Henry Alford: Biblical Scholar


Henry Alford (1810-1871) was born in London to a family with a long history of service to God and His people-five consecutive generations had produced at least one Anglican clergyman. His mother died when he was still quite young, and he spent much of his childhood with his widowed father who was a minister in rural Wiltshire.

Young Henry demonstrated remarkable academic abilities even as young boy, learning Latin and writing poems, historical outlines, and even Bible lessons by the time he was 10 years old. At 17 he went to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, remaining there as a student and later a fellow until he was 25.

In 1835, he began his service as a man of the church. He served for 18 years as a deacon, then priest, and vicar of Wymeswold, Leicestershire, England. During this time he continued to lecture periodically at Cambridge and developed a reputation as a scholar and preacher. He also began to dabble in poetry and magazine publishing during these years.

In 1853, Alford returned to London to serve as minister to a large congregation at Quebec Chapel, Marylebone. In 1857, the church leadership appointed him dean of Canterbury, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Alford was an original member of the New Testament Revision Committee. His great life work was the 8 volume commentary, The New Testament in Greek, which he worked on from 1841-1861, distinguished by introducing to English readers the learning of various German authorities. His digest of the Greek New Testament "has permanent value. He united freshness of treatment with wide learning."

Other works include New Testament for English Readers (4 vol.), How to Study the New Testament,The School of the Heart and Other Poems,A Plea for the Queen's English, Chapters on the Greek Poets, as well as books on hymns, sermons, and university lectures, some 50 miscellaneous volumes. He also edited compilations of John Donne's poems and translated Homer's Odyssey.

Among his hymns are the well-known "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come", "Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand", and the inspirational "My Task," a favorite for commencement exercises.

His contemporaries spoke not just of his great works, but of his amiable character. His tombstone inscription reads (in Latin) "the inn of a traveler on his way to Jerusalem." "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21).

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.

References:Who Was Who in Church History, by Elgin S. Moyer, excerpts used by permission of Moody Publishers. Wikipedia "Henry Alford", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Alford.

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