Personal and Family Life

Edward Lively was born about 1545 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. He had at least one brother, Richard, who was seven years his senior. Richard preceded Edward both to the university and into the ministry.

Edward distinguished himself at Cambridge as a scholar and teacher. By the time he was thirty he was named regius professor of Hebrew at the university and was one of the world's eminent scholars in his field. He was also skilled in other languages, both ancient and modern. In the summer of 1578 he married Catherine Lorkin, the daughter of Thomas Lorkin, a physician, and regius professor of physics at Cambridge. Edward and Catherine had thirteen children, eleven of whom may have survived to maturity. Catherine died in 1599 leaving the younger children to be raised by Edward.

Despite Edward Lively's scholarly eminence and position at the university he was among the poorest of those who became Translators. Unlike many of his fellows, he didn't have rectories, vicarages, or other ecclesiastical preferments to generate income. Finally, within three years of his death, several appointments came, but it was too late.

At his funeral, speaking in tribute to Edward his fellow Cambridge scholar, Dr. Thomas Playfere, stated that he:

lived a life which in a manner was nothing as but a continual flood of waters. Never out of suits of law, never-ceasing disquiters of his studies. His goods distrained and his cattle driven off his ground, as Jobs was. His deare wife being not so well able to beare so great a flood as he, even for verie sorrow presently died. A lamentable and rueful case. So many children to hang upon his hand, for which he never had maintenance, neither yet now had stay, his wife being gone.

This described Edward just before he became involved in the translation of the King James Bible (hereinafter KJB).

As to his bearing and character, this same good friend said he always carried himself "Humbly, mildly, quietly, constantly".

Edward died of "squinsey", a throat infection, in May of 1605 and was buried in the Cambridge church of St. Edward King and Martyr, where Translator, Richard Thomson is also buried.

At his funeral, the eulogist, lamented not for Edward in his passing for "He lived blessedly, he died blessedly in the Lord." The speaker then intoned:

Rather, you reverend and learned Universitie-men, lament for this, that you have lost so famous a Professour, and so worthie a writer. Lament, you translatours, being now deprived of him, who no lesse by his merit and desert, than by the Privilege of his place, was to order and oversee all your travailes. Lament, you poore orphans, eleven poore children of you, which he left behind him, as Christ ascending, left eleven disciples, bereaved of your kinde and deare father, destitute of necessaries for your maintenance, to seeke of all helpe and means, by onely (as poore folkes use to speake) such as God and good friends shall provide. Lament, lament, all of you, of the Towne as well as of the Universitie, because our school hath lost such a singular ornament of this age, because our Churches have lost such a faithfull and syncere servant of Christ.

The lamentation today may sound overblown but it carries a clear message of how valued Edward Lively was by friends, associates and family.


Edward Lively's preparatory education is unknown but growing up in a university town he was likely afforded a good one.

He became a student at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1565. He graduated B.A. in 1569 and proceeded M.A. in 1572. At Cambridge he was taught Hebrew by the eminent Semitics scholar, John Drusus.


Edward Lively's first academic appointment was as a fellow of Trinity College where he had been a scholar. He remained a fellow there until 1578 when he married Catherine Lorkin. Three years previously, in 1575, he had been appointed regius professor of Hebrew by Queen Elizabeth I. He occupied this position for thirty years until his death in 1605.

Towards the end of his life he was ordained a deacon and priest in Peterborough prior to being made prebendary in 1602. In 1605, likely as a result of his involvement in the translation of the KJB, he was given the rectory of Purleigh, Essex.

Edward Lively was the author of at least two books. The first was a series of notes on five of the minor prophets of the Old Testament published in 1587. The second was a commentary on a portion of the Old Testament Book of Daniel, chapter 9 verses 24-27. Lloyd Jones, a biographer of Lively explains that Lively's writings demonstrate that he was able to draw upon classical authors, Church Fathers, and Jewish commentators. He notes: "It is the blending of three distinct sources in his exposition of the text that renders Lively's scholarship exceptional for the age in which he lived… By his linguistic expertise and his appreciation for rabbinic sources, Cambridge's second regius professor of Hebrew played a leading role in furthering Hebrew studies in Elizabethan England." (ODNB)

Edward Lively would be remembered for these accomplishments had there been no others, but it will always be for his association with the KJB that he will be forever honored.

Edward Lively and the Translation

The decision by King James I to authorize and sponsor a new translation of the Bible came in January 1604. By June 30th a letter from Bishop Bancroft to Cambridge explained the choice of who would be Translators had been made or was close to completion. Further, that Edward Lively was very much a part of the process. The letter reads:

His Majesty being made acquainted with the choice of all them to be employed in the translating of the Bible, in such sort as Mr. Lively can inform you, doth greatly approve of the said choice. And for as much as his Highness is very desirous that the same so religious a work should admit of no delay, he has commanded me to signify unto you in his name that his pleasure is, you should with all possible speed meet together in your University and begin the same.

A month later on July 31, 1604, Bancroft wrote his fellow bishops asking them to recommend scholars who could assist the Translators in their task by sending their observations of improvements that might be made on the basis of prior English translations. They were told such suggestions could be sent to Mr. Lively in Cambridge, Dr. Harding in Oxford or Dr. Andrewes at Westminster. This letter demonstrates that by the summer of 1604 Edward Lively was in a position of leadership not only of his company, the First Cambridge, but likely had some responsibility for the Second Cambridge Company as well.

Though Edward Lively only worked on the project for perhaps a year before his death, his influence on the translation process may well have been profound. He likely had a significant hand in the selection of Translators, especially those making up the Cambridge Companies. Lively's contemporary, Thomas Playfere, noted that prior to Edward's death it had been observed by Bancroft that up to that time, he had devoted himself more than any other person to the translation effort. Additionally, Gustavus Paine, KJB historian notes "Edward Lively of Cambridge was an organizer and planner on whom all the Hebrew process there, and others too, could depend". The full extent of Edward Lively's contribution to the translation may not be known but it was considerable.