1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cureton, William

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CURETON, WILLIAM (1808–1864), English Orientalist, was born at Westbury, in Shropshire. After being educated at the free grammar school of Newport, and at Christ Church, Oxford, he took orders in 1832, became chaplain of Christ Church, sub-librarian of the Bodleian, and, in 1837, assistant keeper of MSS. in the British Museum. He was afterwards appointed select preacher to the university of Oxford, chaplain in ordinary to the queen, rector of St Margaret’s, Westminster, and canon of Westminster. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and a trustee of the British Museum, and was also honoured by several continental societies. He died on the 17th of June 1864.

Cureton’s most remarkable work was the edition with notes and an English translation of the Epistles of Ignatius to Polycarp, the Ephesians and the Romans, from a Syriac MS. that had been found in the monastery of St Mary Deipara, in the desert of Nitria, near Cairo. He held that the MS. he used gave the truest text, that all other texts were inaccurate, and that the epistles contained in the MS. were the only genuine epistles of Ignatius that we possess—a view which received the support of F. C. Baur, Bunsen, and many others, but which was opposed by Charles Wordsworth and by several German scholars, and is now generally abandoned (see Ignatius). Cureton supported his view by his Vindiciae Ignatianae and his Corpus Ignatianum,—a Complete Collection of the Ignatian Epistles, genuine, interpolated and spurious. He also edited a partial Syriac text of the Festal Letters of St Athanasius, which was translated into English by Henry Burgess (1854), and published in the Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church; Remains of a very Ancient Recension of the Four Gospels in Syriac, hitherto unknown in Europe; Spicilegium Syriacum, containing Remains of Bardesan, Meliton, Ambrose, Mara Bar Serapion; The third Part of the Ecclesiastical History of John, Bishop of Ephesus, which was translated by Payne Smith; Fragments of the Iliad of Homer from a Syriac Palimpsest; an Arabic work known as the Thirty-first Chapter of the Book entitled The Lamp that guides to Salvation, written by a Christian of Tekrit; The Book of Religious and Philosophical Sects, by Muhammed al Sharastani; a Commentary on the Book of Lamentations, by Rabbi Tanchum; and the Pillar of the Creed of the Sunnites. Cureton also published several sermons, among which was one entitled The Doctrine of the Trinity not Speculative but Practical. After his death Dr W. Wright edited with a preface the Ancient Syriac Documents relative to the earliest Establishment of Christianity in Edessa and the neighbouring Countries, from the Year of our Lord’s Ascension to the beginning of the Fourth Century; discovered, edited and annotated by the late W. Cureton.