James Russell Macphail, Church of Scotland missionary in Madras, India, was born in Glasgow on 18 July 1901. He was educated at Glasgow Academy then at Glasgow University (MA 1922) after which he studied theology at New College, Edinburgh. He went to Madras with the Church of Scotland in 1924 as a teacher at the Madras Christian College. In 1926 he returned to Edinburgh to be a student assistant and was ordained in 1928 returning to Madras in the same year.
Macphail was in India for a total of 43 years during which time he was professor of English Literature, Warden and Principal of the college. He was author of several books and was made DD of Glasgow University. During his retirement Macphail prepared a manuscript to be published as King and Teacher. When he died it was almost ready for the press and was published posthumously in three parts as The Parables of Jesus - King and Teacher (Madras: CLS, 1976), The Sermons of Jesus - King and Teacher (Madras: CLS, 1977), and The Kingdom and the King (Madras: CLS, 1977). Macphail had retired in March 1968 and he died soon after on 28 September 1968.