Born in Glasgow and educated at Edinburgh University; after a brief period as a minister of the Church of Scotland (in Israel) Barr held a series of OT and Hebrew professorships in Montreal, Edinburgh, Princeton, Manchester, and Oxford, and finally in Vanderbilt Univ. In 1961 he wrote The Semantics of Biblical Language which changed the direction of biblical studies with a forthright attack on the prevalent ‘Biblical Theology’ movement and its insistence that God revealed himself uniquely in the history of Israel. Barr defended the historical-critical method in scholarship and wrote against fundamentalism, but also in his Gifford Lectures (1993) he attacked the theology of Karl Barth in a vigorous defence of the Bible's recognition of the role of natural theology.