King James Bible Translators
Personal and Family Life
Thomas Sanderson was born in St. Paul's Churchyard, London in 1561, the namesake and son of Thomas and Isabel (Foxall) Sanderson. His father was a haberdasher by trade, a seller of hats and caps which were made on the premises near St. Paul's Cathedral. The business was successful and employed no fewer than seven or eight workers. So close was the Sanderson home to St. Paul's Cross that congregational singing could be heard in the house.
Thomas was the second son, his elder brother, John, being born in 1560. John published an account of his travels to Palestine which proved popular with the public and made John famous in his own right. Other children included Grace, Ellen (who married the famous jurist Sir James Altham), Jane, Lucy, and Robert.
When Thomas and John were in their mid teens their father became gravely ill with a tumor under his ear. Thomas Sr. did not recover but died just about the time young Thomas left for Oxford. Thomas' mother stayed in the house, renting out part of it until she died in 1612.
Thomas remained in Oxford until 1594 when he became vicar of St. Lawrence Jewry, London. He continued to reside in London, eventually marrying a widow, Anne Otmor. Both Thomas and Anne were in their forty's at the time of their marriage. Anne's husband Lewis Otmor was a barber/surgeon who died in 1605 and with his wife Anne were members of Thomas Sanderson's congregation of St. Lawrence. Anne herself died in 1608-09 and is buried in the church. The couple was childless.
Thomas outlived Anne by only five years. He died in early April 1614 and was buried on 6 April in his own church, St. Lawrence Jewry. Though not a wealthy man, Thomas made provision in his will for his niece Anne Hopkin, cousins, household staff, friends, and his college, Balliol. His brother John was his executor.
Thomas and his brother John both attended St. Paul's School, which was associated with the cathedral and next door to their residence. Thomas was the better student. John complained of his misery at school as a result of what he termed his "inaptness". He also reported suffering greatly at the hands of the headmaster, bearing for the rest of his life, seven scars from punishments received.
Thomas became a student at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1577. He graduated B.A. in 1582, and then moved to Balliol. He proceeded M.A. in 1585 and D.D. on July 4, 1605.
Thomas Sanderson was elected fellow at Balliol College after migrating there from Magdalen. He stayed at Oxford for almost ten years after receiving his M.A. He likely held other academic positions during this period. Doubtless he was also pursuing his studies, becoming an outstanding scholar.
His first pastoral duties came as vicar of St. Lawrence Jewry Church located on Gresham Street next to the Guildhall in the City of London. The church remains today, though rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great London Fire. While additional responsibilities were given him, he remained at St. Lawrence for twenty years until his passing.
In 1603 he was appointed rector of All Hallows, Barking, archdeacon of Rochester in 1606, and prebendary of St. Paul's in 1611. All these positions he held for the balance of his life.
Thomas Sanderson and the Translation
Thomas was selected to serve with the Second Westminster Company with responsibility to translate the Epistles of the New Testament, Romans through Jude. Members of his company included the company leader William Barlow, John Spenser, Roger Fenton and Michael Rabbett, Ralph Hutchinson, Arthur Lake, George Ryves, Nicholas Love, Nicholas Felton and William Dakins. To these men fell the enormous task of translating into English the letters of Saint Paul and the apostles. Much of the doctrine underpinning Christianity is expanded and expounded upon in these writings. It was in the words of Paul's letters that Martin Luther found inspiration to pursue the Reformation. Men and women throughout Europe with the printed scriptures newly in their hands likewise searched for religious meaning.
Of course, the KJB Translators had the invaluable aid of the previous translations of Tyndale, Coverdale, Geneva, and others. Nonetheless, Thomas Sanderson and his colleagues felt the burden to get it right, to provide the public with a translation as true to the original and as understandable as they could possibly make it. The judgment of the centuries is that they succeeded magnificently.
The individual contribution of each Translator remains largely unknown, and perhaps appropriately so, since it was a team effort.
There is one report that the Second Westminster Company met on occasion in Sanderson's house. Thomas Sanderson was undoubtedly a significant contributor to this great effort.
While a student at St. Paul's School, Thomas Sanderson was one of the three students, including future fellow Translator Richard Clerke, who composed poems in honor of Queen Elizabeth I, and which were presented to her in 1574. Thomas was thirteen years old at the time.
In 1601 while in Constantinople on one of his travels, Thomas' brother John bought from "an ancient and very learned" Jewish priest an old manuscript of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) in four languages. Later while in the Holy Land he obtained from the Patriarch of Jerusalem for "five sequins", an old manuscript of the New Testament in Greek. On returning to England, John presented these books to his brother Thomas. During his visit to Jerusalem John was imprisoned by Turkish authorities for entering the city wearing a sword. For a Christian to do so, was considered a dire offense. He was eventually released through the good offices of some Jewish friends who raised the money to pay John's fine.