King James Bible Translators
Personal and Family Life
Thomas Harrison was born in London in 1555, the son of John Harrison, a wealthy tailor. After his preparatory education he was accepted as a student at Trinity College, Cambridge. He remained in Cambridge until at least 1596 when he became the vicar of St. Andrew's Church in Great Cornard, Suffolk approximately forty-five miles south east of Cambridge. He continued to hold office at Trinity and died there in 1631. He was buried in the Trinity College Chapel. He apparently never married.
Religiously Thomas Harrison was a Puritan and advocated Puritan positions in public forums.
Thomas Harrison received his preparatory education at the Merchant Taylors' School in London. He moved to Cambridge at age eighteen where he became a student at Trinity College in 1573. He was described as a "pensioner", meaning his education was being funded privately rather than through university grants.
He graduated B.A. in 1577, proceeded M.A. in 1581, and B.D. in 1588.
Thomas Harrison spent much of his career at Cambridge associated with his college, Trinity. He was senior dean from 1593 to 1594 and was vice-master of Trinity from 1611 until 1630. It appears he was the vicar of St. Andrew's Church, Great Cornard, Suffolk from 1596 until 1630.
Early in his academic career his talent for ancient languages became apparent. William Whitaker, then regius professor of divinity at Cambridge, remarked he was a "proficient poet". As a student one of his fellows stated he was second only to Lancelot Andrewes in his intelligence and learning.
Harrison became a distinguished scholar in Greek and Hebrew. Speaking of him another scholar said, "He was second to none in the solid attainments of the Greek tongue".
Thomas Harrison and the Translation
Thomas Harrison was a member of the First Cambridge Company assigned to translate the Old Testament books of 1 Chronicles through the Song of Solomon. In the other Translators, he found a group of men who, like himself, were learned in the ancient languages of scripture. This being said, it is unlikely that any of his company could claim an expertise any greater than Harrison. At his passing it was said that he was "honored by all Cambridge at his death".
Much of the content of the material assigned to Harrison's company was historical. However, it also contained one of the Bible's most poetic books, the Psalms. The Psalms occupy nearly one hundred pages in most Bibles, and taken together, the one hundred fifty psalm/poems treat a myriad of spiritual subjects. The pre-figuring of Christian themes and doctrines is abundant in the Psalms, and they are quoted by New Testament writers one hundred-sixteen times, more than any other Old Testament source.
Modern scholars have praised the work of the Translators in being able to preserve the beauty and meaning of the original text by carrying into English many of the Hebrew idioms, which have in turn enriched the English language down to our own day.
Thomas Harrison was such a thorough scholar of scripture that "it was said he was so familiar with the Greek New Testament that he could, at any time, turn to any word that it contained".