Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Black, Alexander

BLACK, ALEXANDER, D.D. (1789–1864), Scottish theologian, was born in Aberdeen in 1789, where his father, John Black, owned a few fields and carried on the business of a gardener. He was educated at the grammar school and Marischal College, and after studying medicine devoted himself to preparation for the ministry. His abilities and application to study were so remarkable that, when a vacancy occurred in the chair of divinity in King's College, Aberdeen, he offered himself as a candidate, and went through the examinations prescribed to the applicants. His fellow-candidates were the late Dr. Mearns, then minister of Tarves, who was successful, and the late Dr. Love, of Glasgow. Young Black, though unsuccessful, attracted the attention of the Earl of Aberdeen, who on the promotion of Dr. Mearns to the chair presented him to the parish of Tarves, and there Black wus ordained in 1818. From Tarves Black was transferred to Aberdeen in 1832 as professor of divinity in Marischal College. His great powers as a linguist and his very large and particular acquaintance with rabinical literature cnused him to be selected in 1839 by a committee of the general assembly, along with the Rev. Dr. Keith, St. Cyrus, Rev. R. M. McCheyne, Dundee, and Rev. A. A. Bonar, Collace, to go to the East to make inquiries as to the expediency of beginning a mission to the Jews. After a good many difficulties and trials Black and his brethren returned to Scotland, and an interesting report of their mission was presented to the general assembly. At the disruption in 1843, joining the Free church, he gave up his chair at Aberdeen and removed to Edinburgh, where he was connected with the New College. Referring to the linguistic powers of Black and his colleague, Dr. John Duncan (Colloquia Peripatetica), Dr. Guthrie used to say that ‘they could speak their way to the wall of China;’ yet no corresponding products of their learning were given to the public. Black published a ‘Letter on the Exegetical Study of the Scriptures to the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church.’ He also contributed a discourse to the volume on the ‘Inauguration of the New College.’ He died at Edinburgh in January 1864.

[Report of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews in 1839, by Rev. A. A. Bonar; Scott's Fasti; letter to the writer from Mr. Alexander Black, son of the subject of this notice]

W. G. B.