Granville Sharp

From Academic Kids

Granville Sharp (10 November 1735 - 6 July 1813) was an English campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade.

He was the ninth of the fourteen children of Thomas Sharp (1693-1758), a prolific theological writer and biographer of his father, John Sharp, archbishop of York. Granville, who was born at Durham in 1735, was educated at the grammar school there, and apprenticed to a London draper, but obtained employment in the government ordnance department in 1758. Sharp's tastes were scholarly; he managed to acquire knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and before 1770 he had published more than one treatise on biblical criticism.

His fame rests, however, on his untiring efforts for the abolition of slavery. In 1767 he had become involved in litigation wiih the owner of a slave called Jonathan Strong, in which it was decided that a slave remained in law the chattel of his master even on English soil. Sharp devoted himself to fighting this judgment both with his pen and in the courts of law; and finally it was laid down in the case of James Sommersett that a slave becomes free the moment he sets foot on English territory. The Zong incident of 1781 allowed the re-examination of how inhumane slavery was.

Sharp was an ardent sympathizer with the revolted American colonists, and at home advocated parliamentary reform and the legislative independence of Ireland, and agitated against the impressment of sailors for the navy.

It was through his efforts that bishops for the United States of America were consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1787. In the same year he was the means of founding a society for the abolition of slavery, and a settlement for emancipated slaves at Sierra Leone. Granville Sharp was also one of the founders of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and of the Society for the Conversion of the Jews.

One of his tracts, entitled Remarks on the Uses of the definitive article in the Greek text of the New Testament, published in 1798, propounded the rule known as Granville Sharp's Rule: "When two personal nouns of the same case are connected by the copulate scale, if the former has the definite article and the latter has not, they both belong to the same person."

Daniel B. Wallace, who accepts Sharp's rule as having some validity, has this to say about the man whose name it bears: "His strong belief in Christ's deity led him to study the Scriptures in the original in order to defend more ably that precious truth ... 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. He noticed further that this rule applied in several texts to the deity of Jesus Christ" (Wallace, page 61).

Daniel Wallace however demonstrated that the claim of this rule is too broad. "Sharp's rule" doesn't work with plural forms of personal titles. Instead, a phrase that follows the form aticle-noun-"and"-noun, when the nouns involved are plurals, can involve two entirely distinct groups, two overlapping groups, two groups of which is one a subset of the other, or two identical groups (Wallace, page 72-78). In other words, ther is no evidence that anything significant for the meaning of the words happens merely by being joined by "and" and dropping the second article.

Although the standard work of Greek grammar, that of Smyth, does not mention On account of this rule's bearing on Unitarian doctrine, it led to a 'celebrated controversy', in which many leading divines took part, including Christopher Wordsworth.

Sharp died on 6th July 1813, and a memorial of him was erected in Westminster Abbey.

External Links

Granville Sharp - Short Biography by Carey Brycchan (


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