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ABBOT, EZRA: Unitarian layman; b. at Jackson, Waldo County, Me., Apr. 28, 1819; d. at Cambridge, Mass., Mar. 21, 1884. He was fitted for college at Phillips Academy, Exeter, N. H., and was graduated at Bowdoin, 1840. He then taught in Maine and, after 1847, in Cambridge, Mass., also rendering service in the Harvard and Boston Athenæum libraries. In 1856 he was appointed assistant librarian of Harvard University, in 1871 he was university lecturer on the textual criticism of the New Testament, and in 1872 he became Bussey professor of New Testament criticism and interpretation in the Harvard Divinity School. From 1853 he was secretary of the American Oriental 5Society. He was one of the original members of the American New Testament Revision Company (1871), and in 1880 he aided in organizing the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis. He was a scholar of rare talents and attainments. He stood first and foremost among the textual critics of the Greek Testament in America; and for microscopic accuracy of biblical scholarship he had no superior in the world. On account of the extreme attention he paid to minute details, the number of his independent publications was small, and the results of his labors have gone into books of other writers, to which he was willing to contribute without regard to reward or adequate recognition. His Literature of the Doctrine of a Future Life, first published as an appendix to Alger’s History of the Doctrine of a Future Life (Philadelphia, 1864), and afterward separately (New York, 1871), is a model of bibliographical accuracy and completeness, embracing more than 5,300 titles. He enriched Smith’s Bible Dictionary (Am. ed., 1867-70) with careful bibliographical lists on the most important topics, besides silently correcting innumerable errors in references and in typography. His most valuable and independent labors, however, were devoted to textual criticism and are in part incorporated in Gregory’s Prolegomena to the Ed. viii. critica major of Tischendorf’s Greek Testament; the chapter De versibus (pp. 167-182) is by him, and he read the manuscript and proofs of the entire work. His services to the American Bible Revision Committee were invaluable. The critical papers which he prepared on disputed passages were uncommonly thorough, and had no small influence in determining the text finally accepted. His defense of the Johannean authorship of the fourth Gospel (The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel; External Evidences, Boston, 1880; reprinted by his successor in the Harvard Divinity School, J. H. Thayer, 1888) is an invaluable contribution to the solution of that question.
Of his writings, besides those already adduced, may be mentioned: an edition of Orme’s Memoir of the Controversy respecting the Three Heavenly Witnesses (New York, 1866); work upon G. R. Noyes’s (posthumous) Translation of the New Testament from the Greek Text of Tischendorf (1869); work upon C. F. Hudson’s Greek and English Concordance of the New Testament (1870); The Late Professor Tischendorf, in The Unitarian Review, Mar. 1875; On the Reading “an only begotten God,” or “God only begotten,” John i. 18, ib. June 1875; On the Reading “Church of God,” Acts. xx. 28, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Apr. 1876 (like the preceding, first privately printed for the American Bible Revision Committee); Recent Discussions of Romans ix. 5, an exhaustive article on the punctuation of this passage in Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, June and Dec. 1883. The four articles mentioned last, together with that on the fourth Gospel and seventeen others, were published in 1888, under the editorship of J. H. Thayer.
Bibliography: Ezra Abbot, a memoir edited by S. J. Barrows, Cambridge, 1884; Andover Review, i. (1884) 554; Literary World, xv. (1884) 113.
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