Remembering Renowned Old Testament Pastor-Scholar
J. Alec Motyer
WESTMONT, IL—J. Alec Motyer, renowned Old Testament author, pastor, and scholar, passed away on August 26 at the age of ninety-one.
Motyer devoted much of his academic life to the study of the Old Testament, particularly the book of Isaiah. He was the editor or author of more than ten books, including the award-winning The Prophecy of Isaiah. Motyer was also Old Testament editor of IVP’s commentary series The Bible Speaks Today and authored several volumes in that series. Although esteemed by great scholars and teachers such as Don Carson and Tim Keller, Motyer once said, “I’m not really a scholar. I’m just a man who loves the Word of God.”
John Goldingay, a friend and fellow Old Testament author, is one of the scholars who was deeply impacted by Motyer. He said, “Alec Motyer enthused winsomely about the theological and spiritual significance of the Old Testament, and about the value of reading the text carefully. He conveyed his quiet enthusiasm to such effect that after fifty years I still share it.”
“Born John Alexander Motyer in Dublin,” writes Justin Taylor for The Gospel Coalition, “he graduated with a BD (1949) and MA (1951) from Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Ireland, and did further studies at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1947 as a deacon, and then in 1948 as a priest, serving as a curate in Penn Fields, Wolverhampton (1947–1950), and at Holy Trinity Church in Bristol (1950–1954). In Bristol, he also served as Tutor, and then Vice Principal, of Clifton College (1950–1965). From there he became Vicar of St Luke’s, West Hampstead (1965–1970), but returned to Bristol as Deputy Principal of Tyndale Hall (1970–1971), and then became the principal of the reconstituted Trinity College (1971–1981). His final decade of active parish ministry was as the Minister at Westbourne (Bournemouth) (1981–1989).”
Dan Reid, associate publisher and IVP Academic editorial director, said, “Alec Motyer was an important figure in the resurgence of evangelical biblical studies in the UK in the 1950s and following decades. It was the privilege of InterVarsity Press (USA) to have a part in bringing his work to a North American audience.”
In a tribute on Reformation21.org, Terry Johnson recalls what it was like learning from Motyer as a student at Trinity College in Dublin. “‘Packer and Motyer’ (we came to speak of them as one) were and are simply the two most godly men I have ever known,” Johnson wrote. He added that he would describe them this way: “What Packer is in print, Motyer is from the pulpit and lectern.”
“Mr. Motyer’s lasting contribution, if not the recordings of his lectures and sermons, will be his publications,” Johnson said. “He holds the distinction, along with John Stott, of writing commentaries about which one may say, ‘If I have his, I have all I need.’”
One passage in particular from TheProphecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentarystood out to Reid with regard to Motyer’s legacy. In the preface, Motyer had this to say about his grappling with the great prophet:
As I look back now, and particularly over the intensive activity of the last three years, there rises unbidden the picture of a very small mouse nibbling heroically at a very large cheese. Indeed it is no picture but a reality, and now that all is at last done, like Reepicheep of Narnia (though, please God, without his endearing bumptiousness), I too lay my sword at the feet of him who alone is worthy of all praise, the Servant of the Lord, the reigning King and the coming Anointed Conqueror, Jesus Christ our Lord.
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