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Rev. Alec Motyer (1924-2016)

December 2016

Earlier this year, John Alexander Motyer — Alec Motyer — was called to be with the Lord, aged 91. Rev. Lee Gatiss of Church Society has written this tribute:

Mr Motyer studied at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was awarded BA, MA, and BD degrees. He trained for the Anglican ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and was a curate in Lichfield diocese before becoming a theological college tutor in Bristol.

He was vice-principal of Clifton Theological College from 1954 to 1965, before going back into parish ministry at St Luke’s, West Hampstead, for five years. The call to theological education remained with him, however, and he returned to Bristol to become principal and dean of Trinity College, Bristol (1971-1981).

Rev. J. I. Packer was associate principal with him during these years, and everyone I’ve ever met who trained there at this time speaks warmly of the positive, Reformed and evangelical nature of the training and pastoral formation they received.

Mr Motyer later left Bristol to take up another ministerial position, at Christ Church, Westbourne in 1981, from where he retired in 1989.

Alec was both a scholarly and popular writer. He was the Old Testament editor of the Bible Speaks Today commentary series (IVP), contributing his own volumes to that series, on Amos (1974), Philippians (1984), James (1985), and, most recently, Exodus (2005).

Magnum opus

His magnum opus (in my humble opinion) is his first commentary on Isaiah, published in 1993, which was followed by other smaller commentaries on the same book, as well as popular level volumes on the Old Testament and on preaching.

He was a close reader of the biblical text. I remember being riveted by a talk he gave to the Theological Students’ Fellowship in Oxford when I was an undergraduate, and his talks on ‘covenant’ at Word Alive in Skegness in 1994 were so gripping and compelling I immediately bought the cassette recordings and almost wore out my tape player by listening to them again and again!

He was a prolific contributor to the Church Society journal, Churchman, writing an enthusiastic number of book reviews and several articles for us over the course of five decades.

He had a winsome, self-deprecating sense of humour, a lilting Irish brogue and a genius for illustrative stories, which can be sampled in some of his more recent sermons from Poynton Parish Church in Cheshire, where he preached regularly in retirement.

Mr Motyer was a pillar of the evangelical Anglican establishment in the second half of the twentieth century, and a terrific example of a Reformed evangelical Bible commentator.

As the ‘church militant here on earth’ becomes increasingly bereft of those in that great generation, we must pray for the continuation of their legacy, especially for the production of more Bible-loving, theologically rigorous resources, which feed warm-hearted, Christ-exalting preaching.

The full tribute by Mr Gatiss is published on the website of Church Society (


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