Sir Frederic George Kenyon GBE KCB TD FBA FSA (15 January 1863 – 23 August 1952) was a British paleographer and biblical and classical scholar. He held a series of posts at the British Museum from 1889 to 1931. He was also the president of the British Academy from 1917 to 1921. From 1918 to 1952 he was Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod.
Kenyon was born in London, the son of John Robert Kenyon, the Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford, and was thus a great-grandson of Lloyd Kenyon, 1st Baron Kenyon. He was educated at Winchester College. He graduated BA from Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was later a fellow.
Kenyon joined the British Museum in 1889 and rose to be it’s Director and Principal Librarian by 1909. He was knighted for his services in 1912 and remained at his post until 1931.
In 1891, Kenyon edited the editio princeps of Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens. In 1920, he was appointed the president of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. He spent most of his retirement researching and publishing ancient papyri. He died on 23 August 1952.
Kenyon was a noted scholar of ancient languages and made a lifelong study of the Bible, especially the New Testament as a historical text. His book Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (1895) shows one way that Egyptian papyri and other evidence from archaeology can corroborate the narrative of historical events in the Gospels. He was convinced of the historical reality of the events described in the New Testament: “the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.”
Kenyon’s eldest daughter was the British archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon. From 1899 to 1901 Frederic was Commanding Officer of the Roxeth & Harrow Company of the London Diocesan Church Lads’ Brigade.
- 1891: Ἀριστοτέλους Ἀθηναίων Πολιτεία. Aristotle on the Constitution of Athens; edited by F. G. Kenyon. London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum
- 1891: Classical Texts from Papyri in the British Museum: Including the Newly Discovered Poems of Herodas, with Autotype Facsimiles of MSS; edited by F. G. Kenyon. London: British Museum.
- 1895: Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1896
- 1897: The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning; edited with biographical additions by Frederic G. Kenyon. 2 vol. London: John Murray. Gutenberg full text
- 1899: The Palaeography of Greek papyri: With Twenty Facsimiles and a Table of Alphabets
This intriguing volume presents a thorough discussion of palaeography—a foundational subject for the field of textual criticism. Frederic George Kenyon provides an orientation to the discipline and discusses various types and periods of papyri manuscripts, as well as the transition to velum. Appendixes provide helpful tables and lists covering papyri alphabets, catalogues of manuscripts, a bibliography of palaeography, and various symbols and ligatures used in papyri manuscripts.
- 1900: Facsimiles of Biblical Manuscripts in the British Museum Printed by Order of the Trustees. London.
- 1901: Handbook to the textual criticism of the New Testament (1st ed.)
This classic handbook on textual criticism is a helpful reference work, with discussions of the papyri, uncial and miniscule manuscripts, ancient versions, and patristic quotations of the New Testament. This volume also provides many plates of important manuscripts for a firsthand look at the textual tradition of the New Testament.
- 1912: Handbook to the textual criticism of the New Testament (2nd ed.)
- 1914: Aristotle, The Athenian Constitution; translated by Frederic G. Kenyon. London: G. Bell Gutenberg full text Wikisource full text
- 1915: Codex Alexandrinus in Reduced Photographic Facsimile. London: British Museum.
- 1932: Books and Readers in Ancient Greece and Rome Oxford: Clarendon Press. (2nd ed. 1951)
- 1933: Recent Developments in the Textual Criticism of the Greek Bible (Schweich Lectures for 1932) London: Oxford University Press
- 1933–41: The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri: Descriptions and Texts of Twelve Manuscripts on Papyrus of the Greek Bible. London: Emery Walker. (See Chester Beatty Papyri)
- 1936: The Story of the Bible: A Popular Account of How It Came to Us London: J. Murray
- 1940: The Bible and Archaeology. London: G. Harrap / New York: Harper & Row
- 1948: The Bible and Modern Scholarship (Ethel M. Wood Lecture) London: J. Murray.
Sir Frederic Kenyon said: “The general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scriptures, and our conviction that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable Word of God.”—The Story of the Bible, 1937, p. 144.
Sir Frederic Kenyon made this reassuring statement in the introduction to his seven volumes entitled The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri: “The first and most important conclusion derived from the examination of them [the Papyri] is the satisfactory one that they confirm the essential soundness of the existing texts. No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or the New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines. The variations of text affect minor matters, such as the order of words or the precise words used. . . . But their essential importance is their confirmation, by evidence of an earlier date than was hitherto available, of the integrity of our existing texts. In this respect, they are an acquisition of epoch-making value.”—London, 1933, Fasciculus I, p. 15.
Concerning the Christian Greek Scriptures, Sir Frederic Kenyon stated: “The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be, in fact, negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”—The Bible and Archæology, 1940, pp. 288, 289.
Sir Frederic Kenyon stated: The Bible has a human history as well as a divine inspiration. It is a history full of interest, and it is one which all those who value their Bible should know, at least in outline, if only that they may be able to meet the criticisms of skeptics and the ignorant.—The Story of the Bible, 1937, p. 2.
The Story Of The Bible
A Popular Account of How it Came to Us
- The Bible has a human history as well as a divine inspiration. It is a history full of interest, and it is one which all those who value their Bible should know, at least in outline, if only that they may be able to meet the criticisms of sceptics and the ignorant.
- Chapter I, The Bible And Recent Discoveries, p. 2
- The history of the Bible text is a romance of literature, though it is a romance of which the consequences are of vital import; and thanks to the succession of discoveries which have been made of late years, we know more about it than of the history of any other ancient book in the world.
- Chapter I, The Bible And Recent Discoveries, p. 4
- It is from the graves and ruins and rubbish-heaps of Egypt that writings have been restored to us in great numbers.
- Chapter III, How The Books Of The New Testament Were Written, p. 21
- All we can say is that, as the result of a process which went on from the fourth century to about the eighth, a standard type of text was produced, which is found in the vast majority of the manuscripts that have come down to us. At least ninety-six per cent of the extant manuscripts of the Greek New Testament are later than the eighth century; and of those only a handful preserve traces of the other types of text which were in existence before the adoption of the standard text, and out of which it was created.
- Chapter IV, From manuscript To Print, p. 39
- Seldom can two such epoch-making events have occurred in successive years as happened then. In 1453 the Turks stormed Constantinople and finally destroyed the Greek Empire, driving out Greek scholars, who carried the knowledge of Greek language and literature to the western world; and in 1454 the first document known to us appeared from the printing press at Mainz.
- Chapter IV, From manuscript To Print, p. 41-42
- Throughout, the work of Tyndale formed the foundation, and more than anyone else he established the rhythms and furnished much of the language which is familiar to us in the Authorised Version.
- Chapter V, The English Bible, p. 49
- No serious student of the Bible in English can neglect the Revised Version without loss.
- Chapter VII, The Revision Of The Text, p. 86
- The publication of the Revised New Testament by the two University Presses on May 17, 1881, was the most sensational in the annals of publishing.
- Chapter VIII, The Age Of Discoveries, p. 87
- The New Testament was not produced as a single work issued by an authoritative Church for the instruction of its members. The four Gospels were composed in different times and places over perhaps a third of a century, and for a time circulated separately among a number of other narratives of our Lord’s life (of which the newly discovered fragment of an unknown gospel may have been one).
- Chapter X, The Position Today, p. 133
- The apostles were scattered, and even the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem had neither the power nor the means to impose uniformity.
In these circumstances, we must imagine the literature of Christianity as spreading gradually, irregularly, and in a manner which variations inevitable.
- Chapter X, The Position Today, p. 134
- The Gospels were not thought of as works of literature. People were not concerned with the literary reputation of Matthew or Mark, but with the substance of their records of our Lord’s life. They did not have to respect their actual words, as they would if they were transcribing the works of Thucydides or Plato.
- Chapter X, The Position Today, p. 135
- It is indeed a striking proof of the essential soundness of the tradition that with which all these thousands of copies, tracing their ancestry back to so many different parts of the earth and to conditions of such diverse kinds, the variations of text are so entirely questions of detail, not of essential substance.
- Chapter X, The Position Today, p. 136
- The aim of the scholarly editor is not to produce the easiest text for the reader, but to get as near as he can to the text of the author.
- Chapter X, The Position Today, p. 142
- It is a fascinating story to those who care for their Bible. It is the life-history of the greatest of books, diversified by interesting episodes which appeal to our human sympathies; and we venture to think that the result is reassuring. It may be disturbing to some to part with the conception of a Bible handed down through the ages without alteration and in unchallenged authority; but it is a higher ideal to face the facts, to apply the best powers with which God has endowed us to the solutions of the problems which they present to us; and it reassuring at the end to find that the general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scripture, and our conviction that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable Word of God.
- Chapter X, The Position Today, p. 144
- Sabben-Clare, James. Winchester College. Cave, 1981. p. 187
- Kenyon, Frederic (1940) The Bible & Archaeology. New York: Harper & Row
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