A leading light in Church

thisisoxfordshire: Prof Christopher Evans pictured at his 100th birthday dinner Prof Christopher Evans pictured at his 100th birthday dinner

ONE of the 20th century’s leading Anglican New Testament teachers, Christopher Evans, has died aged 102.

Prof Evans became chaplain, fellow and lecturer in Divinity at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1948, where he established himself as a brilliant theologian and communicator.

Born in 1909, he attended King Edward’s School in Birmingham, well-known for producing brilliant scholars. The politician Enoch Powell was among his younger contemporaries.

Prof Evans graduated in theology at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1932. He went on to spend a year at Lincoln Theological College, where he was taught by Michael Ramsey, later to become Archbishop of Canterbury. The two men were to remain close friends and Prof Evans served as examining chaplain to the Archbishop in the 1960s. His last publication in 1995 was a tribute to Ramsey’s sense of the absurd.

After the Second World War, Prof Evans served on a denazification programme for theologians in Germany, where he ended up lecturing to some of Europe’s great theologians, an experience he always regarded with a great sense of irony.

On arriving in Oxford, he joined forces with successive tutorial counterparts at Queen’s, Dennis Nineham then David Jenkins. His tutorial style informed a generation of undergraduates, including John Bowden, who later published many of Prof Evans’s writings.

In 1958 Prof Evans was appointed Lightfoot Professor of New Testament and Canon at Durham, where he fully expected to stay until retirement, but he took up the post of Professor of New Testament at King’s College, London, in 1962, regularly appearing on radio and television.

His students included Desmond Tutu and a host of other church leaders. He had intended to move to Shropshire on retirement, but because of his wife’s illness, they came to live in Cuddesdon.

In his retirement he continued to travel and to write, producing his great Luke commentary in 1990. He played a full part in the life of Ripon College, the theological college in Cuddesdon, mentoring many students. His final few years were spent happily at the Lady Katherine Leveson Foundation at Temple Balsall, Warwickshire.

Throughout his career he gave a huge number of sermons and addresses, which combined spiritual depth with scholarship. He was a popular confessor and spiritual director. His last guest night speech at Cuddesdon, made when he was well into his nineties, surprised many with its eloquent call for the ordination of homosexuals.

His wife Elna, whom he married in 1941, died in 1980. He is survived by their son.

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