Granville Sharp (1735-1813) is a bit of a hero of mine. He was apprenticed to a London linen-draper at the age of 15. He taught himself Greek to be able to respond to a fellow-apprentice who was a Socinian. He learnt Hebrew to reason with another a fellow-apprentice who was Jewish.

His apprenticeship ended in 1757, and both his parents died a year later. Granville got a job in the civil service. He opposed fighting the revolting American colonists, feeling they should be permitted representation. When he realised his job meant sending equipment to British forces, he resigned.

He spent his life living in Fulham, while his brother William later became surgeon to George III.

The Sharp family were gifted musically. They played as a family orchestra, giving fortnightly concerts on their sailing barge Apollo. George III described Sharp’s bass singing voice as the ‘best in Britain’. Indicative of both his love of music and his wit, Granville often signed his name as G#.

Sharp was one of the first British campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade. He later handed over the baton to the next generation of abolitionists, principally William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect. When Sharp heard that the Act of Abolition had at last been passed in 1807, he fell to his knees and offered a prayer of thanksgiving. He was 71 at this stage and had outlived most of the allies and opponents of his early campaigns.

Sharp made plans to re-settle blacks in Africa and was responsible for setting up the Province of Freedom and later helping to found Freetown, Sierra Leone.

He advocated the reform of parliament based on Magna Carta. He advocated the legislative independence of Ireland. He opposed the Navy press-ganging people into its service.

Sharp put his knowledge of Greek grammar to use in theology. He formulated what is known as Granville Sharp’s Rule. As he studied the Scriptures in the original, he noticed a certain pattern, namely, when the construction article-noun-και-noun involved personal nouns which were singular and not proper names, they always referred to the same person. This is generally the case in other Greek literature of the time.

It is significant because of a phrase in Titus 2:13 of the New Testament, which mentions the ‘coming of our great God and saviour Jesus Christ.’ Granville Sharp’s rule showed that the original readers would have understood this not as ‘our great God, and saviour Jesus Christ’, but as ‘our great God and saviour, Jesus Christ’. The phrase construction was commonly used to give a double-nouned description of a single person.

It sounds like nit-picking, but it means that Jesus was explicitly written of as both saviour and God. Indeed, Paul’s letter to Titus was passed round the churches and included in the canon, showing the early acceptance of the deity of Christ. It’s not a hard-and-fast proof. It is one brick in the house.

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