Peake, Arthur Samuel (1865-1929)

Professor A S Peake, c1904
Englesea Brook Museum 10.04
Prof Arthur S Peake, Manchester, c1904
Englesea Brook Museum 10.04

Early life

Born at Leek, in Staffordshire, on 24 November 1865. His father Samuel Peake was a Primitive Methodist minister, which meant constant moves. Arthur went to Ludlow Grammar School, and the King Henry VIII School in Coventry, from which he won a scholarship to St John’s College, Oxford.

Arriving in Oxford in 1883, he studied classics for two years, before changing to theology, in which he excelled, winning a first class degree and a further scholarship.  At this time his intention was to be ordained into the Church of England, but this was not to be.

In 1890 he accepted a lectureship at Mansfield College, Oxford and was elected to a Theological Fellowship at Merton College.

Hartley College

He was to become Primitive Methodism’s greatest scholar, when William Hartley persuaded him in 1892 to become a tutor at the PM Theological Institute in Manchester (renamed Hartley College in 1906), where he remained for the rest of his life. He shaped the lives of all the PM ministers who trained at Hartley, by broadening the curriculum, and raising standards, and would never be forgotten by them.

He also became the first holder of the Rylands Chair of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis in the University of Manchester, from its establishment as an independent institution in 1904. This made him the first non-Anglican to become a professor of divinity in an English university.

He remained a layman, but played a vital part in enabling PM ministers and others to accept critical biblical scholarship without losing their faith.

Church unity

Peake was also a great supporter of church unity. He was one of the PM representatives on the Methodist Union Committee from 1918, one of six Free Church representatives at meetings with the Anglicans from 1922-1925, and was a member of the World Conference on Faith and Order, which met in Lausanne in 1927.


He is perhaps best remembered for his one volume commentary on the Bible, which was published in 1919. He also wrote commentaries on Hebrews (1902), Colossians (1903), Job (1905), Jeremiah (1910), Lamentations (1912), and Revelation (1919).

Other publications include

A Guide to Biblical Study (1897)
The Problem of Suffering in the Old Testament (1904)
The Religion of Israel (1908)
A Critical Introduction to the New Testament (1909)
Heroes and Martyrs of Faith (1910)
The Bible: its Origin, its Significance, and its Abiding Worth (1913)
A Commentary on the Bible (1919)
Life of Sir William Hartley (1926)
The Servant of Yahweh: lectures given at London and Manchester, 1904-26 (1931)


A S Peake (ed W F Howard), Recollections and Appreciations (1938)
Leslie Sillman Peake, Arthur Samuel Peake: a memoir (1930)
John A Vickers (ed), A Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland (2000)
John T Wilkinson, Arthur Samuel Peake, 1865-1929 (1958)

Comments about this page

  • Arthur Peake figures largely in the 2017 book “Change and Decay: Primitive Methodism from late Victorian times till World War 1”, which explores his role and influence in bringing about significant changes in the denomination.


    By David Young (02/12/2017)

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