new edition and translation of the complete works of St. Irenaeus of Lyons (Against the Heresies, the Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, and Fragments) with Paul Saieg (a SVOTS alumnus), again for Oxford University Press. In the meantime, I am writing a book on the Gospel of John. I love to work closely with texts, trying to understand how they “work” and the theology of their authors as expressed in their own terms.
Recent Courses Taught at SVOTS
Besides my regular annual classes on “Spirituality 101” (taken by all incoming students) and my Patristics Survey class (taken by students in the spring of their first year), I regularly teach elective seminars on particular Fathers: St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximus the Confessor, and Origen. I have also taught a variety of other classes over the past few years, from "The Paschal Christ" to "Christianity in a Secular and Post-Secular Context."
After beginning a series of books on “The Formation of Christian Theology” (vol. 1: The Way to Nicaea; vol. 2: The Nicene Faith), I worked on the remaining texts of Diodore and Theodore of Mopsuestia (published with Oxford University Press) in preparation for the next volume of the Formation series, but found that I really needed to go back to Origen again before tackling the sixth-century Origenist controversy (hence the new edition/translation of Origen's On First Principles). But then, Oxford asked me to write another, more comprehensive, monograph on St. Irenaeus, and having done that, I found myself going back to the beginning of theology with the Gospel of John the Theologian. In addition I have greatly enjoyed writing other books, and especially engaging with questions of genre and presentation, which found fruition in my Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image.
Recent Conference Presentations and Activities
I have been greatly blessed over recent years to have been invited to speak all over the world and in all sorts of contexts, from a conference on Coptic bishops outside of Cairo, where I was asked to speak about theological education today, to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I was asked to speak about Scripture and the Gospel, with plenty of parish retreats all around the USA in between, as well as academic conferences from Oxford to Madrid to Chicago—all very enriching.