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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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