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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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