Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hatch, Edwin

HATCH, EDWIN, D.D. (1835–1889), theologian, was born at Derby on 4 Sept. 1835, of nonconformist parents. In 1844 his family moved to Birmingham, and he entered King Edward's School, at that time under Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Prince Lee. Hatch began on the modern side, but his promise was discovered, and he was transferred to the classical department, where he rapidly rose until he left with an exhibition for Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1853. Shortly before this he had joined the church of England, through the influence of Dr. J. C. Miller. At Oxford he moved in a stimulating society, of which Edward Burne-Jones, the artist, an old schoolfellow, William Morris, and Swinburne, the poets, were prominent members. Hatch was already contributing largely to magazines and reviews when he took his degree, with second class honours in lit. hum., at the end of 1857. After working with zeal in an east-end parish in London, he was appointed in 1859 professor of classics at Trinity College, Toronto. This he held till 1862, when he accepted the rectorship of the high school of Quebec. Here he married. His work at Quebec left a lasting impression; but in 1867 he returned to Oxford to become vice-principal of St. Mary Hall, an office which he resigned under pressure of other duties in 1885. Along with his teaching at St. Mary Hall he took private pupils, and actively shared in the practical work of the university. It was through him that the ‘Official Gazette’ was started in 1870, and he was its first editor. Not much later he brought out the first edition of the ‘Student's Handbook to the University,’ and edited a translation of Aristotle's ‘Ethics’ in 1879, begun by his brother, the Rev. W. M. Hatch (d. 1879). In 1884 he was appointed secretary to the boards of faculties. Meanwhile he was collecting materials for the work which he had planned in theology. The first-fruits of these labours appeared in a series of important articles (‘Holy Orders,’ ‘Ordination,’ ‘Priest’) in vol. ii. of the ‘Dictionary of Christian Antiquities’ in 1880. In the same year he delivered the Bampton lectures on ‘The Organisation of the Early Christian Churches,’ published in the year following. The bold and original views put forward in these lectures aroused considerable controversy, in which Hatch himself took little part. In Scotland and Germany the recognition which the lectures received was even greater than in England. In 1883 the university of Edinburgh conferred on the author the distinction of an honorary D.D., while the eminent theologian, Dr. Adolph Harnack, himself translated the lectures into German. In 1887 Hatch brought out a little volume, ‘The Growth of Church Institutions,’ intended to be the pioneer of a larger work, continuing the Bampton lectures, and dealing comprehensively with the whole subject.

From 1882 to 1884 Hatch held the office of Grinfield lecturer on the Septuagint, another branch of study to which he had devoted himself. The substance of the lectures was published in ‘Essays in Biblical Greek,’ 1889. As the basis for a renewed examination of the ‘Biblical Vocabulary,’ he had long been at work on an elaborate ‘Concordance to the LXX and Hexapla,’ which will be published posthumously. Other New Testament studies of rather less importance are the articles ‘Pastoral Epistles,’ ‘Paul,’ ‘Peter,’ in the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica.’

In 1883 Hatch was appointed to the living of Purleigh in Essex, and in 1884 he was made university reader in ecclesiastical history. In this capacity he lectured on ‘Early Liturgies,’ the ‘Growth of Canon Law,’ and the ‘Carlovingian Reformation.’ In 1888 his philosophical interests found expression in a course of Hibbert lectures, entitled ‘Greek Influence on Christianity,’ which were published in 1890 under the editorship of Dr. Fairbairn. But the strain of this multifarious work was too great, and Hatch died on 10 Nov. 1889.

Hatch belonged to no school, and bore the stamp of no one master. His mind was originative. He preferred to work things out for himself by a strictly inductive method. While the movement which began with the ‘Tracts for the Times’ was at full flood, he laboured strenuously, and for the most part alone, to place theology in Oxford on a really systematic and scientific basis. But it was not given to him to complete his work. Of his inner life more is revealed in a little collection of sacred poems (‘Towards Fields of Light’), and a memorial volume of sermons published after his death.

[Memorials of Hatch, edited by his brother (S. C. Hatch), 1890; Expositor for February 1890; an article by Dr. Harnack in Theol. Literaturzeitung, 14 June 1890, col. 297 ff. A memoir by his widow is in preparation.]

W. S.