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Thursday, 29 September 2011

William Branthwaite - expertise in Greek

Curriculum Vitae

William Branthwaite was born in 1563 into a landed Norfolk family. He entered Clare College, Cambridge in 1579 and graduated BA in 1583. He became a founding fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1585 under Laurence Chaderton. He was the first of eighteen members of his family to enter Emmanuel, receiving an MA in 1586. He then narrowed his focus to divinity as was the custom, and took a BTh in 1593, and was finally awarded a DTh (or DD, Paine) in 1598.

Master of Gonvile and Caius College

On 9 December 1607 he became master of Gonville and Caius [pron: keys] by royal mandate. He became vice-chancellor of the university in 1618, but died in January 1619, before the end of his year of office. In his will, proved on 11 March, he made a substantial bequest of books and property to his college, and was also a benefactor to Emmanuel.

Stephen Hawking, Fellow of Gonville and Caius College

Translation Committee

(Greek MS) "Love is patient," 1 Cor. 13

Branthwaite was reputed to have a thorough mastery of Greek, and this doubtless secured him a place among the biblical revisers of the "Second Cambridge Company" charged by James I of England with translating the Apocrypha.

Branthwaite died 1620. He was known as a wit (Benson Bobrick). Says McClure,

These few items go to mark him as a learned, reverend, and worshipful divine

Vivienne Westbrook, ‘Authorized Version of the Bible, translators of the (act. 1604–1611)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009 [, accessed 9 Sept 2011]

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Friday, 23 September 2011

Giles Thomson - Royal Chaplain

Academic ascent

Giles Thomson (also Tomson) was born in London in 1553 to a grocer of the same name. His serious education started at Merchant Taylors' School in 1564, where he was a fellow pupil of Lancelot Andrewes. From there he became an exhibitioner to study at University College, Oxford, in 1571 He graduated BA four years later. An MA followed in 1578 when he was also incorporated at Cambridge. He was made a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, in 1580, serving as university proctor in 1586. Narrowing his focus in divinity studies resulted in a BD in 1590. He was made divinity lecturer in Magdalen College and awarded a DD in 1602. It appears that he never married. (1)

Ecclesiastical appointments

Thomson accumulated a clutch of ecclesiastical appointments in youth and middle age: Canon residentiary of Hereford cathedral, 1594, and Rector of Pembridge in Herefordshire. Some time in the late 1590s he became chaplain to Queen Elizabeth, as was his friend, Dr. Richard Eedes. He became Dean of Windsor in 1602 and remained a royal chaplain on the accession of James I. Thomson was known as an eminent preacher and addressed his Queen in a Lenten series, 1598 and 1599. He continued to preach before King James also.

The Hampton Court conference

In January 1604 Thomson, as Dean of Windsor, attended the Hampton Court conference, though he may have been silent throughout. This was the meeting where a new translation of the Bible was proposed and agreed upon. King James had the power of direct appointment, and it would have been natural for him to look to a past fellow student of Thomson, Lancelot Andrewes, to help him in the appointment process. The latter could doubtless attest to Thomson’s linguistic skill, recommending to include him in the team of eight Oxford scholars who translated the Gospels, the Acts, and the book of Revelation.

Book of Kells (Gospels)

Able rhetorician

Thomson was a ‘good friend’ of the strategic thinker and poet John Davies. Davies spoke highly of his friend as a lively conversationalist, with a shining face which united intelligence with piety . (Microcosmos, 1603, sig. Nn2ir);

It was a royal pastime to visit the University to receive its obeisance, observe its good order, and be entertained with various orations, debates, and theatrical plays. Elizabeth I visited Oxford in 1592. It was noted that Thomson distinguished himself with ‘a very learned and discreet speach’ (Nichols) in a natural philosophy (science) disputation. King James 1 also listened to Giles Thomson (with Thomas Holland and John Harding supporting) in a debate which opposed John Aglionby’s argument, that both saints and angels know our conscious thoughts. (2)

Later years

Thomson was consecrated Bishop of Gloucester 1611. However, he never visited the city, for he died soon after in 1612, aged fifty-nine. McClure speaks of his death in another’s words, as being, “to the great grief of all who knew the piety and learning of the man.” Thomson was buried in Bray chapel at St George's Chapel, Windsor, with a monument depicting him, half-length, in the pulpit. The Latin inscription says of him:

Here lieth Giles Tomson, formerly Dean of this Chapel, whose mind was upright, tongue learned, and hands pure. . . ever a friend to the good, indigent and learned. Though his mortal body lies under the earth, his soul is raised by piety to the skies. He was thirteen years Dean of this Chapel, during which he was in manners grave, prudent, and pious. Afterwards . . . snatched away by death, June 14, 1612, aged 59.

(1) Fincham, Kenneth Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009.
(2) Payne, Gustavus, (1959/1977)The men behind the King James version, MI: Baker p. 85

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Thomas Sanderson - fellow of Balliol

Thomas Sanderson is almost unknown to us. He was a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and rector of All Hallows the Great, London which was demolished 1894. Anthony Wood, the antiquarian mentions a Thomas Sanderson, D. D., of Balliol College, Oxford. The same man was Archdeacon of Rochester during the years 1601 and 1614. He was a member of the Second Westminster Company of translators, directed by William Barlow.

A minor writer

The King James men were minor writers, though great scholars, doing superb writing. Their task lifted them above themselves, while they leaned firmly on their subjects. Many have written in wonder about what they achieved. (1)

Gustavus Paine (2) goes on to quote Dr William Faber’s taste for the KJV:

It lives on the ear like a music that can never be forgotten, like the sound of church bells . . . . It is part of the national mind and the anchor of national seriousness. The memory of the dead passes into it. . . . It is the representative of his best moments; and all that there has been about him of soft, gentle, and pure, and penitent, and good speaks to him for ever out of his English Bible.


Reader, have you experienced what Dr Faber is talking about? Try reading seven verses each morning from the AV Bible, asking God to speak to you through its pages. You’ll be surprised - after sympathetic and close consideration of the actual words - how readily the Text yields its probable meaning!

(1)Vivienne Westbrook, ‘Authorized Version of the Bible, translators of the (act. 1604–1611)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009
(2)Payne, Gustavus, (1959/1977)The men behind the King James version, MI: Bakerpp. 62 - 63

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Friday, 9 September 2011

Roger Fenton - a popular preacher

Academic background

Roger Fenton was born in 1565 in Lancashire and was educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he matriculated as a sizar in 1585. Four years later he graduated B.A. and became a fellow in 1590. Subsequently awarded an M.A. he then narrowed his studies to divinity and proceeded B.D. in 1602. With another eleven years of study he received a D.D. in 1613. Meanwhile in 1601 he became the rector of St. Stephen's Church, Walbrook, also of the neighbouring St. Benet's Sherehog in 1603. In his work there over many years there he was described as “the painful, pious, learned, and beloved minister.” He moved on from Walbrook to the vicarage of Chigwell, Essex in 1606. Three years later, he succeeded Lancelot Andrewes in the prebend of St. Pancras in St. Paul's, which thus made him rector and patron, as well as vicar, of Chigwell. St Stephen's is thought by some to be the finest of the church buildings of Sir Christopher Wren. One of its vicars started the Samaritan movement.

Sermon Publications

Fenton was preacher to the readers at Gray's Inn, starting 1598, and he held the post for the rest of his life. The Elisabethan period is considered the "golden age" of this Inn of lawyers, and the Queen is its Patron Lady. Fenton was a popular preacher of the day; His first work was 'An Answer to William Alablaster, his Motives,' 1599. Fenton prefaces his work with a short note where ‘he wisheth health of soule and bodie' to William Alabaster, languishing in the Tower of London, 1598/99. He sets out to counter the arguments that Alabaster had use to justify his conversion to Roman Catholicism. These counter-arguments may have been persuasive, as Alabaster eventually gave up Catholicism, and was favoured by James I.

William Alabaster

Another of his sermons, 'Of Simonie and Sacriledge,' was published in 1604. The context of the sermon shows he was at that time chaplain to Sir Thomas Egerton, the Lord Chancellor. A third work was 'A Treatise of Usurie,' in three books, published the same year as the KJV, and there is some evidence it was dedicated to Sir Francis Bacon, also a member of Gray‘s Inn. Fenton’s views on the morality or otherwise of usury were taken up forty years after publication in a tract by Sir Robert Filmer entitled 'Quaestio quodlibetica, or, A discourse, whether it may bee lawfull to take use for money.' This bears the sub-title, 'An Examination of Dr. Fenton's Treatise of Usury.' The author quotes Dr. Fenton and Dr. Andrewes as two of the most noted opponents of usury in England. Although Fenton’s views on usury were attacked after he died, 16 Jan. 1615, they were more than adequately defended by the Bishop of London, John King. Fenton’s successor at Chigwell, one Emmanuel Utie, published another of Fenton’s sermons posthumously, called 'A Treatise against the Necessary Dependance upon that One Head and the present Reconcilation to the Church of Rome. Together with certaine sermons preached in publike assemblies.' Three of these sermons had been preached before King James.

Yet another sermon was published in 1615, 'Upon Oathes,' preached before the Grocers' Company; and a small volume containing four more appeared in 1616.

Utie's dedication piece spoke of Fenton's merits as a preacher and writer, acknowledging 'that judgement which was admired of every side,' and saying that his style with words had '. . . naked innocencie without affectation and . . natural majestie,’ the manner of his honey-producing industry was ‘like a master bee without a sting.'

Translating the Bible

We have seen that Roger Fenton, like many of the translators, had patrons in high places. His ministry was located in London, so he was a natural choice to be one of seven men who formed the second Westminster company - led by William Barlow - with the task of translating the New Testament epistles.

Final Appreciation

Nicholas Felton, Master of Pembroke said of Fenton:

None was fitter to dive into the depths of school divinity. He was taken early from the University, and had many troubles afterward; yet he grew and brought forth fruit. Never a more learned hath Pembroke Hall brought forth, with but one exception.
He was referring to Bishop Lancelot Andrews. Fenton died January 16th, 1616, at the age of fifty. He had suffered much with poor health, probably owing to sedentary habits. Says Fulton, his friend,
In the time of his sickness, I told him that his weakness and disease were trials only of his faith and patience. "Oh no," he answered, Non probationes, sed castigationes. - “they are not trials but corrections.”
His body was buried under the communion-table of St. Stephen’s, where his parishioners erected a monument to his memory, inscribing their affection toward their pastor as one eminent in both piety and learning.

"Fenton, Roger". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

Steve Cadman

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Friday, 2 September 2011

William Dakins - cut short in his days

William Dakins was born c. 1568/9 the son of William Dakyns (d. 1598), vicar of Ashwell, Hertfordshire. William attended the famous Westminster School aged thirteen, in 1582.

From there he won a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated BA in 1591 becoming a Fellow of Trinity in 1593. Having acceded to M.A in 1594 he then focused on Divinity studies, adding a BD in 1601. The next year he began lecturing in Greek and became vicar of Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, in 1603.

St. Mary the Less, Trumpington

In 1604, he was appointed Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London. This was on the recommendation of the vice-chancellor and several heads of Cambridge colleges as well as some of the nobility - and even by King James I himself. Christopher Hill comments that James was probably glad to have a "harmless academic" appointed, after his puritan predecessors. The King, says McClure, called him “an ancient divine” in his letter to the Mayor and Aldermen of London. This alluded not to his age, but to his theological character.

The appointment to Gresham College was seen as fair remuneration for the work he was to do in helping translate the KJV Bible. His training made him more than adequate to the task, on account of “his skill in the original languages.”

In 1605 he resigned the vicarage of Trumpington, and the following year he became junior dean of Trinity College. He died in February 1607 only a few months after, being less than forty years old. Thus, his work on the Second Westminster Company (Romans - Jude), under William Barlow (Director), lasted but a short time.

Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located in central London, founded in 1597. Today it hosts over 140 lectures every year within the City of London. The Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London, gives these educational lectures free to the public. The college when founded appointed seven professors, and now also has visiting professors. However, it does not enroll students and awards no degrees. Recent lectures on religion are listed. A relevant upcoming lecture is The Language of the King James Bible by Dr Christopher de Hamel, on 26 September 2011 - a Symposium to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible.

Bill Bryson lecture, Gresham College.

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