Papers of Matthew Black

Scope and Content

The papers document a lifetime of scholarship and ministry and include lecture notes, sermons, correspondence, academic notes, and manuscripts and proofs of published works. They are mainly of a personal and research nature.

However there are also administrative files within this collection and it is likely that there is overlap to the related collections which relate to Principal Black's activities as Principal of St Mary's College, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity and in other roles within the university. There is also material relating to his editorship of New Testament Studies and his presidency of learned societies.

Administrative / Biographical History

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).


Not arranged.

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted.


There is overlap between these related collections since none of them have yet been listed. Those held as ms38379 will include the personal and research papers of Black as an academic. Those relating to his administration of the college and of the faculty will be relocated to the relevant classifications at listing.

Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has yet to be appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

The collection arrived in various lots, deposited by Miss Maisie Blackwood, Secretary to the late Principal at St Mary's College, at different times after 1994. An additional deposit was made by the son of Principal Black at the clearing of the house at 40 Buchanan Gardens, St Andrews in 1998. Accessioned in 1998.

Related Material

GB 227 UYUY409: Records of the Faculty of Divinity;GB 227 UYUY409: Records of the Faculty of Divinity;UYSM250/Black: Records relating to Black as principal of St Mary's College;UYSM250/Black: Records relating to Black as principal of St Mary's College;ms37526-37539: references within papers of Professor T Malcolm Knox.