Fr John Behr is the Fr Georges Florovsky Distinguished Professor of Patristics at St Vladimir’s Seminary, where he served as Dean from 2007-17, and the Metropolitan Kallistos Chair of Orthodox Theology at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Center for Orthodox Theology.
Fr John hails from England, though his family background is Russian and German – and clerical on both sides. From the Russian side, his great-grandfather was sent to London by Metropolian Evlogy to serve there as a priest in 1926; his father was also a priest, ordained by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), as are his brother (at St Paul’s Monastery on Mt Athos) and his brother-in-law (Sts Cyril and Methodius, Terryville, CT). His maternal grandparents met at Karl Barth’s graduate seminar in Basel, and served in the Lutheran Church in Germany, where his grandfather was a Lutheran pastor.
After completing his first degree in Philosophy in London in 1987, Fr. John spent a year studying in Greece. He finished an M.Phil. in Eastern Christian Studies at Oxford University, under Bishop Kallistos (Ware), who subsequently supervised his doctoral work, which was examined by Fr. Andrew Louth and Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. While working on his doctorate, he was invited to be a Visiting Lecturer at St Vladimir’s Seminary in 1993, where he has been a permanent faculty member since 1995, tenured in 2000, and ordained in 2001. Before becoming Dean in 2007, he served as the editor of St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, and he still edits the Popular Patristics Series for SVS Press.
His doctoral work was on issues of asceticism and anthropology, focusing on St Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria, and was published by Oxford University Press (2000). After spending almost a decade in the second century, Fr John began the publication of a series on the Formation of Christian Theology (The Way to Nicaea, SVS Press 2001, and The Nicene Faith, SVS Press 2003). Synthesizing these studies, is the book The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death (SVS Press, 2003). In preparation for further volumes of his Formation series, Fr John edited and translated the fragments of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, setting them in their historical and theological context (OUP 2011). More recently Fr John published a more poetic and meditative work entitled Becoming Human: Theological Anthropology in Word and Image (SVS Press, 2013) and a full study of St Irenaeus: St Irenaeus of Lyons: Identifying Christianity (OUP, 2013). Most recently he has completed a new critical edition and translation of Origen’s On First Principles, together with an extensive introduction, for OUP (2017), and John the Theologian and His Paschal Gospel: A Prologue to Theology (OUP 2019). He is currently working on a new edition and translation of the works of Irenaeus.
His other passion is cycling, especially restoring and riding vintage bicycles including a historic Hetchins and a Dursley Pedersen. The Tour de France dominates the Behr family life during July, dictating the scheduling of important family events. Fr John’s wife, a Tour de France enthusiast and armchair cyclist, teaches English at a nearby college, and their two sons and daughter are being taught to appreciate the finer points of French culture: the great “constructeurs” of the last century, La Grande Boucle, and … cheese.