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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Thomas Bilson - Jacobean courtier bishop

Family and academic background

Thomas Bilson was born in 1546/7, was one of five children of German descent. The family were settled in Winchester for two generations, and had fairly close family links with the brewery trade, the local Council, Winchester College and Merton College, Oxford. Bilson was educated at the twin foundations of William de Wykeham, Winchester College (1559) and New College, Oxford, graduating BA (1566), and MA in 1570. He became a teacher in, and later Headmaster of Winchester College, 1572.

Winchester College Chapel

Theological achievements

In 1579 Bilson resigned the headship of Winchester to concentrate on theological study, rapidly acquiring a BTh that same year, and a DTh two years later. He was elected warden of the college, as well as canon and prebend at the cathedral. In 1596 he became bishop of Worcester, and three years later bishop of Winchester. Bilson broadened his academic interests during these years and

now became ‘infinitely studious and industrious in Poetry, in Philosophy, in Physick, and lastly (which his genius chiefly call'd him to) in Divinity’ (Harington, 72–3).(1)
Says McClure :
Anthony Wood proclaims him so “complete in divinity, so well skilled in languages, so read in the Fathers and Schoolmen, so judicious is making use of his readings, that at length he was found to be no longer a soldier, but a commander in chief in the spiritual warfare, especially when he became a bishop!"
The bishop also enjoyed and wrote a little distinguished poetry, which may explain why he was chosen to bring the final touches to the Bible translation work toward the end.

Bilson’s writings

During these years he wrote well over half a million words in two books - The True Difference betweene Christian Subjection and Unchristian Rebellion(1585) and The Perpetual Governement of Christes Church (1593).

[These] established Bilson, alongside Richard Hooker, as the most scholarly and learned of a group of contemporary writers who used the joint challenge of papal supremacy and presbyterian democracy both to carve out a defence of the Church of England.(1)
Bilson rejected both the right of the pope to depose a monarch or elect church ministers, and supported the political resistance of protestants on the continent. He believed the superiority of hereditary government depended for its validity on the original permission of the people, and that tyranny should be resisted in the face of arbitrary and unwise rule.

The harrowing of hell

Did Jesus descend into hell on our behalf, and endure our punishment, after He died? The phrase in the Apostles Creed might suggest He did. In a controversy which lasted from 1597 to 1604, Bilson interpreted the phrase literally, and this reflected the prevailing view of the time - whilst Puritans tended to prefer a metaphorical interpretation. Bilson maintained that Christ went to hell, not to suffer, but to wrest the keys of hell out of the Devil’s hands. Hugh Broughton, a noted Hebraist, aggressively opposed this, and his personal animosity towards some he disagreed with excluded him from the company of translators of the King James Bible.

Queen Elizabeth, in her ire, commanded Bilson, "neither to desert the doctrine, nor let the calling which he bore in the Church of God, be trampled under foot, by such unquiet refusers of truth and authority." [McClure]
In response, Bilson wrote a treatise of half a million words, entitled The Survey of Christ’s Sufferings.

Hampton Court Conference

Thomas Bilson preached at James I's coronation, July 1603. His Episcopal seniority made him one of the main combatants at the Hampton Court conference, January 1604. James had called the conference to give the Puritans an opportunity to speak their mind on then current and contentious ecclesiastical issues. But, Bilson didn’t want the conference to take place, as he felt the level and dignity of any discussion would be demeaned by their presence.

. . . according to Stephen Egerton [Bilson] had suggested to James that: “the Bishops (being esteemed the father and pillars of the Church, for gravitie, learninge & government, &c both at home and in forraine parts) might not be so disparaged as to conferre with men of so meane place and quality. (Shriver, 56)(1)
During the conference Bancroft was highly combative whereas Bilson because of ill health, ‘stoode mute: and said little or nothing’ (Usher, 340).(1)
Bilson was now suffering from sciatica, arthritis, vertigo, ‘a continual singing in my head … many obstructions and extreme windiness’ (Salisbury MSS, 17.6).(1)

Coronation chair - Westminster Abbey

Involvement in the KJB translation

Thomas Bilson was chosen, along with Richard Bancroft, as two of the most senior clergy, to review the entire draft translation of the Bible, and help put the final finishing touches to the all-important work. Once each company had completed its draft manuscript, and reviewed the drafts of each of the other five companies, Rule 10 of James 1 (as drawn up by Bancroft) required the entire work to be reviewed “by the chiefe persons of each company.” Rule 13 required that deans of both Westminster and Chester, and the Regius professors (RP) of both Universities be acknowledged as key participants, in the making of final textual choices. (2)

If any Company, upon ye review of ye books so sent, really doubt, or differ uppon any place, to send them word thereof, note the place, and withal send their reasons; to which if they consent not, the difference to be compounded at ye general meetinge, which is to be of the chiefe persons of each company, at ye ende of ye worke.
If James’ absolutist claims were to be honoured, this rule would have been adjudged flouted, had it not been followed carefully. Hence, it is very strange if John Bois’ biographer is accurate when he says the committee was not composed of those who had been previously overseers or supervisors of the six companies, but that they started afresh. [Rule 10]

The General Committee of revision

The final committee must have contained up to twelve members. Directors present (and their associated ‘heavyweights’) would have included four or five Regius professors of Hebrew and Greek [John Harding (RP 1604), Andrew Byng (RP 1608), Andrew Downes (RP 1585), John Peryn (RP 1597), and John Harmer). Others were Lancelot Andrewes (Dean of Westminster), John Duport, John Bois, Thomas Ravis, and William Barlow (Dean of Chester).] We know from a surviving document of the notes that John Bois took during the proceedings, that this review committee for certain included John Bois, Andrew Downes, and John Harmar.(3) The other committee members are inferred from the need to strictly apply Rules 10 and 13 of the Royal commission.

Committee of review

The General Committee of Review met at Stationers' Hall, London in 1609. They received a list of readings of texts, words or phrases which were still in some doubt, even after the six companies had discussed them and failed to reach agreement as to the best rendering. Some of their final decisions would have been tentative. The Committee would have made known to Bilson and Smith the textual issues at stake, which needed their input. However, it is hard to believe that the final-final review restricted itself to a list of stated ambiguities. The two men could well have worked through sections of the entire Bible individually, looking for opportunities to improve both style and substance, if such were possible. Every word was theoretically open to challenge, especially with an ear to producing a pleasing, sonorous, lucid style:

So Bois put down word meanings as a dictionary would, or alternates as a thesaurus would; later still would come a choice among possible constructions for sound and rhythm and euphony of the whole. The Bois notes show how careful the translators were, first of all, to determine exact meanings or establish a permissable range of meaning. Final constructions thus appear, almost always, to simplify the Bois suggestions.(3)

Stationer's Hall

The final-final review and revision

Miles Smith and Thomas Bilson undertook the final editing - already reviewed and revised - of the entire draft of the Bible. Bois’ notes show that the General committee not infrequently resolved a textual issue by recommending Andrew Downes’ preferences. The Bible itself shows that the two men probably had a definite say in some of the final choices. Just a few examples where the reviewers did not follow Andrew Downes’ choices (as perhaps initially recommended) are:

(1) 1 Cor 10:20 Downes: “And I would not have you partakers with the devil.” KJB: “and I would not that you should have fellowship with devils.”
(2) 1 Cor. 15:33 Downes. “Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good natures/dispositions/manners/” The KJB final choice has “good manners.“
(3) 1 Thess. 5:23 Downes “. . . that your spirit may be kept perfect.” KJB: “your whole spirit . . . be preserved blameless.”
(4) 2 Tim. 2:5 Downes “and though a man labour for the best gain, try masteries . . . unless he strive and labour lustily.” KJB: “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

In the final editing the last learned men, Smith and Bilson, used the Bois words “perfecting holiness” in II Corinthians 7:1. In the next phrase they refused the Bois phrasing, “we have made a gain of no man,” in favour of “we have wronged no man.” For 8:4 they took the whole Downes reading, “that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” (4)

However, the evidence suggests the procedure was a little more complex than making simple choices. The review committee probably left hanging some of the textual decisions needed, and offered possible alternatives. Then the manuscripts reached Bilson and Smith. It is highly probable the review committee suggested to Smith and Bilson their tentative resolutions of some knotty choices, in the hope of gaining the benefit of their viewpoint. However, Smith and Bilson would have found the tyranny of distance and competing duties hindered a proper resolution, in some or many cases. If so, in some cases they had simply to make their own choices, ignoring any referral to the General Committee. In other cases, they would have gone back and forth to the General Committee (either in session, or to various individual members within it) hoping to bring finality, whilst aiming to preserve harmonious relationships. It is not surprising if they were not entirely successful in this. Assuming there were some muted criticisms of supposed arbitrariness by one or two of the two reviewers, this would have emboldened Richard Bancroft, the overall manager of the project, and jealous of his perceived right to contribute to the final result, to make his own final changes!

Adding the finishing touches

Bilson was not required to add a prefatory address to King James, as this was Miles Smith’s privilege, and a brilliant essay he gave us. However, it is possible that Bilson helped Smith add the chapter headings. Bilson also wrote the dedication to the King placed in the front of the Bible, where “the glories of the Jacobean state are emblazoned here in unequivocal pomp and glory.” (3).

Final days

Thomas Bilson died in 1616, at a good old age, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He was said to have been the exemplar prelate. His tomb celebrates the coming bodily resurrection - the ultimate hope of every true Christian, whatever his ecclesiastico-political views. The text on the tomb reads:

Here lies Thomas Bilson formerly bishop of Winchester and counsellor in sacred matters of his serene highness King James of Great Britain who when he had served God and the church for nineteen years in the bishopric laid aside mortality in certain hope of resurrection 18th June 1616 aged 69.

Other names associated with the Translation

There are five other names connected with the translation of the Bible, which have not been considered in these blogs celebrating the quadricentennial year of the publication of the King James Bible. They are George Ryves, Thomas Sparke, William Eyre, Arthur Lake, and Nicholas Love. These all may have had a hand in the discussions of the translators, whether formally or informally. John Bois mentions Arthur Lake in his notes, as one involved in the final review discussions in general committee. However, the source for Sparke and Eyre’s involvement is said to be undependable (4). George Ryves is referred to in a letter from Thomas Bilson to Sir Thomas Lake, which describes Ryves as “warden of New College in Oxford, and one of the overseers of that part of the New Testament that is being translated out of Greek.” Bilson also asked the King if Nicholas Love, schoolmaster of Winchester could exchange some livings with Ryves, so they could cooperate better in helping the work forward. Perhaps this work consisted in providing a path of smooth communication between the companies, thus spurring members on to see the work expedited.(4)

And so, four hundred years on, God has mightily blessed the amazing achievement of these fifty-two or more men. He continues to bless those who read and study it seriously; and He will go on doing so, as long as English is spoken and understood.

(1) Richardson, William (2004) Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
(2) McGrath, Alister (2002) In the beginning: the story of the King James Bible and how it changed a nation, a language and a culture. New York: Anchor Books, a Division of Random House, Inc. pp 174-175
(3) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. p. 208, 217.
(4) Paine, Gustavus, (1959/1977) The men behind the King James version, MI: Bakerpp. 115-116, 116-118, p. 76, 72.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Richard Bancroft - a potent prelate

Academic background

Richard Bancroft was born in 1544 at Farnworth, a village in south Lancashire. His parents had clerical connections, for his great Uncle was Archbishop of Dublin and Bishop of Oxford. (1) Bancroft went to the local grammar school and thence to Cambridge, maybe aged 20. He first studied at Christ's College, and then Jesus College, being awarded a BA in 1567 and later an MA in 1570, at which time (1572) he was ordained a clergyman. His reputation was said to be higher on the sportsfield - in boxing, wrestling, and quarterstaff than as a scholar. Notwithstanding, he was chosen to greet Queen Elizabeth during her first visit to Cambridge in 1564. In 1575 he became rector of Teversham in Cambridgeshire, and the next year was appointed one of the preachers to the university. The further divinity studies of these years meant he graduated BD in 1580 and DD five years later.

Ecclesiastical appointments

Richard Bancroft held various livings, chaplaincies and was also a prebendary of St Paul’s. He had been canon of Westminster since 1587. He became Bishop of London in 1597. By this time, Archbishop Whitgift was virtually incapacitated by reason of age and infirmity, and this meant Bancroft exercised the power of primate, with sole management of ecclesiastical affairs. When Whitgift died in 1604, Bancroft formally accepted the position of Archbishop. He had but six years remaining to show the same zeal and severity towards the extreme puritan. Someone expressed the opinion that "if Bancroft had lived, he would quickly have extinguished all that fire in England which had been kindled at Geneva," such was his antipathy to the Puritan viewpoint.

Theological conflict

Bancroft knew the moderate Puritan Laurence Chaderton from College days, and the two remained lifelong friends in spite of their doctrinal differences. In his mature years Bancroft regarded men like John Rainolds, William Whitaker, and Chaderton as respectable moderates. By the time he reached his late 30’s Richard Bancroft had become a prominent opponent of the more extreme Puritans who believed the Church should be entirely separate from the State. In 1583 Bancroft reported a libel to the Magistrates, which had been pinned up in one of the city churches. This compared the Queen - England's ostensible ‘Deborah’ - to ‘that woman Jezebel’ of Revelation 2:20. Elizabeth had long pursued the middle way - later encapsulated in the writings of Richard Hooker - whereby Anglicanism was to be neither Puritan nor Roman. Ceremonial matters, such as the wearing of vestments were not a vital issue, though not to be despised. Bancroft’s report on the libel led to the arrest and subsequent death of two followers of Robert Browne, whose writings later accounted for the founding of Congregationalist churches. The axe fell on John Copping and Elias Thacker, for distributing Browne’s writings, especially A Treatise of Reformation without Tarrying for Anie.

Bancroft was increasingly involved in developing an anti-puritan rhetoric, and by the time that he was admitted DTh at Cambridge in April 1585 he had produced a series of investigative accounts of puritanism in which he wrote warmly in the defence of episcopacy and denounced the practices of gathered congregations. He condemned the heresies in Robert Browne's books . . . and sought to exploit the inner weaknesses and rivalries. . . (1)

Deadly politics

Bancroft preached a famous or notorious - depending on your point of view - at St Paul’s Cross, after becoming a member of the ecclesiastical commission.

On 9 February 1589 [Bancroft] preached at Paul's Cross a sermon, the substance of which was a passionate attack on the Puritans. He described their speeches and proceedings, caricatured their motives, denounced the exercise of the right of private judgment, and set forth the divine right of bishops in such strong language that one of the queen’s councillors held it to amount to a threat against the supremacy of the crown.
Bancroft set about to root out the separatist congregations in London. The fate of such men as Henry Barrow, John Greenwood and John Penry was sealed, (died 1593). John Penry may have been an author of the anonymous Marprelate Tracts (1588), which lampooned the Bishops. . . .[T]he more extreme separatists, who considered each congregation a self sufficient church of Christ, became the target of a campaign led by Richard Bancroft. They were to be found in private houses all around London, holding private conventicles in which their inspirational preachers were ‘esteemed as godds.’ . . . The state church could not tolerate the freedom or the priestlessness of such behaviour. Many Separatists . . . fled to the Netherlands but others were arrested. . . . . Their leaders, honest, fierce men, the spiritual forebears of the Massachusetts colonists, were to be interrogated. . . . Andrewes was at their head. . . . Andrewes argued with [Henry Barrow in vain] . . [Barrow] was finally executed. . . (2)

Defending episcopacy

In 1592 Bancroft became a household chaplain of the archbishop, at Lambeth. There he wrote two books defending the union of Church and State. Having already publicly defended episcopacy in response to the Marprelate Tracts, he now showed the origins of the Puritan reform movement as being located in Geneva, under John Calvin, and coming via Theodore Beza, to England. Over against this, he espoused episcopacy as established by God, using the influential writings of Hadrian Saravia, another KJV translator (1590). Bancroft rejected the pattern of reformation demanded by the ‘separatists,’ in the belief that episcopacy was validated by both Scripture and History.

The Hampton Court Conference

Richard Bancroft was not initially well disposed to John Rainolds’ proposal for a new definitive translation of the Bible. However, once the King confirmed his desire, and Bancroft was appointed Archbishop the same year (1604), he pursued the King’s cause thoroughly and energetically. He drew up fifteen rules for the translators to follow, as approved by King James. These rules had a seriously limiting effect on the translators’ method. It is these rules which justify viewing Bancroft as one of the translators, even though - in his role as overseer of the project - he belonged to none of the six companies of translators. Examples of his control over method are the following instructions: (1) Follow the Bishops’ Bible as far as the truth of the original will permit - but also use Tyndale, Matthews, Coverdale, and Geneva, where necessary. This rule naturally limited the style of the translator in choosing his words. (2) Keep traditional ecclesiastical words in the Text e.g. don’t change “church” to “congregation” (3) Treat the writings of the Church fathers as a precedent, and follow their translation choices, as a way of resolving ambiguity in word-meaning. (4) Rule 10: In matters of disagreement, refer the problem to the directors of each company for final discussion and decision, when deciding on word (or phrase) choices. (5) In knotty cases involving rare words, use the skills of other scholars outside the companies to settle the meaning if at all possible.

What did Bancroft translate?

On the strength of his controlling influence, Bancroft received the final draft of the KJB from Miles Smith and Thomas Bilson, and proceeded to make fourteen changes without any consultation with the directors of the teams.

Miles Smith, as final editor, protested that after he and Bilson had finished, Bishop Bancroft made fourteen more changes. “He is so potent that there is no contradicting him,” said Smith, and cited as an example of Bancroft’s bias His insistence on using “the glorious word Bishopric” even for Judas, in Acts 1:20. . . (3)
Acts 1:20 says:
For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
The KJB margin here has “bishoprick: or, office, or, charge.” Smith saw Bancroft had introduced an anachronism by inserting episcopacy into Acts 1, as the twelve apostles referred to in Acts 1 :17 were never called overseers (the literal meaning of episcopos) in the New Testament. They were by their preaching the founders of congregations. They were not the administrators of them; this was left to local and non itinerant leaders.

A second example of Bancroft’s anachronistic insertions is Acts 19:37.

For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.
The speaker here is the town clerk of Ephesus, almost certainly neither a Christian, nor aware of what a Christian church is. Yet, here he apparently defends the apostles against an imaginary charge of being “robbers of churches.” Whereas Luke wrote of “temple robbers” (hierosulos), the same word the Apostle Paul uses in Romans 2:22, to similar effect:
thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
Temples housed idols and were pagan places of worship, like the great Temple to the goddess Diana nearby. McClure explains:
Many of the Puritans were stiffly opposed to bestowing the name “church,” which they regarded as appropriate only to the company of spiritual worshippers, on any mass of masonry and carpentry. [It is not till about A.D. 229, that we find any record of the assembling of Christians in what would now be called a church Barton, Ecclesiastical history, p. 496.] But Bancroft, that he might for once stick the name to a material building, would have it applied, in the nineteenth chapter of Acts, to the idols’ temples! . . . . Let us be thankful that the dictatorial prelate tried his hand no farther at emending the sacred text.
Other changes were made, which, according to Alister McGrath are difficult to pinpoint:
Richard Bancroft reviewed what had been hitherto regarded as the final version of the text. It would be one of his final acts; Bancroft died on November 2, 1610, and never lived to see the translation over which he had held so much sway. Smith complained loudly to anyone who would listen that Bancroft had introduced fourteen changes in the final text without any consultation. Yet we remain unclear as to what those alleged changes might have been.
Bancroft died at Lambeth Palace, and in simple ceremony his body was interred two days later in the chancel of the parish church of Lambeth.

(1) Cranfield. Nicholas W.S. (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(2) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. pp 86-87, 92.
(3) Paine, Gustavus. (1959/1977)The men behind the King James version, MI: Baker p. 128,
(4) McGrath. Alister (2001) In the Beginning: The story of the King James Bible p. 188

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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Ralph Ravens - a mysterious defection.

Career background

Ralph Ravens was born in or around 1553. He was educated at one of the best schools for instilling scholarly accuracy - Merchant Taylors’, from 1571 to 1575. Thence he went up to Oxford, to St. John's College aged 18, and became a fellow that same year, in 1575. He graduated B.A. at the age of 26 (approx.) - in 1579 - and received his M.A. four years later. Ravens then took ‘holy orders’ in 1587 and focused on studies in divinity, which led to a B.D. in 1589. He thereafter became vicar of Kirtlington, Oxfordshire, 1591. After five years in this ‘post’, and with continuing study, Ravens was awarded a doctorate (DD) in 1596, perhaps by now aged 43. He served also in the church at Dunmow, Essex in the year following. After several further years of service he became rector of Great Easton (also as Eyston Magna), Essex, commencing 1605.

Great Easton, Essex

Involvement in Bible translation

Ralph Ravens was a member of the second Oxford company, commissioned to translate the Gospels, Acts and the book of Revelation. This is generally acknowledged by both the presence of his name on preserved lists, and in the lists of contemporary writers. (1) After the initial appointments, two members of the second Oxford company were thereafter substituted. First Richard Eedes, dean of Worcester, died in 1604 before the work got started. (2) He was replaced by John Aglionby. Also, Ralph Ravens was replaced by Leonard Hutton at some point between 1604 and 1610. We do not know the reason for Ravens’ defection, nor exactly when the replacement occurred. It may have been due to personal conflict between members of the group. The Director, Thomas Ravis is described as “haughty and harsh.“ (2)
If this is true, it could easily have caused friction, leading to conflict within the group. The very similarity in their names may have tended to animosity. Or, was it that Ravens’ found himself unable to attend meetings regularly - whether through sickness or some other handicap?


All the evidence suggests Ravens contributed to translation work, perhaps for several years, leading up to the year when the King James version was presented for publication, in 1610. If he ‘fell foul’ of the Director of the company for some unknown reason, he may thereby have become persona non grata.

Ralph Ravens died in 1616.

(1) Ravens is listed as a member by: Alister McGrath, Alexander McClure, Adam Nicolson, Gustavus Paine, and on Wikipedia. Some admit ambivalence.
(2) Paine, p. 74. p. 50

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Thursday, 8 December 2011

James Montagu - Royal devotee

James Montagu (also Mountagu, Montague) was born in 1568 at Boughton, Northamptonshire to Sir Edward Montagu. James’ mother Elizabeth came from the influential Sidney family. His mother’s aunt Frances Sidney, provided in her will for the foundation of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her executors chose James Montagu as the first master of the college, with the cautious approval of other heads, being concerned whether someone in his twenties was a suitable appointment. Montagu laid the foundation stone of the college, of which he was Master from 1596 to 1608. Understandably, this family connection determined Montagu's career in the university, in the Royal court, and in the Church.

Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex

Academic career

Montagu became a fellow-commoner at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1585. He was created DD ‘by special grace’ in 1598. He never held a parochial living.

Ecclesiastical appointments

St. James' Palace,
one of the Chapels Royal.

The year 1603 was an important year for Montagu. He was appointed to the royal chaplaincy, and then to the deanery of the Chapel Royal. He also became dean of Lichfield, and dean of Worcester cathedral, 1604. Four years later Montagu was consecrated Bishop of Bath and Wells and proved an energetic administrator. In 1616 he was made Bishop of Winchester. Whilst at Bath and Wells, he was a supporter of the legend of the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury.

Supporter of Puritanism

Richard Bancroft revived the royal chapel deanery to counteract Scottish presbyterian influence upon James. Montagu’s appointment was recognition he was an appropriate mediator between ecclesiological extremes, for, on the one hand he followed Calvinist teaching - sympathetic to those of ‘godly conscience‘; on the other hand, he saw no reason to question episcopacy and the royal prerogative in matters of church discipline. He had even spoken in favour of ceremonies at the Hampton Court conference. Yet, it is not surprising that while Master, Montagu’s influence earned the college a reputation as supporting puritanism.

Close to the King

King James 1

James Montagu was a royal favourite, and this link was both immediate (1603) and lifelong. He was closer to the king than George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, and was seen as influencing James I against the Arminians. Montagu introduced the Puritan Arthur Hildersham, to court circles, and Francis Bacon judged him one of the three most influential servants in the king's household - despite now and then getting into practical difficulties with the King, over puritan issues.

Montagu as writer and translator

James Montagu edited the collected works of the King. James’ eight books were written between 1584 and 1609. Montagu gave a long panegyrical preface to the collection, and this seems to have been his one original composition. Montagu’s introduction so excelled in formal public eulogy that the King would have had little difficulty in seeing himself in absolutist terms. James’ insistence on the full allegiance of his subjects versus Roman Catholicism was formalized in An Apologie for the Oath of Allegiance in 1607. Montagu helped produce this work - he was more the adminstrator than an assiduous scholar.

Translator of the King James Version?

Such a close connection to the King during the time the Bible was being revised and translated would have allowed Montagu some connection with the work. It seems fashionable for Montagu’s name to be included on the formal list, describing the second Oxford company of translators.(1) (2) Others exclude his name for lack of evidence (3) (4). The group worked on the Gospels, the Acts and Revelation. However, is there any real evidence that Montagu was an official member of the company? He was a busy adminstrator in the west country during the years the translation was being made. He had received an ‘honorary’ D.D. but we do not know if he was consulted, even informally - though it would not have been inappropriate to do so:

Proof one way or the other, is most difficult. The surmise that many must have aided in the translation unofficially, seems justified. Many must have offered advice on verses, helped solve hard problems, and queried readings on which the chosen learned men agreed. (5)

Last days

Montagu died at Greenwich in 1618, In his will he remembered the king's favour as ‘the greatest comforte of my life’, and left him a gold cup of £100 value.(5) Montagu estimated in his will that he had already bestowed over £5000 on his episcopal properties; further bequests included rents and ‘all my bookes’ to Sidney Sussex College. His body was taken to Bath for burial in the abbey church whilst his bowels were buried in the chancel at Greenwich. His commissioned tomb shows a canopied recumbent effigy of the bishop in the nave of Bath Abbey.

1. Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. p. 258.
2. McGrath, Alister (2001) In the beginning Lon: Hodder. p.181.
3. McClure, Alexander. (1858) The translators revived: A Biographical Memoir of the Authors of the English Version of the Holy Bible. Mobile, Alabama: R. E. Publications (republished by the Marantha Bible Society, 1984 ASIN B0006YJPI8)
4. McCullough, P. E. (2004) Oxford dictionary of national biography Authorized Version of the Bible, translators of the.
5. Payne, Gustavus, (1959/1977)The men behind the King James version, MI: Baker p. 76.

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Friday, 2 December 2011

William Thorne - a strange contention

Academic background

William Thorne was born in 1568 in Semley, Wiltshire. His background, according to University records, made him a ‘plebe’ (plebeius: neither a gentleman nor a clergyman)! However, there was a pre-existing link between Thorne's family and the aristocratic family of Pembrokes.(1) Thorne entered Winchester College in his teens (1582) and from there went up to New College, Oxford, graduating BA in 1589. An MA followed in 1592. Five years later he was ‘licensed to preach.’ He was Regius professor of Hebrew in Oxford from 1598 for six years, until 1604. In the meantime, he formalized his divinity studies, receiving a BD in 1600, with a doctorate two years later.

His linguistic abilities

Thorne was both a classical and Hebrew scholar. His ability to read Hebrew is evidenced in some extant letters and poems, which were written to him in Hebrew. He himself is known to have written at least one poem in Hebrew.

Thorne frequently corresponded with the well-known Dutch Hebraist Johann Drusius (Johannes van-den-Driesche). In 1609 the latter dedicated one of his writings to Thorne, expressing gratitude that he had generously taken in Drusius's son, John, for two years in Oxford. John was a prodigy, said to have mastered Hebrew at the age of nine! In this writing, in 1609, Drusius quotes some Syriac too, adding a remark in such a way as to imply Thorne also knew some Syriac. There is some indication that Thorne may have also been able to read Arabic. The Elizabethan poet and clergyman Charles Fitzgeffrey devoted a Latin epigram to him in his Affaniae (1601), in admiration of Thorne’s oriental scholarship.

Ecclesiastical offices

William Thorne became dean of Chichester in 1601. The same year he became rector of Tollard Royal, Wiltshire, and two years later prebend of Bussall. Another three years passed, and he took the vicarage of Amport, Hampshire, in 1606. Then, a year later in 1607 he became canon of Chichester and rector of Birdham, Sussex. Then in 1613 the prebend of Hova Villa, and with the passing pf another three years he became rector of North Marden, Sussex. Finally in 1619 he took the rectory at Warblington, Hampshire.

Translator of the KJV

There is no good reason to doubt that William Thorne was a member of the first Oxford company, translating the Major and Minor Old Testament prophets. Thorne’s involvement in the project is made certain by a paper, written in 1606, housed in the Public Records Office, London. This is worth quoting in detail, as follows:

At the request of Dr. Thorne, his majesty’s chaplain, we whose names are hereunto subscribed have thought it equal and just to make known unto all, whom it appertained, that he hath for many years read the public Hebrew lecture with very good recommendation in the University of Oxford, that he is now likewise very necessarily employed in the translation of that part of the Old Testament which is remitted to that university, that he doth govern in the church of Chichester where he is dean with judgment and discretion, and that in the one and the other place he hath ever been and now is of very good and honest reputation. (2)[emphasis added]
This was a petition written in 1606, signed by fourteen bishops, including Thomas Bilson of Winchester and Thomas Ravis of Gloucester - both involved, respectively, as editor and translator of the KJV.

Earliest is best?

What more evidence, then, does the enquirer seek before Thorne‘s name is confidently added to the first Oxford company of translators? Why is doubt still expressed by some, as to Thorne’s membership of the Oxford translation committee? The answer relates to the thorny question of the ostensibly scientific principle, when applied to manuscripts. This says, “earliest is best,“ and Thorne’s name is not mentioned in the earliest lists of translators. This is analogous to the disputed question whether the KJV Text itself represents an inferior unscientific scholarship (compared to more contemporary translations), because the King’s translators did not seek out and prefer the textual readings of the earliest extant Greek manuscripts, nor did they assume that, because they (such few as existed) were earlier, they were therefore better.

The evidence in support of Thorne’s involvement, is substantial, as quoted, even if his name is not among the 48 scholars listed in the British museum. For example, would Thomas Bilson and Thomas Ravis have signed the document as worded, if Thorne had not been involved in the translation? Moreover, Thorne’s credentials as former Regius professor of Hebrew at Oxford for six years, as well as being the King's chaplain, would have been more than enough to make him eminently suitable for inclusion in the translation project. Thorne was also a member of John Case's circle. This was a group of Oxford students who regularly met in Case’s own house in Oxford, to discuss philosophical topics, up to 1600. In 1592 John Case wrote a dedicatory verse to one of Thorne’s works - a commonplace book reorganizing Cicero's ideas on rhetoric, with extensive reference to Aristotle. (1) Thorne clearly was in the wider environment of Oxford scholarship, and this group included several of the Oxford translators. One of them, Ralph Ravens, was also wrongly omitted from some of the early lists. Failure to invite Thorne to join a translation company ran the risk of being received as an insult.

Final days

William Thorne died in 1630 and was buried in Chichester Cathedral. There is no record to suggest he ever married.

(1) DeCoursey Mathew, (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Authorized Version of the Bible, translators of the.
(2) Payne, Gustavus, (1959/1977)The men behind the King James version. MI: Baker pp. Pp. 46, 75-76

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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Richard Kilby - reputable Hebraist

Richard Kilby was born in 1560/61 at in Ratcliffe-on-the-Wreake, Leicestershire. Leicestershire. No details are know as to the identities of his parents. He entered Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1577, aged sixteen, and was elected to a fellowship there in the following year. A BA and MA followed in 1578 Focusing on divinity for another four years, he received a B.D. and finally a D.D. in 1596. He took ‘holy orders’ in the usual way, and became a preacher of note in the University. In 1590 he was elected rector of Lincoln College, and in 1601 he became a prebend of Lincoln Cathedral.

His academic attainments

Kilby’s acquaintance Isaac Casaubon described him as ‘a man of some reading beyond the common’ (Feingold, 455)(1).

Richard Kilby was appointed Regius Professor of Hebrew in Oxford University. He held this professorship from 1610 until his death in 1620. His one publication was the sermon he gave at the funeral service in 1612 for Thomas Holland, who had been the university's Regius professor of divinity.

Kilby had hoped to publish a continuation of Jean Mercier's commentary on the book of Genesis. However, the Library of Lincoln College contains a surviving manuscript commentary on Exodus. This document shows the extent of his Hebrew learning, as he gives substantial quotes from up to one hundred Hebrew sources, many of them scarcely known writings of Rabbinical interpreters.

Translation of the KJV

Kilby became a member of the first Oxford company, appointed by King James 1 to translate the Major and Minor prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi. The Director of the company was John Harding, president of Magdalen College.

The writer of short biographies, Izaac Walton, in his life of the once-celebrated Bishop Sanderson, describes an incident involving a young inexperienced preacher whom Richard Kilby heard whilst traveling with Bishop Robert Sanderson . The young clergyman was in effect criticizing from the pulpit the inferior scholarship of the new King James translation. Isaac Walton, author of The Complete Angler, tells it in his own words.

I must here stop my reader, and tell him that this Dr. Kilby . . . was to ride a journey into Derbyshire, and took Mr. Sanderson to bear him company; and they, resting on a Sunday with the Doctor’s friend, and going together to that parish church where they then were, found the young preacher to have no more discretion, than to waste a great part of the hour allotted for his sermon in exceptions against the late translation of several words . . . . [He] shewed three reasons why a particular word should have been otherwise translated. When evening prayer was ended . . . the Doctor told him, he might have preached more useful doctrine, and [as for] that word for which he offered . . . three reasons why it ought to have been translated as he said, he and others had considered all of them, . . . . And the preacher was so ingenuous [as] to say, ‘He would not justify himself.' McClure
In fact, Kilby told the young man that, not only that they had considered his proposed reading, but thirteen others as well; only then had they decided on the rendering they gave in their translation!

Kilby left a large and valuable collection of books to Lincoln College. These comprised Hebrew volumes, commentaries on the Pentateuch, as well as dictionaries and Bibles. He died in 1620 and was buried in the chancel of All Saints' Church, Oxford.

(1) Wilson, David. (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Authorized Version of the Bible, translators of the.

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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Leonard Hutton - An elegant scholar

Academic background

Leonard Hutton was born in 1557/1558. We know little or nothing of his origins, whether in family connection or geographical location. He first appears as a student in London, at Westminster School - which probably makes him a Londoner. Every third year the school selected three scholars to attend Christ Church, Oxford. Hutton went up to Oxford in 1574. There followed a lifelong pursuit of learning in the University, first graduating BA in 1578, proceeding MA in 1582. Matters of divinity then became the focus, when a BD followed in 1591. Finally he was admitted DD in 1600.

Oxford graduation ceremoney

Bodleian Library

Hutton featured prominently in early seventeenth-century church and university life. He led the ceremony which opened the Bodleian Library in 1602 - a national treasure. He preached on the queen's accession day. As pro-vice-chancellor in 1603, he became involved in theological disputes within the university.

Spiritual qualifications

Alex MacClure says:

He was well known as an “excellent Grecian,” and an elegant scholar. He was well versed in the [church] fathers, the [medieval] schoolmen, and the [ancient] learned languages, which were the favorite studies of that day; and he also investigated with care the history of his own nation.

It was standard at that time to take ‘holy orders’ and so Hutton thereby added frequent preaching to his lifestyle. He became rector in several parishes: Long Preston, Yorkshire (1587–8); Rampisham, Dorset (1595–1601); Floore (Flower), Northamptonshire (1601 until his death); and Weedon Bec, Northamptonshire (1602–4). He was made canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, in 1599, and later became a prebendary of Reculversland in St Paul's, London, 1609.

Literary attainments

His first achievement was in being appointed (1604) one of the translators of the group working on the Gospels, Acts, and Apocalypse, appointed by King James. This Second Oxford company was directed by Thomas Ravis, who also went to both Westminster School and Christ Church Oxford.

There followed his first published work in 1612, entitled An Answere to a Certaine Treatise of the Crosse in Baptisme. This was a response to the Puritan William Bradshaw and aimed to defend the more ceremonial understanding of public worship.

Other works followed, featuring the local history of ecclesiastical Oxford.

Spires of Oxford

In 1606 ninety-eight Oxford dons wrote a collection of verses celebrating the visit of King Christian IV of Denmark and Hutten contributed to these.

Family connections

Hutton got married to one Anne Hampden in about 1600. Daughter Alice was born (1602–1628) - she married the then dean of Christ Church, and later bishop of Oxford. Hutton lived to a ripe old age and died May 17th, 1632, aged seventy-four or thereabouts.

In 1635 a brass inscription in Latin records, in the north transept of Christ Church Cathedral, that he ‘gave back to God a soul learned, straightforward, and godly’.

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Monday, 14 November 2011

Daniel Featley (Fairclough) - Puritan protaganist

Magdalen College, Oxford

Early Days

Daniel Featley (Fairclough) was a Church of England clergyman and religious controversialist, born 5th March 1582 in Charlton-on-Otmoor, Oxfordshire, son of John Fairclough and his wife, Marian Thrift. At the age of seven he became a chorister of Magdalen College, Oxford, where his father was a college servant. His linguistic talent was early noticed when, at the age of twelve, he habitually produced witty and elegant verses in Latin and Greek (Featley, 8) to the delight of many.

Academic career

Featley is noted as a protégé of John Rainolds, who was a leading spokesman for the Puritans. Featley was received as a scholar of Corpus Christi College, and graduated BA in 1601, and then appointed a probationer fellow of the college. He proceeded MA in 1606, and became noted as a disputant and preacher. It was another seven years before Featley took B.D. in 1613.

Appointment to the Translation Committee

At some point after 1604 he was appointed to the first Oxford company of translators, whose work focused on the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah - Malachi). Some have questioned Featley’s suitability for the translation task, as he was only in his twenties at the time of appointment. In 1607 he delivered an oration at the funeral of John Rainolds. As Rainolds had been a member of the first Oxford company, it is more than possible that Featley was appointed to fill the breach left by his mentor‘s death for three years, prior to his departing for the continent. We do not know the measure of attainment he achieved in his Hebrew studies to suit him for the task of Old Testament translation. The chronology suggests his appointment may have motivated him to undertake more formal studies in Hebrew, in order to fulfill his commission. Whichever, we should be well assured that Featley’s general linguistic skills were not in doubt.

Experiencing the Continent

In 1610 Featley was recommended to the English ambassador to Paris, Sir Thomas Edmondes, who appointed him as his household chaplain. He spent the three years following in Paris, where he was known as redoubtable in arguing for the protestant cause. He was reported as being despised by the Jesuits for his smallness of stature. Nevertheless, he made up for this by quick repartee, together with an ability to make fine-shaded distinctions when pursuing an argument (Leo, 23). Featley claimed that a local Cardinal had tried to recover him to the Catholic fold, by ‘promise of far greater preferments than ever he could expect in England’ (D. Featley, Sacra nemesis, the Levites Scourge, 1644, 66).

Labelled an extremist

Theologically, at home Featley was finding disapproval from the mainstream, with his outspoken puritanical views of worship, etcetera. Tact was not his strong suit. He seems to have given offence by his plain speaking, even in consecration sermons. However, for those sharing his theological views, Featley remained a significant figure throughout the first half of the 17th century.

Though he was small of stature, yet he had a great soul, and had all learning compacted in him. (McClure).
In the wake of the Synod of Dort (1618) he also mediated in a number of theological disputes between puritan ministers, and supplied a conciliatory note to the discussion by his prefaces to several influential works.
Among protestant divines in France and the Netherlands he was regarded as one of the leading defenders of the Reformed faith; Leo recalled visiting the University of Groningen and seeing Featley's name in a list of ‘the most famous Schoole-men’ of the Christian church.

Univeristy of Groningen

It was his misfortune that, having found himself out of favour in the 1630s because of his views on doctrine, Featley then found himself attacked in the 1640s because of his views on church discipline, and was thus denied the recognition his talents deserved.(1)

A convinced Calvinist

Featley was strongly opposed to the Arminian school of theology, which he regarded as dangerously close to semi-Pelagianism and Roman Catholicism. He may have been the ‘Oxford man, chaplein to the Archbishop’ mentioned for preaching a visitation sermon ‘wondrous plainly and vehemently against the fearfull or flattering silence of our Clergie’, warning that ‘the hope of a crosier staffe or a Cardinalls hatt would make many a Scholler in England beat his braine to reconcile the Church of Rome and England’ (BL, Harley MS 389, fol. 318). At King Charles I's first parliament in 1625, Featley was elected a member of convocation, and became the leader of a group of forty-five clergy who agreed among themselves ‘to oppose everything that did but savour or scent never so little of Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism.

King Charles 1

Surprising comfort to a troubled King

Featley produced a devotional manual entitled Ancilla Pietatis in 1626 which proved very popular, going through six editions with translations into French and other languages - it was a special favourite with Charles I as he struggled to cope with his confrontation with the ‘separatists,‘ who were insisting parliamentary government was wiser than absolute monarchy.

The price of commitment

During the Civil War years Featley landed up in prison for defending episcopal government. He was already in bad health , and the situation hastened his death of asthma and dropsy, in 1645, and he was buried in the chancel of Lambeth church.

Literary achievements

Daniel Featley published as many as forty books and treatises, also leaving a huge number of articles/manuscripts.
His other labors have passed away; “but the word of the Lord,” which, as it is believed, he aided in giving to unborn millions, “abideth for ever. McClure

(1) Hunt, Arnold. (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Jeremiah Radcliffe - close to the King’s physician

Jeremiah Radcliffe’s date of birth is unknown. He was educated at Westminster School and went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a Fellow in 1572.

He ‘took holy orders’ in the usual way, and developed pastoral relationships as time went on, in 1588 becoming Vicar of Evesham. Then, two years later, he was Rector of Orwell 1590. Thus, he acquired 'a string of livings' and the influence of family is seen in his being brother to the King's physician" (1) His teaching career resulted in his being made Vice-Master of his College in 1597 for 15 years. In the year 1600, he received a doctorate in Divinity, which was acknowledged by both universities. He also served in the "Second Cambridge Company" charged by James I of England with translating the Apocrypha for the King James Version of the Bible. He died in 1612.

Memorial to Jeremiah Radcliffe
Church of St. Andrew, Orwell.
(1) Bobrick, Benson p. 241.

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Robert Ward - almost anonyomous

King's College, Cambridge

Robert Ward (otherwise known as John Ward) was an English scholar, and a fellow of King's College, Cambridge. He was a prebendary of Chichester Cathedral., and served in the "Second Cambridge Company" charged by James I of England with translating the Apocrypha for the King James Version of the Bible.

McClure says of Ward

All that we gather of this Dr. Ward is that he was Prebendary of Chichester, and Rector of Bishop’s Waltham in Hampshire. Also, Fuller gives him the strange title of “Regal,” probably denoting some station in the University.

Other than these few details, we know very little about him. Further research may remedy that.

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Friday, 21 October 2011

William Tyndale - a Rock foundation

William Tyndale - His influence on the KJV

Tyndale is the unsung hero:

Newspaper headlines still quote Tyndale, though unknowingly, and he has reached more people than even Shakespeare. (1)
Really? Even more than Shakespeare? We are being taught to appreciate and revere the name of this unsung hero: see external links (at the foot).

How influential was he?

A writer in Contemporary Review says,

[Tyndale] is the mainly unrecognised translator of the most influential book in the world. Although the Authorised King James Version is ostensibly the production of a learned committee of churchmen, it is mostly cribbed from Tyndale with some reworking of his translation.

Describing their work as “cribbed” is inaccurate for two reasons: First, each KJV committee was led by a Director who was committed to ensure King James’ guidelines for translation were strictly followed. A foundation rule was that each translator make his own draft translation of a passage before it was discussed in committee, and that the final draft should then be compared with previous translations. Second, these articles have shown that the KJV translators were more than adequately equipped to make a scholarly and independent judgement, as to how to translate any word, phrase or sentence.

The Directors of the six translation committees working on a designated portion of the Text were men of great academic distinction: Lancelot Andrewes(Genesis - 2 Kings), William Barlow (Romans - Jude), John Harding (Isaiah - Malachi), Thomas Ravis
(Gospels, Acts, Apocalypse), Edward Lively/Laurence Chaderton (1 Chronicles - Ecclesiastes), and John Duport (Apocrypha). A ‘hyperlink-glance’ at their attainments should convince the reader that these Directors were able to ensure that the translation process, as guided by them, received the diligent thoroughness required by the King’s specific guidelines.

The flyleaf of most printings of the Authorized Version observes that the text had been "translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty's special command." James' instructions included several requirements that kept the new translation familiar to its listeners and readers. The text of the Bishops' Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops' Bible
was inadequate, as was frequently the case, the translators were allowed to consult from a pre-approved list, the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible,Matthew's Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible. Every verse of the Bible can readily be compared online, as between these and other Versions.

How much of the KJV is Tyndale’s work?

In answering this question, David Daniell accepts the work of Mormon writers Jon Nielson and Royal Skousen. They noted that previous estimates of Tyndale's contribution to the KJV 'have run from a high of up to 90% (Westcott) to a low of 18% (Butterworth)'. They tested this by using a statistically accurate and appropriate method of sampling - based on eighteen portions of the Bible - to show that Tyndale's contribution to the New Testament amounts to about 83% of the text, and in the Old Testament 76%.

What were William Tyndale’s linguistic skills?

Born in or around 1494, Tyndale’s life-aim from the age of ten(!) onwards was to translate the Bible into good English. All his energy was deliberately focused to achieve this aim. Tyndale showed an unusual aptitude for languages even as a child at Lady Berkeley's Grammar School at Wotton under Edge, where he learned to read Latin with ease. He went up to Oxford aged 12, where [so Foxe reports] ‘by long continuance he grew and increased in the knowledge of tongues and other liberal arts,’ and was ‘singularly addicted to the study of the Scriptures.’ By the time he was eighteen, William Hychyns (an alternative family name for Tyndale) graduated BA at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, in 1512. He sat at the feet of three great Christian humanists: William Grocyn, William Latimer and Thomas Linacre. Having been made MA three years later he began to study theology. Foxe records that he ‘read privily to certain students and fellows of Magdalen College some parcel of divinity, instructing them in the knowledge and truth of the scriptures’ (Foxe, ed. Pratt, 5.114–15).(4) Erasmus’ freshly published (1516) Greek NT may have been the foundation of these studies. Tyndale then went to Cambridge, where Greek studies had received a strong injection from the visit of Erasmus, who taught Greek there for several years while Tyndale was still at Oxford.

Arriving later in London (1523?) Tyndale sought to commend his scholarly aspirations to Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London, so to obtain his help in publishing an English translation of the entire Bible. Tyndale had taken with him his translation of an oration of the Greek rhetorician Isocrates, with which to prove his highly-skilled attainments in Greek. He was later praised by the German scholar Hermann Buschius for his mastery of seven languages: Greek, Latin, Hebrew, German, Spanish, and French, as well as English.

Tyndale’s trail-blazing energy

William Tyndale published the entire New Testament in 1526/1535. He then translated and published the Pentateuch, and the book of Jonah. John Rogers continued Tyndale’s work after the latter’s martyrdom at the hands of Henry VIII.

The publication was called the Matthew’s Bible, in order to conceal from the authorities Tyndale’s posthumous involvement. What of the remainder of the Old Testament? David Daniell’s view is that, the Matthew Version containing the Books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, and First and Second Chronicles, were all William Tyndale‘s work. Tyndale worked directly from the Hebrew and Greek, occasionally consulting the Vulgate and Erasmus’s Latin version, and he used Luther's Bible for the prefaces, marginal notes and the biblical text. The remaining prophetic and poetic books of the Old Testament (and the Apocrypha) in the Matthew Bible were the work of Myles Coverdale. A. S. Herbert, Bible cataloguer, says of the Matthew Bible:
This version, which welds together the best work of Tyndale and Coverdale, is generally considered to be the real primary version of our English Bible upon which later editions were based, including the Geneva Bible and King James Version. Thus the Matthew Bible, though largely unrecognized, significantly shaped and influenced English Bible versions in the centuries that followed its first appearance. (2)

How did the KJV translators use earlier Versions?

The Bishops Bible was chosen to be the primary guide and orientation to spring-board a discussion, and a way of comparing a translators’ own first drafts. Nicolson gives a helpful example of how this worked by quoting Dr Ward Allen, who showed from a 1602 edition of the Bishops Bible how the revision worked. In this Bible, an individual translator has privately marked first suggestions for revision, ready for the impending weekly meeting with his colleagues. There his textual choices were aired, discussed and analysed.

Adam Nicolson's book

A quotation follows, which illustrates using an example from Luke 1:57.

In Luke 1:57, the moment when Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, the herald of Christ, gives birth, the Bishops’ Bible text reads:
Elizabeth’s time came that she should bee delivered, and she brought forth a son.
This, incidentally, is almost exactly the wording of William Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament. It is an uncomplicated and straightforward moment, almost certainly too prosaic for Jacobean taste, and, in one minute particular, inaccurate. The King James Translator on his own in his room marked the verse very carefully with Greek letters as follows:
kElizabeth’s time lcame that she should bee delivered, and she brought forth a son.
and in the margin beside it wrote ‘k Now’ and ‘l was fulfilled’, with the intention presumably that the verse should read:
Now Elizabeth‘s time was fulfilled that she should bee delivered, and she brought forth a son.
That is the suggestion that he took to the weekly meeting. His co-Translators didn’t entirely like what he had done. They accepted his inclusion ‘Now’, translating a word which is in the Greek, and giving an extra flick of vitality and of conversational engagement to the verse, the storyteller drawing you in. But his other suggestion was rejected. The phrase ‘was fulfilled’ was a brave attempt at just the kind of lexical enrichment the Jacobeans enjoyed, and on which the King James Bible, almost subliminally, often relies. It carries a double hidden pun: not only has the time come for Elizabeth’s son to be born, but she was both filled full with the child in her womb and fulfilled in her role and duty as mother of the Baptist.

The idea is marvelous but the word is not quite right, a little dense, even a little technical. So ‘ was fulfilled’ is crossed out in the margin and replaced with ‘full time came’. As a result, the reading in the King James Bible, with which the English-speaking world has been familiar ever since, is Tyndale plus first Oxford Translator plus revision by the Oxford company:

Now Elizabeth’s full time came that she should bee delivered and she brought forth a sonne.
’It is undoubtedly the best, more accurate for its inclusion of ‘Now’ and wonderfully subtle in the phrase they landed on. ‘Full time came’ is irreproachably English, simple, accessible, conceptually rich, as full of potent and resonant meanings as Elizabeth was with child. In Jacobean English, full can mean plump, perfect and over brimming, and all of those meanings are here. (3)

Tyndale’s influence lives on

A well-known quotation of William Tyndale is his comment to a biblically illiterate priest:

‘I defy the Pope and all his laws, and if God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou doest.’
Fifteen years later, Tyndale was killed, first strangled by the hangman at the stake, then ‘with fire consumed.’ Approximately one year later, in 1537, Tyndale’s entire work was published in the Matthew Bible. It was a Bible written in blood.

David Daniell says:

William Tyndale's Bible translations have been the best-kept secrets in English Bible history…Astonishment is still voiced that the dignitaries who prepared the 1611 Authorized Version for King James spoke so often with one voice—apparently miraculously. Of course they did: the voice (never acknowledged by them) was Tyndale's. (5)

The Bible’s Old Testament is about the bloodline of Israel, and the world‘s future destiny in the Messiah of God. The New Testament is about the sacrificial nature and effects of the blood of Jesus Christ. How suitable, then, that our English Bible too was written in blood. As William Tyndale was about to lose consciousness at the stake, he cried ’with fervent zeal and a loud voice: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” The prayer Tyndale made for Henry VIII is the prayer we too should make for our fellow countrymen. Tyndale’s prayer was abundantly answered within two years, when a Bible was chained to every church lectern in the land. God will answer our prayers for a quickened nation in the same way, if we are prepared by God’s Spirit to follow Tyndale’s example of dedication and single-mindedness.

Tyndale's death

(1) Daniell, David (1994) William Tyndale: A Biography Yale University Press, p. 2.
(2) Herbert, A. S. Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525–1961, London: British and Foreign Bible Society; New York: American Bible Society, 1968
(3) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. p. 152-153.
(4) Daniell, David. (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(5) Daniell, David, Introduction to Tyndale’s New Testament (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1995). See the video (The Bible Revolution) on the King James Bible Trust website at
Index of translators

Monday, 17 October 2011

John Layfield - adventurous chronicler

Early days

John Layfield was born in 1562/3 was the son of Edward Layfield, a prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral. Layfield was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood before proceeding to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1582 and became a Fellow in 1583. He proceeded MA in 1585 and BTh in 1592. He was also lector in Greek in 1593 and examiner in grammar in 1599. He later married Elizabeth in 1603 at St Mary, Whitechapel, and had two sons and a daughter. (1)

Adventures abroad

George Clifford

In 1598 Layfield accompanied George Clifford, third earl of Cumberland as his chaplain and chronicler, during a violent and dangerous expedition to the West Indies, when hundreds died (2). Clifford wanted to see Reformed truth spread across the globe. Layfield wrote a long account of the voyage to Puerto Rico in ‘Purchas his Pilgrimes.’ Cumberland's biographer says Layfield's ‘detailed description of the whole voyage is the most reliable as well as the most complete of the extant accounts’ (Spence, 144).
Nicolson says of the writer’s value to the expedition:
John Layfield . . . was an explorer and prose writer of real distinction, who left one of the most civil-minded and generous accounts ever written of the English arrival in the New World. . . . What Layfield brought to this exciting subject . . . was an unabashed manliness of style, a smart brisk way of telling a story in which piety or an adopted moralism had no part. . . . Even before they leave Portsmouth, Layfield displays his gift for clear and dramatic narrative, for instant characterisation, for a scene brought utterly alert. . . . Layfield’s chronicle is as bright-colored as anything by Robert Louis Stevenson . . . . Nothing about Layfield is cynical or even prejudiced. (2)

Translator of the KJV

In 1606 he was one of the Greek and Hebrew scholars appointed by James I to produce what became the Authorized Version of the Bible. Layfield was one of ten who met at Westminster to work on the Old Testament, Genesis to 2 Kings inclusive. It was said that "being skilled in architecture, his judgment was much relied on for the fabric of the tabernacle and temple" as described in the book of Leviticus.

Paine quotes a lengthy passage from Layfield’s Carribean chronicle, describing the island of Dominica, and notes his exact and charming vocabulary:

Though we can prove nothing by mere diction, there are many words in this passage that are found in the King James Bible: apparel, attired, discovered, nakedness, boring ears, covered, profitable. The rhythms of Layfield also may remind us of those in the books on which he laboured. (3)

Nicolson quotes as an example from the opening chapters of Genesis:

9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow euery tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and euil. 10And a river went out of Eden to water the garden;
[Layfield] had a hand in writing this . . . . As he did so he would have had in mind those incomparable forests of Dominica, where ‘the trees doe continually maintaine themselves, in a greene-good liking’ - extraordinary phrase - ‘partly of many fine Rivers, which to requite the shadow and coolenesse they receive from the Trees, give them back again a continuall refresshing of very sweete and tastie water.‘ The seventeenth century English idea of Paradise, a vision of enveloping lushness, was formed by the seduction of an almost untouched Caribbean. (2)

No doubt Lancelot Andrewes chose him as a member of his Westminster group, more for his ability with English style, than in understanding Hebrew - Layfield was more the Greek scholar than Oriental.

Church appointments

Layfield was Rector of Aldwincle St Peter's, Northamptonshire from 1598 to 1602, and then became rector of St Clement Danes, London, resigning his fellowship at Trinity in 1603.

Layfield was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1606. Four years later, he became one of the first fellows of Chelsea College, newly founded to resist a return to Papal authority, by the production of an anti-Catholic polemic.

In 1613 he contributed laudatory verses to the preface of Sir William Leighton's Tears or Lamentations of a Sorrowful Soul. He died, probably in his London rectory, in 1617. In his will, he left land in Old Cleeve, Somerset, and Royston, Hertfordshire, to his wife for her lifetime, with remainder to their eldest son, Edward.

(1) Bayne, Ronald (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(2) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. pp. 102-103
(3) Paine, Gustavus, (1959/1977)The men behind the King James version, MI: Baker p. 36.
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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Francis Burleigh - an unremarkable choice

Francis Burleigh (Burley, Burghley) is not quite anonymous, although there appears no evidence as to when or where he was born, or when or where he died. Is there not a currently living member of the Burleigh family, willing to research the records to discover more about this member of the committee, which bequeathed the Book of Books to the English-speaking world?
The Wikipedia site awaits.

Chelsea College, London

Burleigh was made a fellow of Chelsea College (1), founded in London by royal charter two years before the KJV was published. Other translators among the original fellows were John Overall, Miles Smith, John Spenser, and John Boys. Other original fellows included John Layfield and Richard Brett. Burleigh was appointed to contribute to Lancelot Andrewes' "First Westminster Company," in the translating of the first twelve books of the Bible. Presumably, the need to graduate in Classics and/or divinity at Oxford or Cambridge, was an essential requirement for this task.

Church appointments

Nicolson tells us he was appointed as Vicar of Bishop's Stortford by Lancelot Andrewes in 1590. (2) He is also named as Rector of St. James the Great Church Thorley, Hertfordshire, from 1594 - 1610.

St. James the Great, Thorley

He was appointed a third living as rector of St Benet Paul's Wharf, London. (3)

(1) Bobrick, Benson. (2001) The Making of the English Bible Lon: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, p. 231.
(2) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. p. 253.
(3) Westbrook, Vivienne (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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Saturday, 8 October 2011

Geoffrey King - Hugh Broughton’s friend

Details about Geoffrey King’s life are mostly unknown. His place and date of birth (and death) are seemingly unrecorded. In adulthood, he became a fellow of King’s College Cambridge. King has a double claim to be remembered. First he was chosen to be part of the team of Lancelot Andrewes at Westminster, which translated the first books of the Old Testament. Secondly, he became Professor of Hebrew at King’s College, Cambridge, succeeding Robert Spaulding.

King's College, Cambridge

Of the Westminster group, Nicolson says:

Several of Andrewes’ team remain little more than names: Richard Clarke, a fellow of Christ’s college, Cambridge, whose sermons were said to be “a continent of mud’; Robert Tighe, vicar of All Hallows, Barking, the church in which Lancelot Andrewes had been christened; Geoffrey King, another Christ’s man, and in time Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge; and Francis Burleigh, who had been a scholar at Pembroke, Andrewes’ own college. Even among the obscure the connections continued to work. Those four have the look of workhorses, men flattered to be included, who could be asked to do much of the legwork. . .(1)

The influence of Hugh Broughton

King was reputed to be a personal friend of the controversialist Hugh Broughton (1549–1612). This gives us a clue as to whether King was dedicated to the mastery of Hebrew. Broughton was distinguished both in preaching and intense study, becoming an outstanding Hebrew scholar. He was thus intensely disappointed not to be invited to join the KJV translation committee.

Since his learning was beyond question, their refusal to give due recognition to Broughton's merits as a scholar was no credit to the selectors of the Authorized Version. However, it may be justly assumed that he was not invited to co-operate on account of his arrogance and intolerance. Because he was so waspish and cantankerous in controversy, other scholars were unwilling to associate with him. He would have been a troublesome collaborator.(2)

Broughton put himself offside with fellow scholars by a habit of writing excessive negative criticism concerning the writings and ministry of others. His first book was itself attacked in public lectures by two key members of the KJV committee, John Rainolds, president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and by Edward Lively, Regius professor of Hebrew at Cambridge.

Notwithstanding these reservations, and despite his intemperate outbursts, Hugh Broughton was a popular teacher and much loved by those he taught. He is said to have been a jovial dinner companion and a loyal friend. Whether as a pupil or colleague, Geoffrey King would have been much influenced by Broughton’s views as to the nature, importance and need for serious Hebrew study. It is thus important to understand Broughton’s views.

Broughton's writings demonstrate that he may justifiably be regarded as the most proficient English Hebraist of his day. Not only was he able to read the Old Testament in the original, he was familiar at first hand with a wide range of post-biblical Jewish authors. His contribution to Old Testament studies includes a translation of Daniel into English and Latin with explanatory notes and comments (1596), a commentary on Ecclesiastes with an accompanying English translation of the text (1605), an English rendering of Lamentations (1606), and an English version of the book of Job (1610). In what became known as the ‘battle of the vowel points’ Broughton shared the rabbinic attitude towards the Masoretic vocalization of the Hebrew Bible. He argued against the Catholics that the vowels were a part of the original text, not a late invention of the rabbis and therefore untrustworthy. (2)

Elohim in Hebrew Bible

Broughton dedicated himself to the interpretation of biblical apocalyptic writings. To succeed in this he believed it needed to be based on a thorough mastery of Hebrew and the study of traditional Jewish exegesis. In teaching his students privately, he believed daily Bible readings and conversations in Hebrew were essential. Samuel Clarke claimed that in Broughton's published works:

[T]he serious and impartial reader will find … a winning and inciting enforcement to the reading of the Scriptures, with a greater seriousness, and more than ordinary searching into them. . . . [Among ordinary students] some such there were, that being excited and stirred up by his books, applied themselves to the study of the Hebrew tongue and attained to a great measure of skill and knowledge therein. (2)

Influence upon on the new translation

As a friend of Broughton, Geoffrey King would have sought his advice on various questions of translation.
Among the papers of John Rainolds are some Broughton comments and advice set down with respect for his learning. Broughton made his own partial version from the Bible from which the King James men appear to have taken some wordings. Speaking of wild horses, Broughton said of the horse, in Job 39:19, “Canst thou clothe his neck with thunder? . . . . Thunder is a figure for that which quivers; what a splendid phrase we lose if we object to “clothed his neck with thunder.” We can thank rabid Hugh Broughton for his inspired word.(3)

(1) Nicolson, p. 99
(2) Lloyd Jones, National Dictionary of Biography
(3) Paine, p. 107
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