Alexander Balmain Bruce (1831-1899), Scottish divine, was born at Aberargie near Perth on the 31st of January 1831. His father suffered for his adherence to the Free Church at the Disruption in 1843, and removed to Edinburgh, where the son was educated, showing exceptional ability from the first. His early religious doubts, awakened especially by Strauss's Life of Jesus, made him throughout life sympathetic with those who underwent a similar stress. After serving as assistant first at Ancrum, then at Lochwinnoch, he was called to Cardross in Dumbartonshire in 1859, and to Broughty Ferry in 1868. There he published his first considerable exegetical work, the Training of the Twelve. In 1874 he delivered his Cunningham Lectures, afterwards published as The Humiliation of Christ, and in the following year was appointed to the chair of Apologetics and New Testament exegesis at the Free Church College, Glasgow. This post he held for twenty-four years. He was one of the first British New Testament students whose work was received with consideration by German scholars of repute.
The character and work of Christ were, he held, the ultimate proof and the best defence of Christianity; and his tendency was to concentrate attention somewhat narrowly on the historic Jesus. In The Kingdom of God (1889), which first encountered serious hostile criticism in his own communion, he accounted for some of the differences between the first and third evangelists on the principle of accommodation - maintaining that Luke had altered both the text and the spirit of his sources to suit the needs of those for whom he wrote. It was held that these admissions were not consistent with the views of inspiration professed by the Free Church. When the case was tried, the assembly held that the charge of heresy was based on a misunderstanding, but that "by want of due care in his mode of statement he had given some ground for the painful impressions which had existed."
Bruce rendered signal service to his own communion in connexion with its service of praise. He was convener of the committee which issued the Free Church hymn book, and he threw into this work the same energy and catholicity of mind which marked the rest of his activities. He died on the 7th of August 1899, and was buried at Broughty Ferry. His chief works, beside the above, are: The Chief End of Revelation (Lond., 1881); The Parabolic Teaching of Christ (Lond., 1882); F.C. Baur and his Theory of the Origin of Christianity and of the New Testament Writings in "Present Day Tracts" (Lond., 1885); Apologetics, or Christianity Defensively Stated (Edin., 1892); St Paul's Conception of Christianity (Lond., 1894); Expos. Gk. Test. (the Synoptic Gospels, Lond., 1897). With Open Face (Lond., 1896); The Epistle to the Hebrews (Edin., 1899); The Providential Order of the World, and the Moral Order of the World in Ancient and Modern Thought (Gifford Lectures, 1896-1897; Lond., 1897, 1899).