King James Bible Translators
Personal and Family Life
Jeremiah Radcliffe was born about 1552 at Hitchin, Hertfordshire. His parents were Ralph and Elizabeth (Marshall) Radcliffe. Ralph Radcliffe was an ardent Protestant and had been an outstanding scholar at Oxford and Cambridge. Henry the Eighth granted Ralph permission to establish a school for boys at the recently closed Carmelite priory at Hitchin. It was here the future Translator was born. His older brother was named Ralph after his father, and he had a younger brother, Edward, who became physician to King James I. The last born was his sister, Elizabeth.
After leaving home for grammar school in London, Jeremiah never returned to Hitchin for more than visits. Most of his adult life was spent in Cambridge in parishes where he was pastor.
Jeremiah died in Orwell, Cambridgeshire in early March 1612 and was buried in St. Mary's Church, Orwell. His brother, Edward erected a monument to him in the church. The tribute is a sculptured relief on the church wall depicting Jeremiah dressed in his church robes. There is no record of him ever marrying.
Jeremiah was sent by his parents to Westminster School, London for his preparatory education. He was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, Easter of 1567. Nearly four years later, he graduated B.A., proceeded M.A. in 1574, B.D. in 1581 and D.D. in 1588.
Jeremiah Radcliffe became a fellow of Trinity College in 1572. In 1579, about midway through his university education, Jeremiah became vicar of St. Mary's Church, Shudy Camps located in the far south east corner of Cambridgeshire. About a year later he moved even closer to Cambridge, accepting the position as vicar of Trumpington where he served from 1580 to 1589. During this same period he was concurrently vicar of Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire (1584-7), and Heversham, Westmoreland (1588-91). The practice of occupying several pastoral positions at the same time was not unusual. In 1590 he was appointed vicar of St. Mary's Orwell, about nine miles southwest of Cambridge. He remained as vicar of Orwell until his passing twenty-two years later.
Also, he was appointed vice-master of his college, Trinity, in 1597. As one holding this high office, he continued to be involved in college and university affairs until his death.
Jeremiah Radcliffe and the Translation
Jeremiah Radcliffe was a member of the Second Cambridge Company assigned to translate the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha consisted of a number of ancient writings usually not considered to be of the scriptural stature of the rest of the Bible, but nonetheless of value. The Apocrypha was included in the King James Bible, and the complete New English Bible, published in 1970, contained the Apocrypha as well.
Besides Radcliffe, this company included John Duport, William Branthwaite, Samuel Ward, Robert Ward, Andrew Downes and John Bois. These men were of the same scholarly accomplishment as those of the other companies and their contributions to the work as a whole were invaluable. They not only translated the Apocrypha, but reviewed the work of all the other companies.
Hitchin Priory, where Jeremiah Radcliffe was born, has a history dating back to 1317. It was established by the Monastic Order of Carmelites, also known as the White Friars. With the abolition of the Orders by Henry VIII, the Hitchin Priory was closed. Not long after, in 1534 Ralph Radcliffe, Jeremiah's father, asked the king for permission to establish a school at the Priory. When his request was granted, the family moved to Hitchin. When the school was established, Ralph Radcliffe constructed a theatre and the school became famous for its dramatic and comedic productions. The elder Radcliffe served as schoolmaster, playwright, director and producer. In 1553 about the time of Jeremiah Radcliffe's birth, his father Ralph was able to purchase the entire priory estate which remained in the Radcliffe family until 1964. Today it functions as a business and reception center for the community.
Little would be known about Jeremiah Radcliffe and the family, had not large wooden panels been placed on the wall of St. Mary's church, Hitchin, detailing the genealogy and historical particulars of the family. Though hundreds of years old, the Radcliffe memorial appears today in a near perfect state of preservation.