King James Bible Translators
Personal and Family Life
Arthur Lake was born in 1567 in St. Michael's parish in Southampton. His father was Almeric Lake, a burgess of the city. Arthur was the younger brother of Thomas Lake, who was knighted and became secretary of state to King James I.
Arthur attended grammar school in Southampton before leaving for Winchester and eventually to Oxford to continue his education. He never married, and much of his later life was spent at Oxford where he was involved in teaching and administration.
He also was a dedicated leader in the Church of England for much of his adult life. Biographer Thomas Fuller, noted that he was a hugely virtuous man who was "exemplary in his life, conversation, and very hospitable". Indeed, after participating in a disciplinary proceeding against a member of the church, he took pains to follow up with the persons disciplined by taking them out to dinner, and encouraging them in a reformation of life. He was known for his humility and charity.
He fell ill on a visit to London and died there on 4 May 1626, having just made a last confession to his dear friend and fellow Translator, Nicholas Felton. He was buried in Wells Cathedral "in the aisle through which I used to pass to my seat" according to his request in his will. He left behind two endowed lectureships at New College, Oxford; one was in Hebrew and the other in mathematics.
He was first educated at King Edward VI's School, Southampton during the time Hadrian Saravia was headmaster. Saravia became a Translator with Arthur Lake of the King James Bible. From Southampton Arthur proceeded to Winchester College and as was the case for many at Winchester, migrated to New College, Oxford. He matriculated at New College in 1588 at age twenty. He graduated B.A. in 1591, proceeded M.A. in 1595, B.D. and D.D. in 1605.
Like most of the Translators, Arthur Lake had two complimentary careers, one as a teacher and administrator associated with the university and the other as a church worker. His first college appointment came in 1589 when he was admitted as a perpetual fellow of New College. About 1600 he was made a fellow of his alma mater, Winchester College.
In 1603 Arthur Lake was appointed as master of the ancient St. Cross Hospital in Winchester, which had been serving the needs of the poor for hundreds of years.
He was elected warden of New College in 1613 and vice chancellor of the university in 1616. A biographer noted that he was "well read in the Fathers" and "had such command of the scriptures (which made him one of the best preachers) that few went beyond him in his time".
His church service was likewise impressive. He was ordained to the priesthood about 1594, and was made rector of Havant (1599), Hambledon (1601), Chilcomb (1603), Charity Stoke (1605), all in Hampshire, and Stanton St. John (1613) in Oxfordshire. In addition to the parish appointments he was made archdeacon of Surrey (1605), dean of Worcester (1608), and finally bishop of Bath and Wells in 1616. He held this bishopric for ten years until his death in 1626.
As bishop he was deeply committed to the care of the poor and maintained a staff of fifty, primarily out of "pure charity, in regard of their private need."
His legacy included founding libraries at the cathedrals of Worcester and Wells, a public library at Bath Abbey, a pipe organ for Worcester Cathedral, and books valued at £400 to the library of New College.
After his death many of his sermons were published. These included eight sermons on Isaiah chapter nine, ten sermons on Exodus chapter nineteen and nine sermons of Matthew 22:34-40.
Arthur Lake and the Translation
About the time Arthur Lake was proceeding towards his divinity degrees in 1604-5, he was invited to join the Second Westminster Company, working on the Epistles of the New Testament. He was allowed a deferment on certain academic exercises in order to accomplish this.
As already mentioned, Lake was a man so steeped in scripture that few were his equal. He was tutored from a young age by the likes of Hadrian Saravia, and by 1605 he was thirty-seven years old and clearly up to the task.
His association with members of his company must have been congenial. Included were Nicholas Love and George Ryves, his fellow graduates of New College and Winchester. Undoubtedly, he made friendships with others such as Michael Rabbett who he remembered in his will.
In his will he requested that the following be inscribed on his tomb: "A Lake I was by nature barren, bitter deade, I lived, waxed sweet, bare fruitte, by streames from Gods wellheade. Ezekiel 47"
This epitaph is a play on his name and borrows imagery from Ezekiel, chapter 47. It conveys Arthur Lake's perception of his own journey, one of spiritual rebirth. Despite his request, his memorial stone bears only the inscription: "Here lieth Arthur Lake, Doctor in Divinity, late Bishop of Bath and Wells, who died on the 4th day of May anno 1626" on a brass plate.