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Brooke Foss Westcott (12 January 1825 - 27 July 1901) was a British bishop, biblical scholar and theologian, serving as Bishop of Durham from 1890 until his death. He is perhaps most known for co-editing The New Testament in the Original Greek in 1881. Brooke Foss Westcott (12 January 1825 - 27 July 1901) was a British bishop, biblical scholar and theologian, serving as Bishop of Durham from 1890 until his death. He is perhaps most known for co-editing The New Testament in the Original Greek in 1881. He was born in Birmingham. His father, Frederick Brooke Westcott, was a botanist. Westcott was educated at King Edward VI School, Birmingham, under James Prince Lee, where he became friends with Joseph Barber Lightfoot, later bishop of Durham.
The period of Westcott's childhood was one of political ferment in Birmingham and amongst his earliest recollections was one of Thomas Attwood leading a large procession of men to a meeting of the Birmingham Political Union in 1831. A few years after this Chartism led to serious disturbances in Birmingham and many years later Westcott would refer to the deep impression the experiences of that time had made upon him.
In 1844, Westcott entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was invited to join the Cambridge Apostles. He became a scholar in 1846, took Sir William Browne's medal for a Greek ode in 1846 and 1847, and the Members' Prize for a Latin essay in 1847 and 1849. He took his BA degree in January 1848, obtaining double-first honours. In mathematics, he was twenty-fourth wrangler, Isaac Todhunter being senior. In classics, he was senior, being bracketed with Charles Broderick Scott, afterwards headmaster of Westminster School. After obtaining his degree, Westcott remained in residence at Trinity. In 1849, he obtained his fellowship; and in the same year he was made deacon by his old headmaster, Prince Lee, later Bishop of Manchester. In 1851 he was ordained and became an assistant master at Harrow School. As well as studying, Westcott took pupils at Cambridge; fellow readers included his school friend Lightfoot and two other men who became his attached and lifelong friends, E.W. Benson and F.J.A. Hort. The friendship with Lightfoot and Hort influenced his future life and work.
He devoted much attention to philosophical, patristic and historical studies, but his main interest was in New Testament work. In 1851, he published his Norrisian prize essay with the title Elements of the Gospel Harmony. The Cambridge University Norrisian Prize for theology was established in 1781 by the will of John Norris Esq of Whitton, Norfolk for the best essay by a candidate between the ages of twenty and thirty on a theological subject.
He combined his school duties with his theological research and literary writings. He worked at Harrow for nearly twenty years under Dr C.J. Vaughan and Dr Montagu Butler, but he was never good at maintaining discipline among large numbers. In 1855, he published the first edition of his History of the New Testament Canon, which, frequently revised and expanded, became the standard English work on the subject. In 1859, there appeared his Characteristics of the Gospel Miracles.
In 1860, he expanded his Elements of the Gospel Harmony essay into an Introduction to the Study of the Gospels. Westcott's work for Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, notably his articles on "Canon," "Maccabees", and "Vulgate," led to the composition of his subsequent popular books, The Bible in the Church (1864) and a History of the English Bible (1869). To the same period belongs The Gospel of the Resurrection (1866). As a piece of consecutive reasoning upon a fundamental Christian doctrine, it attracted great attention. It recognised the claims of historical science and pure reason. At the time when the book appeared, his method of apologetic showed originality, but was impaired by the difficulty of the style.
In 1865, he took his B.D., and in 1870, his D.D. Later, he received honorary degrees of DC.L. from Oxford (1881) and of D.D. from Edinburgh (1883). In 1868, Westcott was appointed examining chaplain by Bishop Connor Magee (of Peterborough); and in the following year he accepted a canonry at Peterborough, which forced him to leave Harrow. For a time he was enthusiastic about a cathedral life, devoted to the pursuit of learning and to the development of opportunities for the religious and intellectual benefit of the diocese. But the Regius Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge fell vacant, and J. B. Lightfoot, who was then Hulsean Professor, refused it in favour of Westcott. It was due to Lightfoot's support almost as much as to his own great merits that Westcott was elected to the chair on 1 November 1870.
He now occupied a position for which he was suited, at a point in the reform of university studies when a theologian of liberal views, but respected for his learning and his character, had a unique opportunity to contribute. Supported by his friends Lightfoot and Hort, he worked very hard, foregoing many of the privileges of a university career so that his studies might be more continuous and that he might see more his students. ... Westcott married, in 1852, Sarah Louisa Mary Whithard (ca 1830-1901), daughter of Thomas Middlemore Whithard, of Bristol. Mrs Westcott was for many years deeply interested in foreign missionary work. She became an invalid in her later years, and died on 28 May 1901. They had seven sons and three daughters.
For more information, see Wikipedia entry at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooke_Westcott .
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