Adam Clarke

Adam Clarke (1762 - 1832) was a British Methodist theologian, preacher, and commentator. He is chiefly remembered for writing a commentary on the Bible (8 vols., Liverpool, 1810-26), which long had an extensive circulation. He also published a Biographical Dictionary (6 vols., London, 1802) and its supplement, The Biographical Miscellany (2 vols., 1806). His Miscellaneous Works were edited in thirteen volumes by J. Everett (London, 1836-37).

As a theologian, Clarke taught that the Bible provides a complete interpretation of God's will and nature. He considered Scripture itself a miracle of God's grace, "...which takes away the veil of darkness and ignorance."^1^ With such an understanding, Clarke was first and foremost a Biblical theologian, often uneasy with purely systematic approaches to theology.

Clarke generally followed Wesley regarding the interpretation of God's forgiving grace, prevenient grace, the offer of justification from God to all persons, sanctification, and assurance.

Perhaps his most controversial position regarded the _eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ_. Clarke did not believe it Biblically faithful to affirm this doctrine, maintaining that prior to the Incarnation, Jesus was "unoriginated". Otherwise, according to Clarke, Christ would be subordinate to God and therefore not fully divine. This was important to Clarke because he felt that Christ's divinity was crucial to understand the atonement.

Clarke's view was opposed by many Methodists, notably Richard Watson. Watson and his allies argued that Clarke's position jeopardized the integrity of the doctrine of the Trinity. Clarke's view was rejected by Methodism in favor of the traditional orthodox perspective of Christology.

His chief contribution remains his Commentary on the Bible, which was an academic tour de force in its day and is still widely used.


Note 1: Adam Clarke quoted in Thomas Langford, Practical Divinity (Nashville: Abingdon, 1983), p. 56.


  • The Christian Prophet and His Work by Adam Clarke ( ISBN 0880194065)
  • Christian Theology by Adam Clarke ( ISBN 0880192615)
  • Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke ( ISBN 0529106345)
  • Practical Divinity: Theology in the Wesleyan Tradition (1983) by Thomas Langford ( ISBN 0687073820)
  • Adam Clarke, Controversialist: Wesleyanism and the Historic Faith (1975) by Ian Sellers ( ISBN 0900798084)
  • When Adam Clarke Preached, People Listened: Studies in the Message and Method of Adam Clarke's Preaching (1981) by Wesley Tracy ( ISBN 0834107147)