Brooke Foss Westcott

1825-1901. Bishop of Durham. He attended King Edward's School, Birmingham, where he was much influenced by the headmaster, James Prince Lee. In 1844 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a fellow in 1849. His pupils included his old schoolfellows J.B. Lightfoot* and E.W. Benson,* and also F.J.A. Hort.* He was ordained in 1851 and the following year went to teach at Harrow School. In 1869 he was appointed a residentiary canon of Peterborough and the next year, at Lightfoot's instigation, was recalled to Cambridge as regius professor of divinity. He tidied up the courses and syllabi and himself lectured for the first three years on early church history and then for five years mainly on Christian doctrine. Thereafter he took books or selected passages of the NT. He was active in university administration and also in pastoral concern. He was prominent in the formation of the Cambridge Mission to Delhi and the founding of the Cambridge Clergy Training School (later known as “Westcott House”).

In 1890, at the age of sixty-six, he was appointed to succeed Lightfoot as bishop of Durham. He did not have to face problems of reorganization similar to those facing Lightfoot, and he built upon his predecessor's work, particularly with the ordination candidates at Auckland Castle. He showed a deep concern for the social and industrial problems of the diocese and held conferences at Auckland for representatives of both sides of industry and of social work. He often addressed the miners, and in 1892 he helped to settle a coal strike.

Westcott published a considerable number of books, but he is best remembered for his work with Hort in establishing the text of the NT (1881) by making a scientific evaluation of the vast mass of manuscript evidence which had become available, and for his NT commentaries. It was intended that Lightfoot, Westcott, and Hort should between them write a complete commentary on the NT. Westcott was to undertake the Johannine literature and Hebrews, and he completed his share (apart from the Book of Revelation) with definitive volumes on John's gospel (1881), the epistles of John (1883), and the epistle to the Hebrews (1889). Westcott's knowledge of the patristic commentaries was unrivaled, and if at times he was oversubtle, his exegesis and exposition were always marked by great theological and spiritual depth. His theological position combined the learned historical conservatism of Lightfoot with the incarnational approach to social problems of F.D. Maurice,* whose works he avoided reading for fear of losing his originality.

See A. Westcott, Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott (2 vols., 1903).