The Very Reverend Matthew Black (1908-1994), Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism and Principal of St Mary's College, 1954-1978.
Matthew Black attended Kilmarnock Academy and Glasgow University where he obtained the degrees of MA in Classics in 1930 and Mental Philosophy in 1931 and BD with distinction in Old Testament studies in 1934. Postgraduate studies took him to Germany, where he graduated Dr Phil from Bonn in 1937. In 1938, Black married Ethel M Hall, daughter of Lt-Cdr A H Hall, Royal Indian Navy.
His first teaching posts in Glasgow and Manchester were in Hebrew and Semitic languages, but when he went to Aberdeen, in 1939, it was as lecturer in Hebrew and Biblical Criticism, with responsibilities in the New Testament field as well. He next had a five-year ministry, 1942-1947, in the parish of Dunbarney, Perthshire, but returned to academic life as lecturer in New Testament language and literature at Leeds University, 1947-52.
Black became Professor of Biblical Criticism and Biblical Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh in 1952 and in 1954 he was appointed Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism and Principal of St Mary's College where he remained until he retired in 1978. At St Andrews, Black initiated a reconstruction of divinity degrees, which was followed by other divinity faculties in Scotland. He acted as Dean of the Faculty of Divinity from 1963-67. He was the last Principal to live in the College.
He travelled widely, lecturing in Australia and New Zealand, Japan and North America, as well as in continental Europe. His international reputation attracted a steady stream of postgraduate students from overseas, many of whom were later to hold chairs in their own countries. His early studies were in Syriac and Aramaic, but later he was to apply his expertise in these languages to the New Testament, with reference particularly to the use of the title 'Son of Man' in the Gospels, and the use of the Old Testament in the New. All his work is marked by a deep reverence for scripture, combined with a shrewd critical judgement. He served as editor of New Testament Studies from 1954-1977. He was made FBA in 1955 and FRSE in 1977. He was awarded many honorary degrees between 1944 and 1980. He retired in 1978 but remained an active Emeritus Professor, based in St Andrews until his death in 1994.
One of the most distinguished New Testament scholars of his generation, as well as a Church of Scotland minister, the breadth of Matthew Black's scholarship is summed up in his having had the distinction of being a past President of both the Society for Old Testament Studies and its New Testament counterpart, Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas.Some notable publications are: The Scrolls and Christian Origins (1961), Peake's Commentary on the Bible, revised edition, (General and New Testament editor) (1962), Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (1967), The Scrolls and Christianity (1968), Commentary on Romans (1973).
Sources: 'Obituary' in The Times newspaper, (1994), Who's Who, (1897-1996).