HARPER, Andrew (1844-1936)


HARPER, Andrew (1844-1936)
biblical scholar
was born at Glasgow, Scotland, on 13 November 1844. After some preliminary education at Glasgow Academy he came to Australia and went to Scotch College, Melbourne. He joined the civil service, but in 1864 passed the matriculation examination of the university of Melbourne and graduated B.A. in 1868. Going on to the university of Edinburgh he graduated B.D. in 1872 and gained the Cunningham fellowship. Returning to Australia he was appointed English master at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne, became headmaster in 1877, and in 1879 principal. He resigned at the end of 1888 leaving the school with a high reputation among the secondary schools of Victoria. In the same year he was appointed professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at Ormond College, university of Melbourne. He became editor of The Messenger of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria in 1895, and during the following five years carried it on with much ability and success. In 1901 he was appointed Hunter-Baillie professor of Hebrew and principal of St Andrew's College, university of Sydney. He resigned the office of principal in 1921 and the professorship in May 1924, being then in his eightieth year. He retired to Edinburgh where he died on 25 November 1936, a few days after his ninety-second birthday. He married (1) Miss Craig and (2) Barbara Rainy, daughter of Dr Robert Rainy, principal of New College, Edinburgh, where Harper had studied for his divinity degree. She survived him with two sons and five daughters.
Harper was a fine scholar but did not publish a great deal. The Book of Deuteronomy in the Expositer's Bible series, published in 1895, gave him a wide reputation, and it was everywhere recognized as a work of great value. He also contributed a volume, The Song of Solomon, to The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges in 1902. His The Hon. James Balfour M.L.C., a Memoir, is an interesting record of a leading Mellbourne merchant and politician whom Harper had known for nearly 50 years. A series of lectures to the Sydney University Christian Union was published under the title Christian Essentials; he printed a few pamphlets, and he also contributed the chapter on "The White Australia Policy" to Australia, Economic and Political Studies, edited by Meredith Atkinson and published in 1920.
Harper was a good speaker and debater who exercised much influence in the Presbyterian Church in Australia, and more especially on the candidates for the ministry who studied under him. He had decided convictions but could realize the difficulties of others. Personally he was modest and thoroughly sincere, loyal to the Christian faith yet believing in scientific inquiry, a wise and understanding mentor at a period of transition and reshaping, when many beliefs once firmly held were being attacked.
Dr G. W S. Reid, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 November 1936, reprinted in The Messenger, Melbourne, 11 December 1936; The Scotsman, 26 November 1936; A. Harper, The Honourable James Balfour, M.L.C., A Memoir; Annual Reports Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne, 1877-88; Aeneas Macdonald, One Hundred Years of Presbyterianism in Victoria; Who's Who, 1927; The Melbourne University Calendar, 1867-8, 1869-70.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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