Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Baptist Biblical Scholar: Edgar Johnson Goodspeed (1871-1962)

Edgar Johnson Goodspeed (1871-1962):  Translator and Scholar of the Greek New Testament

Edgar Johnson (E.J.) Goodspeed was a Northern (now American) Baptist minister and biblical scholar who represented the best of the “Chicago School” of liberal Protestantism.  His translation of the New Testament led him to be known as “an American Moffatt,” and to intense criticism from defenders of the 1611 King James Version.  It also led to the formation of the committee which would produce the Revised Standard Version–and Goodspeed was the most prominent Baptist on the RSV committee.  Thus, he inadvertantly opened the door to the flood of English translations (arguably TOO many) of the Bible we have today.  Goodspeed also wrote numerous other works, both scholarly and for a popular audience.  He was concerned with the “democratization of scholarship,” of making the results of scholarship available for wide audiences.  To this end, he spent large amounts of his time speaking to church groups, mission societies, camps, denominational gatherings and ecumenical meetings–as much as in his study, classroom, or at professional academic meetings.  Although specializing in New Testament, Goodspeed was an incredible linguist who was accomlished in numerous ancient and modern languages–and taught most of them at one time or another. 

His detractors were many:  The early fundamentalist movement accused him (mostly based on an inaccurate editorial by someone who saw a pre-publication excerpt of his NT translation and falsely believed Goodspeed was “abbreviating the Lord’s Prayer”) of “monkeying with the Bible.” But Goodspeed’s admirers were also many–and not limited to others who shared his commitments to liberal Protestantism.  For example, A.T. Robertson (1863-1934),  the great New Testament scholar at Louisville’s The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (and a strong evangelical who preached in rallies held by D. L. Moody), saw his own work in producing an up-to-date Grammar of  New Testament Greek as a complement to Goodspeed’s translation. Both agreed that the NT was written not in a special “Holy Ghost Greek” (as had been widely held since the Middle Ages), but in the Koine or “common dialect  the Mediterranean world during the era of the early Roman Empire.  Robertson encouraged his students to purchase and use Goodspeed’s NT (when they weren’t directly reading from the Greek NT, of course!).  Today, the University of Chicago (which is no longer Baptist) has named its collection of ancient manuscripts related to the Bible and it’s historical background “The Goodspeed Collection,” and Goodspeed started the collection himself, traveling the world purchasing rare papyri and manuscripts for the University.

Born: Quincy, Illinois, USA to Rev. Thomas Wake Goodspeed and Mary Ellen Ten Broek Goodspeed, both from long families of educated Baptist ministers.  Died in Los Angeles, CA in 1962.

Education:  Private tutoring in Latin; Graduated from the Preparatory Academy attached to the original University of  Chicago, 1886.

B.A. (Classics), summa cum laude,  Denison University (then a Baptist insitution), Granville, OH, 1890.

1890-1891, Yale University, studying Semitic languages with William Rainey Harper. When Harper was asked to become president of a re-newed and refounded University of Chicago, designed to become the first graduate research university in the U.S.–and the first such created by Baptists, Goodspeed transferred to Chicago.

B.D., University of Chicago Divinity School, 1897.

Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1898.

D.D., Honoris Causa, Denison University, 1928.

Two years post-graduate study abroad in Germany, England, the Netherlands, Egypt, Palestine, and Greece, 1898-1900.

From 1900-1915, Assistant to Associate Professor of New Testament, University of Chicago & University of Chicago Divinity School.

1915-1937, Professor of New Testament and Patristic Greek, University of Chicago & University of Chicago Divinity School.

Bibliography of Major Works by Goodspeed.

1901.  The Book of Thekla.  Translated and Edited by E. J. Goodspeed.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1902. Greek Papyri from the Cairo Museum Together with Papyri of Roman Egypt from American Collections.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1903. The Martyrdom of Cyprian and Justa. Edited and Translated by E. J. Goodspeed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1904.  Ancient Sermons for Modern Times. by Asterius, Bishop of Amasia, C. 375-405. Translated by E. J. Goodspeed.

1908. The Epistle of the Hebrews: Translation and Commentary.  New York: Macmillan.

1912. Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Libraries of the University of Chicago, prepared by Edgar J. Goodspeed with the assistance of Martin Sprengling.

1916.  The Story of the New Testament.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1917a.  A Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels for Historical and Critical Study. co-written with Ernest DeWitt Burton. New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons.

1917b. The Gospel of John: An Outline Bible-Study Course of the American Institute of Sacred Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1920.  A Harmony of the Synoptic Gospel in Greek.  co-writted with Ernest DeWitt Burton.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1923.  The New Testament: An American Translation.  Trans. Edgar J. Goodspeed.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press. New editions in 1925, 1935, 1948.

1925a.  Making of the English New  Testament  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1925b. Things Seen and Heard.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

1926. The Formation of the New Testament.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1928.  The University of Chicago Chapel:  A Guide.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.  (The chapel was later renamed the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel because of the major financial contributions of wealthy businessman, John Rockefeller, a Baptist, to the founding and expansion of the University of Chicago.)

1930.  The Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke: An American Translation.  Trans. with Notes by Edgar J. Goodspeed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1931a.  The Bible: An American Translation.  Old Testament translated by a group of scholars under the editorship of J. M. Powis Smith; New Testament translated by Edgar J. Goodspeed.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  (Popularly known as “The Goodspeed Bible” or “The Baptist Bible.”)

1931b. The Story of Eugenia and Philip. Translated and edited with notes by Edgar J. Goodspeed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1931c. The Epistle of Pelagia.  Translated and with an Introduction by Edgar J. Goodspeed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1931d.  Strange New Gospels.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  (This was an introduction to the Gnostic Gospels discovered at Nag Hammadi.)

1934.  The Story of the Old Testament.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  Repr. 1939.

1935. The Curse in the Colophon. New York and Chicago: Willett, Clark, and Company.

1936.  The Story of the Bible. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1937.  Introdcution to the New Testament.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

1938.  The Apocrypha:  An American Translation.  Trans. and Ed. Edgar J. Goodspeed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Reprinted in 1959 & in 1989 with an Introduction by Moses Hadas.

1939a.  The Complete Bible: An American Translation. Old Testament translated by a group of scholars under the editorship of J. M. Powis Smith; New Testament and Apocrypha translated by Edgar J. Goodspeed.  ChicagoL: University of Chicago Press. (Same as 1931, with addition of the Apocrypha.) Both with and without the Apocrypha, the Goodspeed Bible was the University of Chicago Press’ bestseller for 3 decades.

1939b.  The Story of the Apocrypha.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

1940a.  Christianity Goes to Press. New York: Macmillan.

1940b.  The Four Pillars of Democracy.  New York and London: Harper and Bros.

1940c.  How Came the Bible? New York and Nashville:  Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.

1942.  A History of Early Christian Literature. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.  Revised and Enlarged by Robert M. Grant in 1966.

1943.  The Goodspeed Parallel New Testament.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1946.  How to Read the Bible.  Philadelpha and Toronto:  John C. Winston Company.

1947.  Paul.  Philadelphia and Toronto:  John C. Winston Company.

1950a.   A Life of Jesus.  New York:  Harper.  Reprint, Westwood, CT: The Greenwood Press, 1979.

1950b.  The Apostolic Fathers.  (Series: The Early Christian Collection)  Trans. Edgar J. Goodspeed.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1953.  As I Remember.  New York: Harper.

1954.  The Student’s New Testament:  Greek Text and an American Translation.  Trans. Edgar J. Goodspeed. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

1956.  Key to Ephesians.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

1957.  Twelve:  The Story of Christ’s Apostles.  Philadelphia: J. C. Winston Company.

1959.  Matthew:  Apostle and Evangelist.  New York:  John C. Winston Company.

Secondary Sources:

Cobb, James Harrel and Louis B. Jennings.  Biography and Bibliography of Edgar Johnson Goodspeed.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

Cook, James I.  Edgar Johnson Goodspeed:  Articulate Scholar.  Chico, CA:  Scholar’s Press, 1981.

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February 14, 2010 - Posted by | Baptists, Bible, Biblical interpretation, church history

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