Lecture: Twenty-Five Years of Theological Study

Scope and Content

Manuscript draft of a lecture delivered at the University of Manchester by Professor F.C. Burkitt on the occasion of the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Faculty of Theology. Inserted is a letter dated 30 October 1929 to Dr Henry Guppy, Librarian of the John Rylands Library, regarding publication of the lecture in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 14 (1930), pp. 37-52.

Administrative / Biographical History

Francis Crawford Burkitt (1864-1935), biblical scholar, was born in London on 3 September 1864. He was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won a scholarship in 1885. He graduated as a wrangler in part one of the mathematical tripos of 1886, but then changed to the theological tripos, gaining a first in part two.

In 1903 Burkitt was appointed to a university lecturership in palaeography at Cambridge and in 1905 he was elected to the Norrisian chair of divinity (combined with the Hulsean professorship in 1934). It was as a Syriac scholar that he first became widely known, especially in connection with the textual criticism of the gospels. The two-volume edition of the old Syriac gospels which he published in 1904 proved indispensable to students of the Syriac versions of the New Testament.

Burkitt also contributed to Old Testament scholarship. His article 'Text and versions' in the Encyclopaedia Biblica (1903) was a masterly survey. In the critical study of the New Testament Burkitt was, for English students at least, one of the pioneers, especially by his book The gospel history and its transmission (1906). Burkitt made valuable contributions also to Franciscan studies, and to the history and significance of Christian worship in Eucharist and sacrifice (1921) and in volume 3 (1930) of The Christian religion: its origin and progress, edited by J.F. Bethune-Baker, as well as in numerous articles on special points. His books on Manicheism and gnosticism, The religion of the Manichees (1925) and Church and gnosis (1932), were fresh and original surveys of well-worn themes.

The breadth of Burkitt's learning is shown by the ten-page list of his publications (books, pamphlets, and articles in various magazines) that was printed in the Journal of theological studies for October 1935. He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1905.

Source: J.F. Bethune-Baker, 'Burkitt, Francis Crawford (1864-1935)' rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/32180.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Accessioned by the Library before May 1930; possibly received from the author in 1929.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Humpleby, project archivists, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Francis Crawford Burkitt.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928-35 (English MS 525).


The lecture was printed in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 14 (1930), pp. 37-52.