Monday 29 August 2016

The Late J. Alec Motyer: 1924-2016

A few days ago the minister, theologian and shepherd of souls Rev J. Alec Motyer went on ahead to heaven. He died on August 26th 2016, but for many he may not be overly known about. Rev Alec Motyer was ordained in the Church of England and was probably the foremost Evangelical theologian in their denomination fold during the last half of the last century, in my opinion. While I am no expert on all of Motyer's works, I can confidently say that he was a theological mind committed to the infallibility of Scripture, one of the first order.

The influence of Motyer upon myself has been primarily his commentary on Isaiah which is by far the best commentary on my shelf on this most important Old Testament book. Isaiah is replete in citations in the Book of Romans and elsewhere in the New Testament, therefore a comprehensive understanding of this book is pivotal to grasping the gospel. I believe that there is also a daily devotional on Isaiah by him, which many have found most useful. While Motyer wrote other commentaries, this one on Isaiah is perhaps his life's work. I cannot commend it highly enough!

I did not know Alec Motyer personally, but I know two men who trained under him at Trinity College, Bristol and they were marked for life with a deep love for Holy Scripture. They have both served as faithful ministers of the Word of God in the church for decades. Does a love for the Scriptures also infuse your soul? This is what Geoff Thomas wrote about Motyer on the Banner of Truth website (

Now retired as principal of Trinity College in Bristol, England, Motyer has spent his professional career studying the Bible. However, he learned to love the Scriptures at his grandmother’s knee in Ireland. “Grandma was, in worldly terms, a comparatively uneducated lady,” Motyer says, “but she was a great Bible woman. Biblical studies have simply confirmed that which I learned from Grandma – that the Bible is the Word of God – and made it a coherently held position.”
He adds, “I had a conversion experience when I was 15, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love the Word of God.”

Motyer loved "all of Scripture" I believe, but he was specially gifted to make the connection across Scripture. Justin Taylor ( has commented on the life of Motyer in recent days and he makes this helpful observation:

I will always remember his answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church (I can’t remember if R. C. posed it to him or someone from the audience). After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their “testimony” to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:

We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator—the one who stands between us and God—came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.

Then Dr. Motyer concluded: “Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.”

It is a delight for me to give honour to a spiritual father of the calibre of J. Alec Motyer. How should we respond? We should pray for the Lord to send out labourers into his harvest and to include a new generation of men of the calibre of humility and giftedness as J. Alec Motyer.


Keith said...

Well said Kevin - a great man of God with real humility and good sense of humour. He made a big impression on me also.

Kevin Bidwell said...

Keith, were you taught by him directly at Trinity in Bristol also? Which single book of Motyer's would you recommend? Kevin B