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Saturday, 30 April 2011

John Harding - A quiet achiever

John Harding was an English churchman and academic. We know little relating to his character or personal history. He was born c.1562 and married Isabel (her second marriage, first married under the name Clarke). They had three sons and four daughters.

Academic Background

Magdelene College, Oxford.
John Harding was a demy (1) of Magdalen College. He graduated in Classics 1578 and postgraduated (M.A.) in 1581. He became proctor in 1589. His Divinity studies for a further three years led to a B.D. He held the chair as Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford from 1591 for seven years, and his doctoral position was recognised in 1597. In this same year he accepted the rectory of Great Haseley, Oxfordshire. Seven years passed and he became a prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral, in 1604 Finally, he was made president of Magdalen College, in 1607–8.

By the time he was appointed as a translator of the Bible in 1604, Harding had been Royal Professor of Hebrew in the University for thirteen years. Says Alex McClure,

His occupancy of that chair, at a time when the study of sacred literature was pursued by thousands with a zeal amounting to a passion, is a fair intimation that Dr. Harding was the man for the post he occupied.

His professorial chair in Oxford made him the leader of the First Oxford Company of translators after the death of John Rainolds in 1607. The company translated the Major and Minor Old Testament prophets (Isaiah to MalachI).

He was also a member of the twelve-man revision team, whose task it was to study the recommendations of other appointed translators. The latter had already scrutinised the work of the original team appointed to make a first translation of one particular part of the Scriptures. This added third stage was a final revision to appraise the suggested amendments and/or alterations already put forward. This last stage was, perhaps, the most difficult aspect of the translation-work and demanded the experience and skill of the senior men of the translators - the Regius professors of Oxford and Cambridge - plus the Dean of Westminster representing the London teams. This team of twelve gave the work finality.

Given two languages, how may the nearest approximation be made in the second language to the expression of ideas already conveyed in the first? The skill and beauty with which the KJV translators accomplished it are a fair testimony to the consummate skill and extreme care they took with the sacred deposit, to make every word exceedingly well crafted.

John Harding died in 1610, within one year of publication.

(1) A "demy" describes a foundation scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford: so called because such a scholar originally received half the allowance of a fellow.

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