The Training of the Twelve - Forward

The Training of the Twelve

A. B. Bruce



In more than twenty years in the ministry few books have influenced and helped me more than A. B. Bruce's The Training of the Twelve. I was delighted to discover that Kregel Publications was planning to reissue this very valuable book, and I thank God for their foresight in this undertaking. With confidence and enthusiasm I commend this volume to my fellow ministers throughout the English speaking world.

As never before in the history of the Christian ministry the servant of Jesus Christ is constantly grappling with the problem of how to reproduce himself and multiply his endeavors so as to encounter our ever increasing world population with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This book, as few other books, gives the practical as well as the theological guidelines for the man of God working with his flock. Every pastor knows the frustration of looking out upon a broken and often hostile world and experiencing haunting limitations to meet those needs. Obviously, a part of the answer to this kind of frustration is the genius of "getting things done through other people." This is precisely what Jesus Christ did with his apostles. The pattern and the ageless principles of this endeavor on the part of our Lord is lifted from the Holy Scriptures to guide us in the day in which we live.

The value of this volume is increased today as so many Christian workers are delving into the subject of management. For the first time in church history modern management techniques and principles are being sought out for their application to the local church, the mission, the missionary, and various types of Christian organizations. In the midst of this kind of upsurge of interest in management skills and tools it is increasingly vital that we have firmly fixed in our understanding the ageless management principles employed by our Lord in his relationships with his apostles.

It is difficult to estimate the value of Bruce's instruction for the young pastor just beginning his ministry. It would be well for ordination councils to consider this as required reading for the young man facing ordination. I would recommend the book to my brethren who have been in the ministry for many years as an ideal refresher course to lift and inspire the servant of God. I have read and reread the book through the years of my own ministry and always with increasing profit.

All of this is to say nothing of the devotional benefit of these blessed pages. How wonderful and encouraging to realize that the problems we face in working with our people whom the Holy Spirit has called out into our flocks or organizations are like the problems the Lord Jesus faced in the apostolate.

Further, I am delighted for the reappearance of this volume because of the depth and stability it will unquestionably bring to the ministry in this day when superficiality and wavering tends to abound.

Olan Hendrix



Alexander Balmain Bruce, a man as Scottish as his name, was born on a Perthshire farm and educated in an Edinburgh college. He ministered in Scottish country parishes and taught in a Glasgow seminary. For over forty years he devoted himself to the ministry of the Christian gospel, first as a pastor, and then as a distinguished Professor of Apologetics and New Testament Exegesis. He started writing during his pastorates and his best known book The Training of the Twelve was published in 1871. In keeping with the nineteenth century's love of ponderous and descriptive titles the book was subtitled, "Passages out of the Gospels Exhibiting the Twelve Disciples of Jesus Under Discipline for the Apostleship."

For over a hundred years The Training of the Twelve has been highly regarded and widely received. No less an authority than Dr. W. H. Griffith Thomas called the book, "One of the great Christian classics of the nineteenth century," and Dr. Wilbur Smith, America's number one evangelical bibliophile remarked "There is nothing quite as important on the life of our Lord as related to the training of the twelve apostles as this book. . . . "

Now, this "nineteenth century classic" can expand its already rich and blessed ministry. Although over one-hundred years old, Dr. Bruce's work speaks powerfully and effectively to the contemporary Christian generation.

In recent years there has been a re-discovery of the importance of Paul's teaching in Ephesians chapter 4] concerning the pastor/teacher's responsibility to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry." Many churches for long years had been ignorant of, or chose to ignore such biblical teaching, and, accordingly, a few of God's people were over-worked while the majority were under-employed. While a handful of gifts were exercised to the full, thousands of gifted people did not even know they were gifted. As a result, the potential ministry of the Church of Christ was drastically curtailed. Dr. Bruce would have felt right at home with the present emphasis on training people to minister, and his book has much to offer as a resource for such training as it shows the Master training His special team.

Seeing the church as the Body of Christ is another healthy contemporary emphasis. It serves to deliver people from the mistaken idea that the church is something people attend and introduces them to the biblical concept that the church is something people are. For Christians to see themselves as the Body of Christ and to order their lives in loving response to each other as fellow members, committed to mutual nurture, is potentially revolutionary. This book carefully documents the struggles and the successes of the first group of people who endeavored so to love each other that they became recognizable as Christ's disciples.

Much has been written recently about personal Christian growth. Some of the material leans more heavily on social sciences than theological or biblical teaching and savors more of self-improvement than spiritual growth. Dr. Bruce's work will greatly benefit many modern readers because his studies carefully examine how the disciples grew as a result of their relationship with the Master. The contemporary church needs to remember that the invaluable information gleaned from the social scientist about human behavior must never be seen as a substitute for a personal relationship with the living Lord Jesus similar to that enjoyed by the twelve as they walked the highways and byways together. How they heard His word, studied His reactions, fulfilled His commands and repsonded to His promises is faithfully recorded for us in Scripture and beautifully applied to our situations in this book.

Personally, I have found The Training of the Twelve of immense value for reasons other than those listed above. When preaching through the Gospels I have constantly referred to this book and found it to be an excellent commentary. In addition, I have often sat down and read chapters for no other reason than I needed the nourishment that comes to me only from the devotional application of Scripture to my own soul. Few expositors have done more for me than A. B. Bruce in this regard.

Perhaps the best recommendation that I can give the book, however, is to tell you that although I have many hundreds of books in my growing library, all carefully cataloged and filed, shelved and ordered, I have just realized that The Training of the Twelve has never been officially included in my library! The reason is simple. Ever since I purchased my copy, years ago, it has stayed either on my desk or at my elbow with a handful of other books which I need to refer to constantly. I just haven't been able to part with it long enough to let my secretary put it in its proper place! On second thought, it is in its proper place right where I can get hold of it quickly. I hope your copy will find such a place in your life and experience.




ON receiving notice from the publisher that a second edition of The Training of the Twelve which first appeared in 1871, was called for, I was obliged to consider the question what alterations should be made on a work which, though written with care, was too obviously, to my maturer judgment, stamped with imperfection. Two alternatives suggested themselves to my mind. One was to recast the whole, so as to give it a more critical and scientific character, and make it bear more directly on current controversies respecting the origin of Christianity. The other was to allow the book to remain substantially as it was, retaining its popular form, and limiting alterations to details susceptible of improvement without change of plan. After a little hesitation, I decided for the latter course, for the following reasons. From expressions of opinion that reached me from many and very diverse quarters, I had come to be convinced that the book was appreciated and found useful, and I thence concluded that, notwithstanding its faults, it might continue to be of service in its primitive shape. Then, considering how difficult in all things it is to serve two masters or accomplish at once two ends, I saw that the adoption of the former of the two alternative courses was tantamount to writing a new book, which could be done, if necessary, independently of the present publication. I confess to having a vague plan of such a work in my head, which may or may not be carried into effect. The TŸbingen school of critics, with whose works English readers are now becoming acquainted through translations, maintain that catholic Christianity was the result of a compromise or reconciliation between two radically opposed tendencies, represented respectively by the original apostles and by Paul, the two tendencies being Judaistic exclusiveness on the one hand, and Pauline universalism on the other. The twelve said: Christianity for Jews, and all who are willing to become Jews by compliance with Jewish custom; Paul said: Christianity for the whole world, and for all on the same terms. Now the material dealt with in The Training of the Twelve, must, from the nature of the case, have some bearing on this conflict hypothesis of Dr. Barr and his friends. The question arises, What was to be expected of the men that were with Jesus? and the consideration of this question would form an important division of such a controversial work as I have in view. Another chapter might consider the part assigned to Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (alleged by the same school of critics to be a part invented for him by the writer for an apologetic purpose), seeking especially to determine whether it was a likely part for him to play—likely in view of his idiosyncrasies, or the training he had received. Another appropriate topic would be the character of the Apostle John, as portrayed in the synoptical Gospels, in its bearing on the questions of the authorship of the fourth Gospel, and the hostility to Paul and his universalism alleged to be manifested in the Book of Revelation. In such a work there would further fall to be considered the materials bearing on the same theme in other parts of the New Testament, especially those to be found in the Epistle to the Galatians. Finally, there might not inappropriately be found a place in such a work for a discussion of the question, How far do the synoptical Gospels—the principal sources of information regarding the teaching and public actions of Christ—bear traces of the influence of controversial or conciliatory tendencies? e.g. what ground is there for the assertion that the mission of the seventy is an invention in the interest of Pauline universalism intended to throw the original apostles into the shade?

In the present work I have not attempted to develop the argument here outlined, but have merely indicated the places at which the different points of the argument might come in, and the way in which they might be used. The conflict hypothesis was not absent from my mind in writing the book at first; but I was neither so well acquainted with the literature relating thereto, nor so sensible of its importance, as I am now.

In preparing this new edition for the press, I have not lost sight of any hints from friendly critics which might tend to make it more acceptable and useful. In particular, I have kept steadily in view retrenchment of the homiletic element, though I am sensible that I may still have retained too much for some tastes, but I hope not too much for the generality of readers. I have had to remember, that while some friends called for condensation, others have complained that the matter was too closely packed. I have also had occasion to observe in my reading of books on the Gospel history that it is possible to be so brief and sketchy as to miss not only the latent connections of thought, but even the thoughts themselves. The changes have not all been in the direction of retrenchment. While not a few paragraphs have been cancelled or reduced in bulk, other new ones have been added, and in one or two instances whole pages have been rewritten. Among the more important additions may be mentioned a note at the end of the chapter relating to the farewell discourse, giving an analysis of the discourse into its component parts; and a concluding paragraph at the end of the work summing up the instructions which the twelve had received from Jesus during the time they had been with Him. Besides these, a feature of this edition is a series of footnotes referring to some of the principal recent publications, British and foreign, whose contents relate more or less to the Gospel history, such as the works of Keim, Pfleiderer, Golani, Farrar, Sanday, and Supernatural Religion. The notes referring to Mr. Sanday's work bear on the important question, how far we have in John's Gospel a reliable record of the words spoken by Jesus to His disciples on the eve of His passion.

Besides the index of passages discussed which appeared in the first edition, this edition contains a carefully-prepared table of contents at the end, which it is hoped will add to the utility of the work. To make the bearing of the contents on the training of the disciples more apparent, I have in several instances changed the titles of chapters, or supplied alternative titles.

With these explanations, I send forth this new edition, with grateful feelings for the kind reception which the work has already received, and in the hope that by the divine blessing it may continue to be of use as an attempt to illustrate an interesting and important theme.

A. B. B.