Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Dods, Marcus

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DODS, MARCUS (1834–1909), presbyterian divine and biblical scholar, born in Belford Vicarage, Northumberland, on 11 April 1834, was youngest son of Marcus Dods [q. v.] by his wife Sarah Palliser. On the father's death in 1838 the family removed to Edinburgh, where Dods first attended a preparatory school and, later, Edinburgh Academy (1843-1848). After spending two years in the head office of the National Bank in Edinburgh, he resolved in 1850 to study for the ministry of the Free church of Scotland. In 1854 he graduated M.A. at Edinburgh University and began his theological course at New College, Edinburgh. During his university career he was assistant in the Signet Library. On 7 Sept. 1858 he was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Edinburgh.

Dods had a long probationership. Although he preached in twenty-three vacancies, he failed for six years to get a church. During these years of enforced leisure he edited the complete works of Augustine (1871); translated Lange's 'Life of Christ' (Edinburgh, 1864, 6 vols.); and wrote his 'Prayer that Teaches to Pray' (1863; 5th edit. 1885) and 'Epistles to the Seven Churches' (Edinburgh, 1865).

On 4 Aug. 1864 he was inducted minister of Renfield Free church, Glasgow, and from its pulpit for exactly twenty-five years he exercised a notable influence, especially on young men of culture, chief among whom was Henry Drummond [q. v. Suppl. I] (George Adam Smith, Life of Henry Drummond, 7th edit. p. 132). The sermons at Renfield formed the substance of his popular volumes, 'Israel's Iron Age, or Sketches from the Period of the Judges' (1874; 4th edit. 1880), 'The Parables of our Lord' (first series, Matthew, 1883; second series, Luke, 1885), and they provided material for his editions of 'Genesis' (Expositor's Bible, 1888); of '1 Corinthians' (Expositor's Bible, 1889); and of 'St. John's Gospel' (Expositor's Greek Test. 1897).

Though not a theologian in the technical sense, Dods brought wide and exact scholarship and an expository gift to the popularising of modern critical views about the Bible. In 1877 Dods published a sermon on 'Revelation and Inspiration,' which questioned verbal inspiration. The presbytery of Glasgow, while declining to enter on a process, advised withdrawal of the sermon with a view to some modification. Dods assented on conditions; the matter was brought in 1878 before the general assembly, which declined by a majority to intervene.

Dods refused in 1869 an invitation to become colleague to Dr. Robert Smith Candlish [q. v.] at St. George's Free church, Edinburgh, the most influential congregation in the denomination. In 1889, when he celebrated the semi-jubilee of his ordination, he was appointed to the chair of New Testament criticism and exegesis in New College, Edinburgh. The appointment implied that the Free church of Scotland was prepared to tolerate critical views of the Bible for which Robertson Smith [q. v.] had been removed from his chair only eight years before. At the general assembly of 1890 Dods was libelled, along with Professor Alexander Balmain Bruce [q. v. Suppl. I], owing to his views on inspiration, which he had discussed anew in a paper read before the pan-presbyterian council in London. The general assembly, after a protracted debate, while exhorting Dods to teach the faith held by his church, declined to institute a process. In 1891 he received the honorary degree of D.D. from Edinburgh University, and in 1901 he declined nomination for the moderatorship of the general assembly of the United Free church of Scotland (formed in the previous year by the union of the Free and United Presbyterian churches). Appointed in May 1907, on the death of Dr. Robert Rainy [q. v. Suppl. II], principal of New College, Edinburgh, he was prevented by ill-health from entering on the duties of the office. He died at Edinburgh on 26 April 1909, and was buried in the Dean cemetery there.

In 1871 he married Catherine, daughter of James Swanston of Marshall Meadows, Berwickshire, by whom he had three sons and one daughter. His eldest son, Marcus Dods, M.A., is the author of 'Forerunners of Dante.'

A portrait in oils by Sir James Guthrie, P.R.S.A., presented by his friends to the United Free church, now hangs in the Rainy Hall, New College.

Dods' chief writings, besides those already mentioned and contributions to religious periodicals, were: 1. 'Mohammed, Buddha, and Christ' (four lectures on natural and revealed religion, delivered at the English Presbyterian College), 1877. 2. 'Isaac Jacob, and Joseph,' 1880. 3. 'Erasmus and other essays,' 1891; 2nd edit. 1892. 4. 'An Introduction to the New Testament' ('Theological Educator' series), 1891. 5. 'The Visions of a Prophet: Studies in Zechariah' ('Little Books on Religion' series), 1895. 6. 'Why be a Christian?' (the same series), 1896. 7. 'How to become like Christ, and other papers,' 1897. 8. 'The Bible: its Nature and Origin' (Bross Lectures), 1905, a full account of his views on inspiration. Two volumes, 'Footsteps in the Path of Life' and 'Christ and Man' (sermons), were posthumously published in 1909, while two volumes of Dods' letters were edited by his son in 1910 and 1911 respectively.

[Dods' Early Letters 1910 (with memoir); his Later Letters, 1911; British Monthly, March 1904; British Weekly, 6 May 1909; Patrick Carnegie Simpson, Life of Principal Rainy (2 vols.), 1909; George Adam Smith, Life of Henry Drummond, 1898; personal knowledge.]

W. F. G.