Grabe, John Ernest (DNB00)
|←Gower, Thomas||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 22
Grabe, John Ernest
GRABE, JOHN ERNEST (1666–1711), divine, was born at Königsberg on 10 July 1666, and educated at the university there, of which his father, Martin Sylvester Grabe, was professor of divinity and history. He took the usual degree, and then devoted himself to the reading of the fathers. This led him to question the validity of the orders of the Lutheran church, and he resolved to enter the church of Rome. He first, however (in 1695), presented a statement of his difficulties to the ecclesiastical consistory of Sambia in Prussia. A reply to this memorial by three Lutheran divines commissioned by the elector of Brandenburg was printed in the same year. Grabe, though not convinced, conferred with Spener, one of the three, and by Spener's advice came to England, where he would find a church in possession of apostolical succession. William III settled on him a pension of 100l. per annum. He appears to have soon settled at Oxford, and there in 1698 published the first volume of his ‘Spicilegium SS. Patrum ut et hæreticorum seculi post Christum natum I. II. et III.’ The dedication to the Duke of Ormonde, chancellor of the university, is dated from St. Edmund Hall, then a favourite resort of the nonjurors. In the next year he published a second volume of the work. A second edition was published after Grabe's death, 2 vols. 8vo, 1714, to which are prefixed the speeches of Smalridge when presenting Grabe for the degree of D.D. at the Encænia, on 27 April 1706. In July 1700 he was ordained deacon by Dr. William Lloyd, bishop of Worcester. In the same year he was made chaplain of Christ Church by way of maintaining him; it is probable he never performed the office. Hickes says that he was ordained priest—probably by nonjuring prelates. In 1700 he published Justin Martyr's ‘First Apology,’ and in 1702 ‘S. Irenæi Episcopi Lugdunensis contra omnes hæreses libri quinque.’ Upon the accession of Queen Anne his pension was continued, and he was employed upon printing the Alexandrine manuscript of the Septuagint, then in the Royal Library at St. James's. At Harley's suggestion she presented him with a purse of 60l. as an encouragement.
In 1703 he revised the scholia for Gregory's Greek Testament, which was printed at Oxford, and in the same year he published a beautiful edition in folio of Bishop Bull's Latin works [see Bull, George]. He now set to work upon the publication of the ‘Codex Alexandrinus,’ and in 1705 he published an account of the manuscript, giving it preference to the Vatican manuscript, together with three specimens of his intended edition. The university of Oxford conferred on him the degree of D.D. in April 1706. The king of Prussia sent him a present, and subscriptions are said to have come in from all parts. Hearne tells us that ‘some of Christ Church offered the pious and learned Mr. Grabe the Margaret professorship of divinity, but he being a Prussian by birth, and having other reasons besides against his accepting it, modestly declined it.’
In 1707 came out, in fol. and 8vo, ‘Septuaginta Interpretum Tomus I. continens Octateuchum, quem ex antiquissimo MS. Codice Alexandrino accuratè descriptum, et ope aliorum Exemplarium, ac priscorum Scriptorum, præsertim vero Hexaplaris Editionis Origenianæ emendatum atque suppletum … summâ curâ edidit Joannes Ernestus Grabe S. T. P.’ In an epistle to Hody (Hod. de Bibl. Text. p. 639) Grabe observes that in this edition two thousand corrupted passages are amended. This practically destroys the value of the book as a transcript of the Codex. The work was published in 4 vols. fol. and 8 vols. 8vo. The first volume was edited by Grabe himself in 1707. In 1709 he published the last volume. The second volume, edited by Francis Lee, M.D., a learned physician, from Grabe's manuscript, was published in 1719. Lee died in that year, and the third volume, under the editorship of George Wigan, D.D., of Christ Church, came out in 1720. All the volumes were from Grabe's transcript. In 1710 he published a ‘Dissertatio de variis vitiis LXX. Interpretum ante B. Origenis ævum illatis,’ &c., and explained why he had departed from the plan of his publication. Shortly before his death he had a controversy with Whiston, who had claimed Grabe's assent to his views as to the authority of the ‘Apostolical Constitutions.’ Grabe therefore published in 1711 ‘An Essay upon two Arabic MSS. in the Bodleian Library, and that ancient book called the Doctrine of the Apostles, which is said to be extant in them, wherein Mr. Whiston's mistakes about both are plainly proved.’ This was his only publication in English. On 22 Aug. 1711 he wrote to the lord treasurer, complaining of his broken health, the non-payment of his pension for the past twelve months, and consequently his having run into debt threescore pounds. His pension was paid, together with a gift of 50l. from Harley. He died on 3 Nov. 1711. He was attended in his last illness by Smalridge, who has left an ample testimony to his piety and morality. He wished upon his deathbed that it should be known that he died in the faith and communion of the church of England. Possibly he inclined to nonjuring views, but he esteemed the church of England more than any other part of the catholic church. It is said he proposed a plan for the introduction of episcopacy into Prussia, and the adoption of a liturgy after the English model. He was buried, as Hearne mentions in his diary, 12 Nov. 1711, in the church of St. Pancras, not, as is generally stated, in Westminster Abbey, where Harley afterwards erected a cenotaph.
He left a great mass of manuscripts, which he bequeathed to Dr. Hickes for life, and afterwards to Dr. Smalridge,. Two posthumous pieces may be mentioned: 1. ‘Liturgia Græca ad normam liturgiarum,’ &c., and published by Pfaff at the end of ‘Irenæi fragmenta anecdota,’ at the Hague in 1715; and 2. ‘De forma Consecrationis Eucharistiæ,’ a defence of the Greek church against that of Rome, London, 1721.
Grabe was unquestionably a learned man, and, according to Nelson's account, of a most estimable and amiable disposition.[Nelson's Life of Bull; Hearne's Collections (ed. Doble for Oxf. Hist. Soc.), i. ii. iii.; Biog. Brit.]