Andrew Bruce Davidson - Encyclopedia Britannica 1911

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ANDREW BRUCE DAVIDSON (1831-1902), Scottish divine, was born in 1831 at Kirkhill in Aberdeenshire, where his father Andrew Davidson had a farm. The Davidsons belonged to the congregation of James Robertson (1803-1860) of Ellon, one of the ministers of Strathbogie Presbytery, which in the controversy which led to the disruption, resisted the "dangerous claims of the established church to self-government." When the disruption came the principles at stake were keenly canvassed in Ellon, and eventually Andrew Davidson, senior, went with the Free Church. In 1845 the boy, who had been a "herd" on the farm, went for six months to the grammar school at Aberdeen and was there prepared for a university bursary, which was sufficient to pay his fees, but no more. During his four years at the university his mother supplied him fortnightly with provisions from the farm; sometimes she walked the whole twenty miles from Kirkhill and handed the coach fee to her son. He graduated in 1849. At the university he had acquired a distrust of philosophy, and found it difficult to choose between mathematical and linguistic studies. A Free Church school having been opened in Ellon, he became master there for three years. Here he developed special aptitude for linguistic and philological studies. Besides Hebrew he taught himself French, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish. In November 1852 he entered New College, Edinburgh. There he took the four years' theological course, and was licensed in 1856. For two years he preached occasionally and took vacancies. In 1858 the New College authorities appointed him assistant to the professor of Hebrew. He taught during the winter, and in the long vacation continued his preparation for his life work. One year he worked in Germany under Ewald, another year he went to Syria to study Arabic. In 1862 he published the first part of a commentary on Job. It was never finished and deals only with one-third of the book, but it is recognized as the first really scientific commentary on the Old Testament in the English language. In 1863 he was appointed by the general assembly professor of oriental languages at New College. He was junior colleague of Dr John Duncan (Rabbi Duncan) till 1870, and then for thirty years sole professor. He was a member of the Old Testament revision committee, and his work was recognized by several honorary distinctions, LL.D. (Aberdeen), D.D. (Edinburgh), Litt.D. (Cambridge). Among his students were Professors Elmslie, Skinner, Harper of Melbourne, Walker of Belfast, George Adam Smith of Glasgow and W. Robertson Smith. He understood it to be the first duty of an exegete to ascertain the meaning of the writer, and he showed that this could be done by the use of grammar and history and the historical imagination. He supplied guidance when it was much needed as to the methods and results of the higher criticism. Being a master of its methods, but very cautious in accepting assertions about its results, he secured attention early in the Free Church for scientific criticism, and yet threw the whole weight of his learning and his caustic wit into the argument against critical extravagance. He had thought himself into the ideas and points of view of the Hebrews, and his_ work in Old Testament theology is unrivalled. He excels as an expositor of the governing Hebrew ideas such as holiness, righteousness, Spirit of God, Messianism. In 1897 he was chosen moderator of the general assembly, but his health prevented his accepting the post. He died, unmarried, on the 26th of January 1902.

Besides the commentary on Job he published a book on the Hebrew Accents, the only Scottish performance of the kind since the days of Thomas Boston. His Introductory Hebrew Grammar has been widely adopted as a class-book in theological colleges. His Hebrew Syntax has the same admirable clearness, precision and teaching quality. His Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews is one of a series of handbooks for Bible classes. These were followed by commentaries on Job, Ezekiel, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah, in the Cambridge series; and a Bible-class primer on The Exile and Restoration. His lectures on Old Testament Prophecy were published after his death by Professor J. A. Paterson. The Theology of the Old Testament in the "International Theological Library" is a posthumous volume edited by Professor Salmond. "Isaiah" in the Temple Bible was finished, but not revised, when he died; and he also had in hand the volume on Isaiah for the International Critical Commentary; to which must be added a mass of articles contributed to The Imperial Bible Dictionary, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the chief religious reviews. Various articles in Dr Hastings' Bible Dictionary were by Davidson, especially the article "God." Two volumes of sermons, The Called of God, and Waiting upon God, were published from MS. after Davidson's death.

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