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27 June 2014

Priest and scholar: Dr Basil Bevan

Priest and scholar: Dr Basil Bevan

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, writes:

THE son of a priest in Swansea and Brecon diocese, Basil Bevan, who died one day short of his 86th birthday, was educated at St Edmund's School, Canterbury. He saw wartime service in the Royal Navy, where his potential career as a professional middleweight boxer came to a disappointing end when his trainers were forced to acknowledge that his unerring blows were not matched by a ruthless temperament.

He gained his initial degrees at St David's College, Lampeter, where he was the first student in almost two decades to be awarded the Matthews Prize in Hebrew, having learnt the language himself (with the encouragement of Professor R. H. Fuller) during one summer vacation. His sporting prowess continued to be in evidence as a valued member of the college rugby XV.

He was ordained in Brecon Cathedral in 1954, his desire to offer much-needed support to his widowed mother governing his decision to serve his title on the Herefordshire border rather than accept a fellowship at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Subsequent parochial appointments spanned several dioceses in Wales and England.

During his parish ministry, his theological ability found fulfilment in the award of the degrees of M.Th. and Ph.D., both for theses at the University of Wales on St John's Gospel, as well as his appointment to teach New Testament to ordinands at St Deiniol's, Hawarden.

In 1990, his retirement from full-time ministry was not surprising, owing to cardiac problems as well as his long-standing near-blindness. Indeed, his continued ministry had been made possible only by the issue of a dispensation from his bishop, enabling his wife, Pauline, to be his close and constant helper (and, on occasion, "stand-in") at ecclesiastical events and services.

Thereafter, sadly, he was never able to officiate at public worship. Nevertheless, this did not daunt him, as daily worship and devotion with Pauline continued privately, as did his beloved Johannine studies.

To date, publication from the latter amounts to one article alone, owing to his health problems, exacerbated by his natural reticence. The possible shedding of light on a noted conundrum ofthe Fourth Gospel caused, when it was aired in JTS (October 2003), considerable interest among Johannine scholars. It was achieved mainly through the constant encouragement of the late Professor C. K. Barrett, Basil's close friend for almost half a century.

His funeral service, at which I officiated, was, like much of his life, private. Throughout the last decade of that life, privacy was paramount, as Pauline struggled to cope with her husband's increasingly unusual lifestyle. This developed as he gradually grew apart from the secular world, and, without Pauline's support and help, he could never have coped; her devotion to him was absolute.

Before that last decade, those who were close to him came to know a true servant of God, whose steadfast faith never failed him; a zealous preacher of the gospel, and one who extended his care, in particular, to those deemed by society to be of little worth.

This category included, in no small measure, all of God's non-human creatures.

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