Training of the Twelve

Introduction by
John Musselman

The man who introduced me to A.B. Bruce and his classic masterpiece, The Training of the Twelve, was Dr. Howard Hendricks, the late distinguished professor and lecturer at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was a senior in college when I heard several recorded lectures by Dr. Hendricks on Christian discipleship which significantly impacted my life. Included in his lecture content were references to two books that had virtually shaped his life and worldwide ministry. One was Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde, a former Marxist, news editor of the London Daily Worker, and member of the Communist Party in Great Britain. Hyde described the Communist mechanics of instilling dedication and a willingness to sacrifice as prerequisites for leadership. Hendricks said he read this book once a year “just to keep my perspective.” The second was The Training of the Twelve, considered by most scholars to be the best work ever written about how Jesus trained the Twelve and equipped them to spread the gospel throughout the world. Almost immediately, I obtained copies of both works and began to slowly allow the ideas and concepts to firmly take root in my mind and heart.

The difficulty I had in reading Bruce’s classic work came as a great surprise to me. As one of Europe’s leading New Testament scholars and apologists for the Christian faith in the 19th century, his sentence structure, cultural and political understanding, historical knowledge, geographical references, and remarkable insights into who Jesus was and how He trained the twelve Apostles was, frankly, above my level of reading at the time. Four years later, I was unable to put Howard Hendricks’ recommendation out of my mind and reached for Bruce once again. This time, however, my strong determination and desire to see for myself why this book had been so important to Dr. Hendricks fueled my way through to the very end. Unfortunately, I also realized that, for all the reasons listed above, most people would probably never access this great treasure on the life of our Lord.

Challenged by the Board of Directors of the Jackson Institute, I prayerfully accepted the task of editing Bruce’s classic work and began the three-year journey (1993-1996) of re-writing The Training of the Twelve into modern English. My goal was to ensure that Dr. Bruce’s work was preserved and unchanged in content while making it more accessible to a broader reading audience.

In October, 2002, thirty years after listening to his recordings on discipleship, I met Dr. Hendricks and had the privilege of thanking him personally for the impact he had made on my life and ministry through his teaching and books. During our conversation, he shared that he had read The Training of the Twelve (545 pages) 39 times, and that no book outside the Bible had shaped his life more than this one.

Written in 1871, The Training of the Twelve contains rare insights about our Lord’s primary strategy of spending time with twelve uneducated and untrained men to prepare them to take the gospel of grace to the ends of the earth. After more than 140 years, this book has stood the test of time and has been instrumental in transforming the lives of thousands of men and women who have seen Jesus as never before and are now committed to following Him and His plan for world evangelization.

About the Author

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About the Author

Alexander Balmain Bruce (1831-1899) was born at Aberargie near Perth on January 31, 1831. Showing exceptional ability as a young student, he was educated in Edinburgh and later ordained as a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. After serving as an assistant, first at Ancrum, then at Lochwinnoch, he was called to Cardross in Dumbartonshire in 1859 and to Broughty Ferry in 1868. While there, he published his first considerable exegetical work, The Training of the Twelve, in 1871.

In 1874 Dr. Bruce delivered his Cunningham Lectures, afterwards published as The Humiliation of Christ and, in the following year, was appointed to the chair of Apologetics and New Testament Exegesis at the Free Church College, Glasgow. He held this post for twenty-four years. Bruce was one of the first British New Testament professors whose work was favorably received by German scholars. The character and work of Christ were, he held, the ultimate proof and the best defense of Christianity.

A.B. Bruce died in 1899 and is buried at Broughty Ferry. Other books by Dr. Bruce include:

1. The Chief End of Revelation (1881)
2. The Parabolic Teaching of Christ (1882)
3. The Miraculous Element in the Gospels (1886)
4. The Kingdom of God (1889)
5. Apologetics, or Christianity Defensively Stated (1892)
6. St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity (1894)
7. With Open Face (1896)
8. The Providential Order of the World, and the Moral Order of the World in Ancient and Modern Thought (1896-1897)
9. The Epistle to the Hebrews (1899)

Content Downloads

The Training of the Twelve covers the historical period beginning with Jesus’ association with the early disciples and ending with the disciples waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. There are a total of 53 chapters detailing how He selected and prepared these men to “come before the world as leaders in a great movement.” As Dr. Bruce summarizes, “…by far the most important part of that training consisted in the simple fact of being for years with such a one as Jesus.

For those discussing the material in a small group context, consider taking two years to complete the study (excluding summers). One suggested pattern is to study and discuss the first 25 chapters during the first year and to complete the final 28 chapters in the second year.

As with all of our downloadable content on this website, you are authorized to download, print, or store copies of The Training of the Twelve on an electronic device for personal or group studies but are prohibited from duplicating and distributing the material for commercial purposes.

The Training of the Twelve: Discussion and Study Guide

The Training of the Twelve: Discussion and Study Guide by Joseph McRae Mellichamp and John L. Musselman is available from


Chapter 1: Beginnings

Chapter 2: Fishers of Men

Chapter 3: Matthew the Publican

Chapter 4: The Twelve

Chapter 5: Hearing and Seeing

Chapter 6: Lessons on Prayer

Chapter 7: Lessons in Religious Liberty, 1

Chapter 8: Lessons in Religious Liberty, 2

Chapter 9: Lessons in Religious Liberty, 3

Chapter 10: First Attempts at Evangelism, 1

Chapter 11: First Attempts at Evangelism, 2

Chapter 12: The Galilean Crisis, 1

Chapter 13: The Galilean Crisis, 2

Chapter 14: The Galilean Crisis, 3

Chapter 15: The Galilean Crisis, 4

Chapter 16: The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Chapter 17: Peter’s Confession; Or,Current Opinion and Eternal Truth

Chapter 18: First Lesson On The Cross, 1

Chapter 19: First Lesson On The Cross, 2

Chapter 20: The Transfiguration

Chapter 21: Training In Character: Discourse On Humility, 1

Chapter 22: Training In Character: Discourse On Humility, 2

Chapter 23: Training In Character: Discourse On Humility, 3

Chapter 24: Training In Character: Discourse On Humility, 4

Chapter 25: Training In Character: Discourse On Humility, 5

Chapter 26: The Sons of Thunder

Chapter 27: In Perea: Or, The Doctrine Of Self-Sacrifice, 1

Chapter 28: In Perea: Or, The Doctrine Of Self-Sacrifice, 2

Chapter 29: In Perea: Or, The Doctrine Of Self-Sacrifice, 3

Chapter 30: The Sons Of Zebedee Again: Or, Second Lesson on the Doctrine of the Cross

Chapter 31: The Anointing in Bethany Or Third Lesson on the Doctrine of the Cross

Chapter 32: First-Fruits Of The Gentiles

Chapter 33: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Or, Discourse On The Last Things

Chapter 34: The Master Serving; Or, Another Lesson In Humility, 1

Chapter 35: The Master Serving; Or, Another Lesson In Humility, 2

Chapter 36: In Memoriam; Or, Fourth Lesson On The Doctrine Of The Cross

Chapter 37: Judas Iscariot

Chapter 38: The Dying Parent And The Little Ones, 1

Chapter 39: The Dying Parent And The Little Ones, 2

Chapter 40: Dying Charge to the Future Apostles, 1

Chapter 41: Dying Charge to the Future Apostles, 2

Chapter 42: Dying Charge to the Future Apostles, 3

Chapter 43: The Intercessory Prayer

Chapter 44: The Sheep Scattered, 1

Chapter 45: The Sheep Scattered, 2

Chapter 46: The Sheep Scattered, 3

Chapter 47: The Shepherd Restored, 1

Chapter 48: The Shepherd Restored, 2

Chapter 49: The Shepherd Restored, 3

Chapter 50: The Undershepherds Admonished, 1

Chapter 51: The Undershepherds Admonished, 2

Chapter 52: Power From On High

Chapter 53: Waiting