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Alexander Balmain Bruce

Professor of Apologetics and New Testament Exegesis, Free Church College, Glasgow
1831 to 1899

Alexander Balmain Bruce, a Scottish churchman and theologian, Professor of Apologetics and New Testament Exegesis at Free Church College, Glasgow, was born on 30 January 1831 in Aberargie in the parish of Abernethy, Perthshire, Scotland, son of David Bruce. His father, a farmer who adhered to the Free Church at the Disruption, moved to Edinburgh in 1843.

After attending Auchterarder parish school, Bruce continued his education in Edinburgh. He entered Edinburgh University in 1845 and the divinity hall of the Free Church of Scotland in 1849. He worked first as an assistant in the Free Church ministry at Ancrum, then at Lochwinnoch. In 1859 he was called to Cardross (Dumbartonshire). One year later he married Jane Hunter, daughter of James Walker of Fodderslee, Roxburghshire. They had a daughter and a son. Their son, David, was a Glasgow writer and partner in the firm Mitchell and Bruce.

In 1868 Bruce was translated to the Free Church at Broughty Ferry (Forfarshire). His reputation as a biblical scholar was established in 1871, when he published his studies on the gospels under the title The Training of the Twelve. The origin of these studies goes back to Bruce's time in Cardross. A second edition followed in 1877.

In 1874 Bruce was elected Cunningham Lecturer in Edinburgh. The subject of his Cunningham Lectures was ‘The Humiliation of Jesus Christ’. The lectures were published afterwards under the same title in 1876 and in a second edition in 1881. In 1875 he was appointed to the chair of Apologetics and New Testament Exegesis at the Free Church College, Glasgow, a post he held for twenty-four years. He was one of the first British New Testament scholars whose work was received favourably in Germany.

In 1889 Bruce published The Kingdom of God; or, Christ's Teachings according to the Synoptic Gospels. This work encountered serious hostile criticism owing to his treatment of the inspired writings. It was held that this work was not consistent with the views of inspiration professed by the Free Church of Scotland.

From 1894 Bruce assisted Canon T. K. Cheyne in editing the Theological Translation Library. Among his published exegetical works that established his fame with a wider circle are St. Paul's Conception of Christianity (1894), and ‘Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels’ in the Expositor's Greek Testament (1899). Bruce acted as convener of the hymnal committees that issued the Free Church Hymn Book (1882) and in 1898 the Church Hymnary, released for all Scottish Presbyterian churches.

Bruce was appointed Gifford Lecturer at the University of Glasgow for the 1896-1897 session. His lectures have been published in two volumes, the first under the title The Providential Order of the World in 1897, and the second, The Moral Order of the World in Ancient and Modern Thought, in 1899.

Bruce died in Glasgow on 7 August 1899. He was buried at Broughty Ferry.

Additional works of Bruce are The Chief End of Revelation (1881); The Parabolic Teaching of Christ (1882); The Galilean Gospel (1884); F. C. Baur and His Theory of the Origin of Christianity and of the New Testament (1885); The Miraculous Element in the Gospels (1886); The Life of William Denny (1888); Apologetics; or, the Cause of Christianity Defensively Stated (1892); and With Open Face; or, Jesus Mirrored in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (1896). Some of these books have been published in a second edition.

  • Benedikt Bock, University of Glasgow