Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Scrivener, Frederick Henry Ambrose

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SCRIVENER, FREDERICK HENRY AMBROSE (1813–1891), biblical scholar, son of Ambrose Scrivener (1790–1853), a stationer, by his wife Harriet Shoel (1791–1844), was born at Bermondsey, London, on 29 Sept. 1813. He was educated at St. Olave's school, Southwark, from 10 July 1820 to 1831, when he was admitted (4 July) at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was elected scholar on 3 April 1834, and graduated B.A. as a junior optime in 1835, M.A. in 1838. In 1835 he became an assistant master at Sherborne. From 1838 to 1845 he was curate of Sandford Orcas, Somerset, and from 1846 to 1856 headmaster of Falmouth school, holding also the perpetual curacy of Penwerris, which he retained till 1861. He was presented to the rectory of St. Gerrans, Cornwall, in 1862, and in 1874 became prebendary of Exeter. In 1876 he received the vicarage of Hendon, Middlesex. On 3 Jan. 1872 he was granted a civil list pension of 100l. ‘in recognition of his services in connection with biblical criticism and in aid of the publication of his works.’ He was created LL.D. of St. Andrews in the same year, and D.C.L. of Oxford in 1876. He took an important part in the revision of the English version of the New Testament (1870–1882). He died at Hendon, Middlesex, on 30 Oct. 1891, having married, on 21 July 1840, Anne (d. 1877), daughter of George and Sarah Blofeld.

Scrivener devoted his life to a study of the text of the New Testament. His first important publication was a collation of about twenty manuscripts of the Gospels hitherto unexamined. This appeared in 1853, and was followed in 1858 by an edition of the Greek Testament. His transcript of the ‘Codex Augiensis’ and contributions to New Testament criticism were published in 1859; ‘Collations of the Sinaiticus and Cod. Bezæ’ in 1864; the ‘Cod. Ceaddæ Latinus’ in 1887. The ‘Adversaria Critica Sacra’ were published after his death. His ‘Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament,’ of which the first edition appeared in 1861, remains a standard work. The number of manuscripts recorded was ‘about 1170.’ In the second edition, published in 1874, the number reached ‘about 1277.’ In the third, 1883, it was raised to about 1,430, besides a record of a large number contributed by Dean Burgon. After becoming vicar of Hendon, Scrivener found much difficulty in keeping pace with the advance of criticism, and the strain of preparing the third edition of 1883 was followed next year by a paralytic stroke. Nevertheless he continued to prepare a fourth edition, which was completed by the Rev. E. Miller after the author's death. The last edition records over three thousand manuscripts. Scrivener also published ‘A Supplement to the Authorised English Version of the New Testament,’ 1845 (Pickering); ‘The Cambridge Paragraph Bible of the Authorised English Version,’ 3 vols. 1870–3; and ‘Six Lectures on the Text of the New Testament,’ 1874.

Scrivener held firmly to the traditional text of the New Testament, declining to accept the theories of modern critics as to the comparative lateness of the textus receptus. His arguments have not found general support as against those of Westcott and Hort.

[Scrivener's Works; Times, 3 Nov. 1891; Athenæum, 31 Oct. 1891, p. 586; S. P. Tregelles's Codex Zacynthius, 1861, pp. xix, xxiii; Eadie's English Bible, 1876, ii. 205, 310; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. and Supplement; Foster's Alumni Oxon. (1715–1886); Classical Review, June 1896; Annual Register, October 1891, p. 196.]

E. C. M.