Monday, August 26, 2013

The Mystery of Herman Heinfetter


This article may appear a detour from the early days of Charles Taze Russell, although the history relates to concurrent events in Britain during that era. But it gives details about a work that could almost be viewed as a forerunner of the New World Translation. Herman Heinfetter produced more than one Bible translation in the mid-19th century, with a choice of words that will sound familiar to many blog readers. And it is now known that he had an interest in American authors such as George Storrs.
For example, in his booklet The Revealed History of Man (published in 1854) Heinfetter wrote: “I am indebted to the Reverend George Storrs of Philadelphia for perceiving that Almighty God has revealed to man that there is an Eternal Death, and for many of the arguments I have employed in the foregoing statement of the subject, his little work, An Enquiry – Are the Wicked Immortal? is well worthy of being read.”
The original article below was published in the quarterly journal of the International Society of Bible Collectors in 1995, and details the research methods that had to be used in the pre-internet age. Permission has been given by the original author for it to be reproduced here.
One of the more mysterious entries in DMH (Darlow and Moule's 'Historical Catalogue of Printed Bibles' revised Herbert 1968) is that for Herman Heinfetter.  DMH 1957 states "In ULC (University Library of Cambridge) the name is treated as a pseudonym for F. Parker of whom nothing is known."  This article is an attempt to unravel the mystery.
Heinfetter or Parker actually produced two different New Testament translations.  Over 23 years (1842-1864) they ran to six editions and appeared in a variety of formats from pocket size to large octavo presentation volumes.  Outside the DMH remit he was also an indefatigable tract writer for over 40 years.  He produced what is probably the first real Sacred Name New Testament as we shall see.
Frederick Parker, to give him his full title, was born in South Lambeth, Surrey, England in 1804.  He was a prosperous businessman.  He died aged 84 on 10 February 1888 in Highgate, London, survived by five children.  His scholastic background (or lack of it) is not known, but late in life he made references to past meetings with scholars, and being a member of the Anglo-Biblical Institute.  Like many other sincere people he had a burning desire to right the wrongs in English Bible translation as he saw it.  In his case he also had a convenient fortune to spend on the project.  He once calculated that he was spending eight hundred pounds each year on his Biblical work, which in the 1850s was a sizeable amount. No one ever seemed to buy Fred's Bibles!  They were all privately printed and sent as unsolicited gifts to (as he put it) "relatives and acquaintances - it may be in number 50 - trusting that one might escape being cast into the fire and in fitting time be the means of unfolding the truth to the Christian world".

The low print runs explain their scarcity for Bible collectors today.  Some were sent or donated later to libraries, so today the British Library holds 18 volumes, UCL holds 7, and there are at least 8 volumes in Dr. Williams' Nonconformist Library in London.
So why the mystery?  Why did Frederick Parker hide behind the pseudonym Herman Heinfetter?  In 1885 he gave the answer.  In a final tract, an attack on the newly published Revised Version, he now used his own name and explained:  'As long as I was in business, I judged it better to publish under the assumed name of Herman Heinfetter, and the address of my printer; I judged a knowledge of my being in business would impair my statements in scholastic estimation; and that by a knowledge of my being engaged in publishing, my transactions in business would be imputed not to have received sufficient attention."
Frederick still neglected at this late stage to mention what his actual business had been, but it was probably unique for a Bible translator.  Britain has conducted a detailed census every ten years (apart from wartime) and when the census enumerator called on Fred on 30 March 1851 he gave his occupation as - Animal Charcoal Manufacturer...  Basically, Fred would burn the remains of animals, once the glue and gelatine factories had finished with them, to produce a special grade of charcoal.  Animal charcoal was used commercially in the production of deodorants, artists' materials, and also filters to decolourise sugar.  Not that he necessarily stoked the fires himself.  The Trade Directories of the day had a well-defined class system and Fred was listed as 'Gentry' and he died 'A Gentleman'.  In spite of his publishing he still left a sizeable fortune along with property to his heirs.
It does however present an incongruous picture.  One can perhaps understand why Fred chose to keep quiet about it in the academic world.

Parker's original work was issued in parts, starting with Romans in 1842.  By 1857 the complete New Testament was being advertised in nine volumes, ranging from the 2nd to 4th editions.  A comparison of the 1st, 3rd and 6th editions of Luke in ULC show that each edition underwent considerable revision.
These small pale blue volumes were published by Cradock and Co., London.  They each contain not one but two translations, what Parker called 'A Literal Translation' and then 'An English Version'.  The volume of Matthew (1853) for example carries the full title:  'A Literal Translation of the Gospel of Matthew on Definite Rules of Translation and an English Version of the Same'. The introduction indicates that Parker used the Griesbach recension of the Vatican manuscript as his main text. 

The Literal Translation reads very much like an interlinear, and is replete with footnotes.  Parker assumed that his readers would have convenient access to all his pamphlets - so referred to them at every possible opportunity. Then at the end of each volume is the 'English Version', without notes, which is somewhat easier to read.
In the 1860s the translations were issued separately and complete in large quarto volumes, now published by Evan Evans, London.  In 1864 came the 6th and final editions.  'The Literal Translation of the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ from the Text of Vatican Manuscript' (with notes) retailed for a guinea (21 shillings) - assuming that any were sold commercially.  "The English Version" was ten shillings and six pence (with a smaller version for five shillings) although the heading on extant copies 'With the Author's Respectful Compliments' suggests another free distribution.  There was also a third version entitled 'A Collation of an English Version of the New Testament...with the Authorised English Version.’  Using different typefaces this provided an interlinear comparison of Parker's English Version with the Authorised (King James) Version.  These last volumes of 1864 carried a dedication to the Members of the Anglo-Biblical Institute "in grateful remembrance of their defense of Biblical criticism."
In 1865 he made a start on the Old Testament, using the Vatican manuscript's Septuagint as the basis, but only Genesis was to appear.
One of the most distinctive features of Parker's translations is his use of the name Jehovah for God in the New Testament.  Earlier NT translations by Harwood, Newcome, Macrae, Lingard, et al. had used Jehovah on occasions where the sense might be clarified in OT quotations.  The usual example is Matthew 22 v.44 "The Lord said to my Lord" a quotation from Psalm 110 v.1 where in Hebrew the first 'Lord' is plainly the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (YHWH).
Parker was most concerned about the difficulties created, as he saw it, by using 'Lord' for both Father and Son in translation.  Initially he had a different solution.  In a preface dated July 1st 1849 (but used for several years thereafter) he remarked:  'As I do not see the possibility of distinguishing in English between the appellation 'Lord' when used in relation to God and when used in relation to Christ, in any way consistent with our usage in relation to Sense and Sound, I have substituted in my versions for 'Lord', used in relation to God, the appellation 'God', as ensuring a just apprehension of the sense.'
He carefully restricted this substitution in both his translations to OT quotations that used YHWH, although most surprisingly his 1853 edition of Matthew still renders Matthew 22 v.44 as "The Lord said to my Lord" - one of the very few verses in his Literal Translation to lack a footnote!
By the time the one volume editions appeared in the 1860s he had made the decision to use Jehovah extensively to cover this problem. However, he was still very careful to restrict the substitution to OT quotations where YHWH originally occurred.  The name Jehovah was now used about 140 times in his New Testaments.
Between 1841-1885 Parker issued numerous booklets and tracts to accompany his translations.  Many dwell at length on the Greek language, and his theories on grammar, punctuation and word order.  Doctrinally he advocated that Good Friday should be Thursday; that while the Biblical Sabbath was Saturday, every day was really a Sabbath; he attacked transubstantiation; opposed the taking of oaths; criticised the Revised Version for confusing the Lord God with the Lord Jesus; and argued that worship directed to the Son meant respect, while absolute worship only went to God the Creator.
It can be seen from the above that in common with Unitarians, Christadelphians, and many Adventist and Church of God groups of the day, Parker could not accept the doctrine of the trinity.  This is reflected in his translation, and is nowhere demonstrated better than his rendering of the final clause in John 1 v.1.  The 1851 English Version reads, "the word became a God".  By 1864 this had evolved into, "the command had relation to a God".  But the inference is clear.
This controversial rendering 'a god' has a long history, going back at least to Edward Harwood's 'Liberal Translation' of 1768 ("and was himself a divine person").  In the 19th century it had been used in the Unitarian Improved Version NT of 1808 (based on Newcome) and was also to be used in the interlinear of Benjamin Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott.
In several respects, the translations by Frederick Parker and Benjamin Wilson echo each other.  Both used the Vatican manuscript as their standard text.  Both started life as part works, and became definitive one volume editions in the 1860s - Parker in Britain and Wilson in America.  Both are non-Trinitarian in concept.  Both use Jehovah in the NT, although Parker's use vastly outstrips that of Wilson.  One can speculate whether there was any link between the two men, or did they travel down similar roads independently?  It may simply be a familiarity with the 1808 Improved Version which as well as 'a god' also uses Jehovah on occasion.  And who travelled this particular road first?  Likely it was Parker who was an older man, and whose translation work began much earlier.

So at the end of the day where did Fred Parker belong?  Although certain of his ideas could be found in established groups of the day, Fred in fact did not belong.  Fred was completely on his own!
His final series of tracts, issued from 1883-1885 poignantly illustrate this.  They were sent out in large numbers to all the dissenting ministers, theological colleges and groups he could think of.  Only one recipient responded and that was by sending it straight back marked 'Inconsequent Rubbish!'  Now in his 80s, Fred struggled with the postmark to comment darkly that it must have come back from a member of the Upper House of the Convocation of York!  In his very last tract he lamented:  'Here on the 30th June 1885 I stand alone, unaided by one clergyman, or one dissenting minister, or one brother, and feel that there is no one that will do aught, but try to stop my voice.  This nature soon will do.  At 81 years of age we aught to reckon time by hours, and I wished, ere I was called hence, to make one more effort, one that will sound through the length and breadth of England and America as long as time endures.  For this end did I make this record, and do leave it to give utterance for me, when my bodily utterance shall cease'.
His Last Will and Testament made provision for the continued copyright of his writings with the rather forlorn hope that one day there would be an awakening of interest.  But copies of his work in the major libraries languished in the stacks.  Some of those sent as gifts to Unitarian ministers eventually found their way into Dr. Williams' Library, London.

And then, one hundred years on, an aspect of his work was rediscovered. The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, produced by Jehovah's Witnesses in 1950, also used Jehovah in OT quotations.  To show they were not alone in this practice, the 1984 Reference Edition of this translation contained a numbered list of 'J' references, where other translations also included the Tetragrammaton in some form in the NT. Most of these other translations were Hebrew versions of the NT using YHWH, but there, as reference J-24 is Herman Heinfetter.
Following on from this, in 1988 the witnesses produced a two volume encyclopedia called Insight on the Scriptures.  The main article 'Jehovah' in volume 2, page 11, has a facsimile display of early translations where Jehovah (or similar) is used in the NT.  The sole English version represented is Mark 12 v.29,30 by Herman Heinfetter, taken from his 1863 Literal Translation (likely from a 5th edition in Dr. Williams' Library).  The extract reads: "The Jesus answered him, verily first it exists, here, O Israel, Jehovah our God, one Jehovah he exists, and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength".
Whatever our own views may be on Frederick Parker's theology, one can imagine how grateful he would be to know that the mysterious Herman Heinfetter, Victorian Bible translator, had not been entirely forgotten.

The starting point was Heinfetter's 1885 tract NON-ATTAINMENTS OF THE REVISED VERSIONS OF 1885 OF THE BIBLE, published under his real name, F. Parker.  A copy is in the Pusey Library, Keble College, Oxford. Nearly all direct quotations from Parker in the above article are taken from this tract.  Crucially the tract contains his real name and address.
The address led to the Census Returns in Portugal Street, London.  Here Parker's age, place of birth, profession and family details are recorded.  These were supported by the Trade Directories in the Guildhall Library, London.  Starting at 1885, a quick search in Somerset House produced his Last Will and Testament which gave additional information.  The total cost of the above research was a pleasant afternoon one vacation and one dollar for a copy of his will.  As to his religious background I am grateful to correspondents at Manchester College (Unitarian) for disproving any official connection with that body.  As his 1885 tract shows, Parker was on his own. Thanks are also due to the Bible Society Library for making materials available.
The only discordant note came surprisingly from Dr. Williams' Library.  Whilst generously supplying the required information, one official wrote about my quest: "I have the suspicion that those with nothing else to do either produce new translations of the Bible or write about those who did".  Obviously not a member of the International Society of Bible Collectors!


Cyclops said...

Meticulously researched; clearly espoused; written with a casual authority and with every unfamiliar expression concisely explained (so that one didn't need a glossary at one's side).

Pleasantly surprised you were able to obtain permission to reproduce this article as I recall that I was involved in some of the original research and found the cranky author to be awkward and crusty. Must be down to how you approached him!

You neglected to say whether Herman was an Adventist?

roberto said...

Heinfetter Adventist? He said:
"Here on the 30th June 1885 I stand ALONE, unaided by ONE clergyman, or ONE dissenting minister, or ONE brother, and feel that there is NO ONE that will do aught, but try to stop my voice".

Thanks Jerome, this is a great article. Compliments

jerome said...

To Cyclops - I hesitate to pass on to the original author your comments about him – although I suppose he could read them on the blog if he so chose.

To Roberto - I do know from one contact, that there is no evidence Parker had any connection with either Adventists or Age to Come groups like the Christadelphians who probably had a greater presence in Britain at the time. As the author insisted, while Heinfetter/Parker may have read widely (the recently discovered testimonial about George Storrs is evidence of that) he appears to be have been on his own.

Perhaps a researcher with more time than me can track down his obituary and even details of which religious group handled his funeral? I believe he is buried with the great and the good (and not so good) in Highgate Cemetery, London. If Cyclops has research facilities, perhaps he could research. I know I for one would be interested.

jerome said...

I recently started researching Heinfetter/Parker again, and checked the archives of Highgate Cemetery, which are well preserved. But contrary to my previous comment, he is NOT buried there, even though he lived in Highgate. I know that one of his brothers is buried in Lambeth cemetery, but their records are incomplete. It is a pity, because a grave can often give more information on other family members, descendants. etc. I suppose I secretly hoped to trace living relatives with a secret stash of his Bible translations and personal papers. Well, one can still dream.

Alan Crabb said...

There is an online version of "A literal translation of the New Testament", by Herman Heinfetter at

jerome said...

Thanks for the information.

VinceGenova said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VinceGenova said...

Geova,non avete fatto il nome di Geova...perché ?
Heinfetter lo ha fatto più volte,lo considerava importante..forse sarebbe opportuno leggere la bibbia ebraica,così avrete più risposte.

roberto said...

A VinceGenova

L'articolo non è nostro ma della "International Society of Bible Collectors e risale al 1995. Puoi indirizzare a loro le tua lamentela. Gli autori di questo blog: Bruce, Rachael (che Testimone di Geova non è) Jerome e io, usiamo il nome Geova quotidianamente. Ma oltre a usarlo personalmente lo abbiamo anche inserito, quando necessario, nei nostri articoli, e nei nostri libri. Buona serata.

jerome said...

Even with the joys of Google translate I am having difficulty in understanding the problem or query raised by VinceGenova. The article was written for a magazine that deals with Bible translations and the different decisions translators have made - rightly or wrongly. There are two slight links with this blog - one is that the modern group Jehovah's Witnesses have made some similar decisions in their New World Translation. They were not copying Heinfetter as such because they didn't know of his existence until more recent times. And the other is that more recent research shows that Heinfetter's other writings makes reference to George Storrs, which is a link to the history in Separate Identity volume one. There may be a real story hidden away there, but if so, it hasn't been discovered as yet.

Truetomharley said...

Have nothing else to do with your time? Why not translate the Bible?

I love that dismissive comment from that fellow Williams.

It is intriguing that Parker was solo, also the reason he used a pseudonym, which illustrates: It doesn’t matter what is said. What matters is who says it.

Of course, I also did not know of Jehovah’s Witnesses picking up on his work.

jerome said...

As the original author I was pleased to give myself permission to reproduce the original article. That was basically a ploy to stop someone tracking down the original magazine and reading my true identity. I am not THAT bothered nowadays. They say a secret is something you tell everyone - individually...

jerome said...

In October 2019 there was a sudden spike of interest in this post. Why? It turned out that the JW broadcast for that month featured the Bible exhibit at Warwick. That in turn featured the Heinfetter translation. A Google search of the name Heinfetter has this blog post top of the list.

Mystery solved.