Howard, Dr Wilbert Francis, FBA
1880-1952; e.m. 1904

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He was born at Gloucester on 30 December 1880, the son of the Rev. Joseph Howard (1843-1920; e.m. 1866) and was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham. After taking a degree at Manchester University, he was for one year a lay pastor at Willington Quay, Tyneside. He trained for the WM ministry at Didsbury College, returning there in 1907 as President's Assistant to J.S. Simon. This brought him into association with James H. Moulton and his work on NT Greek. He became NT Tutor at Handsworth College in 1919, where his uncle W.T. Davison had been theological tutor. He remained there until his retirement in 1951, becoming Principal when the College reopened after World War II. He was President of the Conference in 1944, when his presidential address on 'The Statesmanship of Thought and the Spirit of Power' revealed the man. He was called back into office when his successor and friend, Archibald W. Harrison, died in office early in 1946, and was Joint Chairman of the World Methodist Conferences of 1947 and 1951.

An internationally renowned scholar, he was awarded honorary doctorates at St Andrews and Manchester and the Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies of the British Academy in 1947. At the second Methodist Church Congress in 1931 he contributed a paper on 'Christ - the Lord of the Scriptures', in which he examined the relationship of Christ to the Old Testament in the light of modern biblical scholarship. His main scholarly work was in NT Greek and St John's Gospel. He was editor and joint author of Vol. II of James H. Moulton's Grammar of NT Greek, contributing in particular to the section on 'Semitisms in the New Testament', and was working on Vol. III at the time of his death. As well as The Fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism and Interpretation (1931), which reflected his close acquaintance with European as well as British scholarship, and Christianity according to St John (1943), he wrote the more popular The Romance of NT Scholarship (1949), based on his Drew Lectures of 1947, and also contributed 1 & 2 Corinthians to the Abingdon Commentary. He was a member of the NT panel working on the NEB. He died in *Cambridge on 10 July 1952, soon after his retirement.

His older son Maurice Frederick Howard (1911-2010) was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and Christ's College, Cambridge. After an initial period on the staff of Worksop College, his teaching career was spent at The Leys School, Cambridge, first as Classics master and later as careers master and deputy headmaster. During World War II his work in the Royal Signals connected with the decoding work at Bletchley Park won him an MBE. In a very active retirement he served as bursar of St. Faith's School, was a Commissioner in the Scouting movement and edited publications for the Careers Research and Advisory Centre. He died on 2 September 2010.


'A monochrome reproduction of the well-known portrait by Holbein of Erasmus at his desk hung on the wall of Dr. Howard's classroom in Handsworth College in the 'thirties. It seemed an apt choice; even a certain similarity of profile hinted at some spiritual kinship between the great humanist editor of the New Testament and the accomplished scholar who introduced us to its language and content in that room. The resemblance embraced a clear eye for folly and a ready wit in exposing it, as well as unswerving dedication to true scholarship and devotion to the study of the New Testament, its text, language, and original meaning.'

G. Thackray Eddy, in Epworth Review, January 1987

  • Methodist Recorder, 20 July 1944; 17 July 1952; 28 October 2010
  • Conference Handbook, 1944
  • Times 12 July 1952
  • W.F. Lofthouse, in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, October 1952, pp.246-51
  • W.F. Lofthouse, et al., Wilbert Howard: Appreciations of the Man (1954)
  • G. Thackray Eddy in Epworth Review, January 1987 pp.33-38