Graham N. Stanton
David Catchpole began New Testament research at Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1963 with an extremely impressive academic track record from The Queen's College, Oxford: double first class honours in Mathematics, followed by first class honours in Theology. At Pembroke he was following in the footsteps of another distinguished mathematician turned New Testament scholar, C.K. Barrett. When I first met David he was starting his third year of research under the late Dr Ernst Bammel. I was immediately impressed by his gentle manner and his sharp mind, and grateful for the warm welcome and assistance he gave to a naïve New Zealander starting out on the long lonely road which faces every newcomer to research in the humanities.
At first I was unaware that mathematics was David's first love. Eventually I realised that his training as a mathematician partly accounted for his mastery of the complexities of source criticism and of traditio-historical criticism of the synoptic gospels, and his uncanny ability to judge angles and distances on the croquet pitch. David was a model researcher: disciplined, well-organised, and ready to follow the evidence wherever it led.
David's Ph.D. thesis, “The Trial of Jesus in Jewish Historiography” was examined by the late Josef Blinzler, internationally renowned for his own work on this most difficult and sensitive of topics. The announcement that Josef Blinzler was to be one of the examiners of David's thesis sparked off tremors of anxiety among his fellow New Testament researchers. If Cambridge was willing to engage this great scholar as an external examiner, who would be called upon to examine our own much more modest efforts?
David took up his first teaching post at Clifton Theological College, Bristol while completing the final stages of his Ph.D. thesis. His three years there helping to prepare students for ministry were fulfilling. It is perhaps significant that in the final years of his career David has returned to church-related teaching responsibilities at Sarum College, Salisbury. David's teaching and research have never been divorced from the on-going life of the church.