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Published: 18/09/2013 09:32 

University announces new Portland Chair in New Testament Studies 

Professor  Philip Esler

The University of Gloucestershire has announced the appointment of the eminent theologian, author and academic, Professor Philip Esler, to one of its most distinguished posts -  the Portland Chair in New Testament Studies.

The Portland Chair is an important part of the University’s theological tradition, which dates back to its foundation in the 1840s.  The Chair is supported by an endowment from the Kirby Laing Foundation, which has also endowed chairs at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Aberdeen.

The Chair leads the University of Gloucestershire International Centre for Biblical Interpretation, and the position must be filled by a distinguished scholar who has an interest in the theological interpretation of the Bible.

Professor Esler has been appointed to the Portland Chair in succession to Professor Andrew Lincoln.  Professor Esler was born in Australia, and trained as a lawyer.  He attended Magdalen College, Oxford in 1981 to study a D. Phil in the New Testament.  He became the first Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2005, and in 2010 became Principal and Professor of Biblical Interpretation at St Mary’s University College in Twickenham. He is a member of the Council of the Society of Biblical Literature.

His new role will include undertaking research and writing for publication, supervision of research degrees, mentoring staff, contributing to teaching programmes in theology and religious studies, and acting as an ambassador for the University and School of Humanities.

Professor Esler will also provide an Annual Report to the trustees of the Kirby Laing Foundation, detailing the work of the ICBI and the Portland Professor. The Kirby Laing Foundation was established in 1972 by Sir Kirby Laing, and supports a wide range of charities both in the United Kingdom and overseas.

Professor Esler said: “I am very excited by my appointment to the Portland Chair in New Testament Studies in the University of Gloucestershire. The University has a strong tradition of both the historical investigation of biblical texts and of their theological application to contemporary issues and concerns in society at large. I look forward to building on this tradition from an approach that highlights the contribution that social-scientific ideas can make in these historical and theological aspects of biblical interpretation. I keenly look forward to working with my new colleagues here, who have been very welcoming, with undergraduate and postgraduate students and with people and organisations committed to the importance of the Bible in promoting human flourishing.”

Stephen Marston, Vice Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, said: “I am very pleased to welcome Philip Esler as our new Portland Professor.  Teaching and research in theology and religion have been important components of the University’s mission, dating back to the original foundation of the Cheltenham Training College in the 1840s.  Philip brings to the role great distinction as a scholar, and a wealth of experience in research, teaching and administration.  We are grateful to the Kirby Laing Foundation for their generous support in enabling the University to sustain our proud tradition in theology through Philip’s appointment.”

Professor Shelley Saguaro, Head of Humanities at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “We are delighted with the appointment of such an eminent figure as Professor Esler.  We are also grateful for the continuing support of the Kirby Laing Foundation.  The appointment endorses the quality of research in Theology at Gloucestershire and will enhance our new undergraduate programme in Theology and Religious Studies.”

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University of Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2RH. Telephone +44 (0)844 8010001.