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Who was William Norton? - cgjedi - 11-23-2015


I'm late to this forum party and I don't know how active it is any more.  I've recently come across the 2 books of translation done by William Norton.  I really appreciate his work and do not see much, if anything, similar that was done throughout the 20th century.  But I can not find out anything about the gentleman.  Who was he?  When did he live/die?  What were his credentials?

There is nothing on the internet about him.  I've contacted a couple of librarians from well respected theological universities and they can not find any information about him.  He is not cited in articles in the current databases that exist.

There is even no record of the publisher of his books, W.K Bloom.  The conjecture is that he published his works independently as was the custom of scholars at the end of the 19th century.

Has anyone found out anything else about him?

RE: Who was William Norton? - Thirdwoe - 11-24-2015

Here is some info:


RE: Who was William Norton? - cgjedi - 11-24-2015

Thanks. Yes, I should have mentioned that link. However, that is someone who just looked at the two books and put together what little information that said about the man. I am looking for information outside of these scanned books already available online.

RE: Who was William Norton? - cgjedi - 11-24-2015

Here's some more information that I've managed to piece together.  First, let me explain why I think understanding the background of William Norton is important.  Every translation of the Bible has a bias.  This is especially evident with translations done by a single person.  The modern efforts of the Peshitta/English versions vary widely in their theological viewpoints.  Each translator would argue and say they are providing an accurate translation but just the choice of which English word to use gives evidence of the translator's bias.

Hardly anything is known about William Norton.  Therefore, there is not much information as to the bias he approached his translation with.  Hopefully the following information sheds a little more light on him.

According to worldcat, here are the works published by William Norton querying from 1800-1915.

The Baptist Library : a republication of standard Baptist works
by William Norton; Baptist Tract Society,;London Strict Baptist Library,; Baptist College, Chamber Hall,;
Publisher: 1843.

Baptist Chapel, St. Mary's, Norwich : free communion a breach of the trusts on which the property is held
by William Norton
Publisher: London : Hall and Co., 1847.

Honduras: a record of facts and reply to a pamphlet entitled "Belize;" "Ordered by the committee of the Baptist missionary society, at their meeting held June 15th, 1848, to be printed for private circulation."
by William Norton, of Egham Surrey.; Frederick Crowe
Publisher: London, Printed by Stewart and Murray, 1849.

The church, its mission, government, and worship : an examination of the will of Christ respecting the spiritual labours and the livelihood of preachers, church-elders and gifted church-members
by William Norton
Publisher: London : Trübner and Co., 1858.

The way of salvation
by William Norton
Publisher: New York : Thomas Holman, [18--]

A revised version of all the passages in the book of the New Covenant : commonly called the New Testament, which refer, or may be thought to refer to Christian baptism ; printed side by side with that of the Church of England, now in common use ; with a view to shew, more fully and exactly, the meaning of the inspired Greek original.
by William Norton; Baptist Tract Society.
Publisher: London : Baptist Tract Society : Elliot Stock, [18--]

To the young convert.
by William Norton; Baptist Tract Society.;
Publisher: [London] : Published for the Baptist Tract Society by Elliot Stock, [18--]

El Nuevo Pacto and its circulation.
by William Norton
Publisher: Scotland : T. Constable, [18--]

The Ethiopian treasurer
by William Norton; Baptist Tract Society.
Publisher: London : Elliot Stock, [1862?]

George Herbert Orchard.
by William Norton; Baptist Tract Society.
Publisher: [London] : Published for the Baptist Tract Society by Elliot Stock, [1864?]

The churches of God : compared with those which are the hope of some free-communion Baptists, who desire union with "The existing great parties in Christendom". An examination of sentiments expressed in the address delivered by Joseph Angus, D.D., as chairman of the Baptist Union, in April, 1865, and in his prize essay on christian churches, published in 1862
by William Norton; Joseph Angus; Baptist Union of Great Britain.
Publisher: London : Elliot Stock, 1866

Responsibility: thoughts on the guilt and doom of the impenitent.
by William Norton
Publisher: London, E. Stock, 1868.

Sacred songs for all.
by William Norton;
Publisher: Chumleigh : Wm. Norton, [1874]

Hymns of hope : founded on the Psalms and the New Covenant.
by William Norton;
Publisher: London : E. Stock, 1879.

The history of the Serampore Baptist mission.
by William Norton
Publisher: Finsbury [England] : J. Briscoe, 1884.

The Revised English Version of the Old-Covenant Scriptures compared with inspired renderings in the New-Covenant Scriptures, and with the ancient Greek and Syriac versions
by William Norton
Publisher: London : W.K. Bloom, 1886.

A translation, in English daily used, of the Peshito-Syriac text, and of the received Greek text, of Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John : with an introduction on the Peshito-Syriac text, and the revised Greek text of 1881
by William NORTON, of North Devon.;
Publisher: London : W.K. Bloom, 1889.

A translation, in English daily used, of the seventeen letters forming part of the Peshito-Syriac books of the new covenant writings : which have been received throughout the east, from the beginning, as written in Syriac by inspiration of God : a like translation of the inspired Greek text of these letters, in a corresponding column on each page ...
by William Norton;
Publisher: London : W.K. Bloom, 1890.

The first publication is 1843 and the last is 1890.  The evidence seems to indicate that he was of Baptist faith and of the Particular Baptist denomination.  This can be seen in the 1847 work where he writes 125 pages describing a law suit against the pastor of his church when they started allowing "free communion".  This was offering communion to congregants who had not been baptized by immersion.  The work in 1866 was a treatise outlining his strong arguments against this practice.  By the way, the English court ruled in favor of the pastor which sparked Norton's work of condemnation of the ruling and disgust that the courts had any say into the life of an independent church.

The Particular Baptists were great supporters of the Baptist Missionary Society who translated the Bible into many languages during the period.  This could be why Norton himself was such a scholar of languages and made his own translation.  His work on the History of the Serampore Baptist Mission of India is especially interesting.  Serampore was established by Carrey along with Joshua Marshman - both scholars and translators.  Marshman studied Syriac and was the first to translate the Bible into the Chinese language.  This would have been especially inspirational to Norton.

An interesting piece of trivia is that Norton attended Baptist Chapel, St. Mary's Norwich in 1847 (evidenced by his published book).   This church no longer exists - it was bombed during World War II and was not rebuilt.

This is a writeup of the differences among Baptists of the time from the Encyclopedia Britanica (

"There were two groups in early Baptist life: the Particular Baptists and the General Baptists. The Particular Baptists adhered to the doctrine of a particular atonement—that Christ died only for an elect—and were strongly Calvinist (following the Reformation teachings of John Calvin) in orientation; the General Baptists held to the doctrine of a general atonement—that Christ died for all people and not only for an elect—and represented the more moderate Calvinism of Jacobus Arminius, a 17th-century Dutch theologian. The two currents were also distinguished by a difference in churchmanship related to their respective points of origin. The General Baptists had emerged from the English Separatists, whereas the Particular Baptists had their roots in non-Separatist independency.

Both the Separatists and the non-Separatists were congregationalist. They shared the same convictions with regard to the nature and government of the church. They believed that church life should be ordered according to the pattern of the New Testament churches, and to them this meant that churches should be self-governing bodies composed of believers only.

They differed, however, in their attitude toward the Church of England. The Separatists contended that the Church of England was a false church and insisted that the break with it must be complete. The non-Separatists, more ecumenical in spirit, sought to maintain some bond of unity among Christians. While they believed that it was necessary to separate themselves from the corruption of parish churches, they also believed that it would be a breach of Christian charity to refuse all forms of communication and fellowship. While many non-Separatists withdrew and established a worship of their own, they would not go so far as to assert that the parish churches were devoid of all marks of a true church."

Norton's 1843 work was published through the Strict Baptist Library.  Their Historical Society has a search for records.  They do list a William Norton who was a pastor and was born 1812 and died 1890.

In addition I have found that he was the editor for the Baptist Tract Society and the Particular Baptist periodical

Mr. Woodruff  of Strict Baptist Historical Society found several documents in their collection regarding Norton.  One is a several page biographical review of his life and accomplishments.  Here are some biographical events of his life:

William Norton LL.D

24.12.1812                            Born – Old Buckenham, Norfolk
2 May 1832                           Baptised –  by Rev Joseph Kinghorn
April 1833                               admitted to Stepney College, London
1835                                       offered for BMS East Indies but declined by BMS on health grounds
15 May 1836                          commenced ministry at Old Ford, Bow, London after 3 months trial
29 June 1836                          recognition service at Old Ford, Bow, London
1838-1840                             joint editor of The Primitive Communionist
1840                                      married Miss Mary Ann Franks
late 1840                                resigned pastorate at Bow due to relaxed throat and jaundice
1841-1847                             joint editor of The Primitive Church Magazine
                                              moved from Bow to Bath, Somerset briefly; then to Highgate, London where their only
                                              son was born; then to Islington & Dalston, London.

1848                                      moved to Egham Hill, Surrey for health
1859                                      moved to Sutton, Surrey
1873                                      moved to Chulmleigh, Devon
12 August 1890                     died at Chulmleigh, Devon aged 77

RE: Who was William Norton? - Thirdwoe - 11-25-2015


Can you please show three of the most clearly biased passages you find in William Norton's translation of the text he used to translate from.

Also, if you were to make a translation, what biases would be in yours?


RE: Who was William Norton? - cgjedi - 11-25-2015

To be clear I wasn't necessarily talking about Norton since I am just starting to investigate his translations.  That is why I'm doing this research as to what I might want to look out for.  But I definitely have found, shall we say, troubling variances in AENT, Bauscher, Lamsa, Magiera, Alexander - all modern efforts.  And some more so than others.

My suspicion is that, like Etheridge, Norton's will be more unbiased and accurately reflect the text rather than give English words that try to interpret the text.  But there is no such thing as an unbiased translation - everybody wants a Bible that matches their own theological viewpoint.  Look at the fights that happen even when trying to decide which of the "original" aramaic versions most accurately reflect that of the actual original.

Norton's is of special interest since one of his goals was to show the errors in the then latest scholarly and "most accurate" Greek text of W&H.

RE: Who was William Norton? - Thirdwoe - 11-25-2015

If you find any in Norton's translation, please show it here. And please show the most glaringly biased passage in those other translations you mentioned. I would like to examine them myself. So far, for the complete NT translations, Etheridge seems to have the most true to his source text translation, But, I haven't read through all of his work yet. Paul Younan's renderings here at is also very true to the text he worked from, but for perhaps one place that is interpretive, rather than literal. Sometimes its hard to tell what the original intent and meaning is in the original language text. 

I believe that a translation can be unbiased, if one were to just translate what is there. Perhaps it is the readers biases that doesn't like it a certain way which is a possible rendering? The readers will come to the text with their own biases as well, and we all must guard against that.

We know which is the more original form of the Aramaic NT, because we see were the western versions have deviated from the original form.


RE: Who was William Norton? - sestir - 11-25-2015

It is a good idea to compare one-man translations! In my experience either people are honest or they lie big-time. If a team gets together to translate, they are typically under pressure to fulfill their readers and users (=churches) expectations, which leads to the same ecclesiastic bias that other big translations had before + a little extra sugar. To the contrary, a one-man-translator can release a book that very few people will buy and which most of them will dislike, and he/she will feel content with having produced the bible they wish they had when they were young.
A one-man translation by a relatively honest person will suffer more from the limit of the translator's knowledge as it is impossible for him/her to research everything from ancient Egyptian proverbs to the 1st century geography of Palestine.

RE: Who was William Norton? - cgjedi - 11-25-2015

I don't want to turn this thread into a flame war. Besides, I'm sure the things I've noticed are not going to be new to anyone on this forum.

The translator of one popular version explained to me his view that the personage of Jesus Christ originated from the Father as His spoken word at the point when time began - that there's no such thing as a "trinity". That's pretty important to know if you are reading that version.

The translator of another recent version explained to me that there's no such concept as "preparation day" in the Crucifixion narrative and uses "Friday" in all instances when that is not the literal meaning in aramaic. He admitted that he is not interested in researching local traditions of the time or other works in the same language. That's pretty important to know because you'll never have the option of a Wednesday Passover using that version and if you didn't know better, you'd assume that the original aramaic said that.

Some other translations which are blatant plagiarisms of the work by others I just don't want to support or even consider whatsoever. They've disqualified themselves by their actions.

The first thing I've come across with Norton is his use of "immerse" wherever "baptize" has been used in other translations. There's no criticism implied but just an observation. Of course, now that I know he was a Strict Baptist, I wouldn't expect anything different from him.

RE: Who was William Norton? - Thirdwoe - 11-26-2015


Which translation do you prefer the best of the ones you have read through thus far?

Of course translators can come to wrong ideas about various subjects, and that can taint their translations. And readers can also come to wrong ideas about various subjects, and that can taint how they understand what they read. Both have to be careful not to impose there ideas upon Holy Scripture, but rather let its teaching impose itself upon them.

This is why we need The Holy Spirit, to lead us into all truth, as we are prone to come up with our own ideas.

The English terms Baptized, Baptize, and Baptism, comes from the Greek word Baptismo, which carries the meaning of dipping something, or someone completely under water i.e. to immerse something, or something.

Both myself, and Andrew Gabriel Roth, were fully immersed by a Qasha {Priest} of The Church of the East, in the Trinitarian form and I continue to be a member of The Church of the East. Immersion is not something that came to be in the 17th century with the Baptist movement. Both the Eastern Orthodox groups and The Church of the East, have always immersed those who were coming into The Church of The Messiah. 

Pouring or sprinkling water over the head, can be seen as an alternative in certain situations as far back as the later part of the 1st century, where mention is made of various forms in the Didache (about 80 A.D.}, but, those forms are not normative, or to be preferred over the regular way. I think the term "Immerse" or "Immersed" are fine renderings of the word used in the Aramaic NT. Washing is also used, and a bath is in view, rather than a shower. People took bath's not showers to remove the dirt in the 1st century.


RE: Who was William Norton? - cgjedi - 11-26-2015

Thanks for the explanation.  You'll notice I have purposely not stated what I do and do not agree with.  That's not the point of this thread.  The honest truth is that I do not have a "best version".  I have versions which I simply will not look at, as I explained above.  And there are versions I will check out based on the manuscript families they have used.

But my most favorite resource is  For those of us who do not know aramaic (yet) but understand linguistic concepts, this is pure gold.  I do wish the lexicon was connected to all the manuscripts they include.  What they have is already an amazing amount of work.  As well, I wish there was a complete OT done in the same manner as the NT.

RE: Who was William Norton? - Thirdwoe - 11-26-2015 is awesome, and according to Lars, the Peshitta OT is planned to be up there one day, we talked about it sometime back and he said that he was thinking of putting it up, though without all the bells and whistles, until he had time to get it all hooked up like the NT.

In the meantime, there is a way to check the Peshitta OT's readings out online, but, it isn't as easy and thorough as the Dukhrana tool.

I've been able to help Lars over the years when I noticed something that needed fixing in the tool, occasionally coming across something here and there, so one needs to be careful when using the tool, but, over all it is a great resource. If you see anything that needs fixing, just let Lars know and he'll fix it.

I talked with Dave, Andrew, Janet, and Alexander about certain matters, but, they were pretty solid at the time on their personal opinions. I have all the translations, and check them out when studying.

You may not know this, but, as of this date, there are no strictly Peshitta NT translations available. All of them contain some or most of the Peshitta text unchanged by western scribes, but, this is changing, and hopefully soon, we will be able to read through a strictly Peshitta only text, in English, of The Aramaic New Testament.


RE: Who was William Norton? - cgjedi - 11-26-2015

Yes, I've come across that other resource before as well. But if I'm not mistaken it has the Targums and not the complete OT. I'm very much interested in Daniel which doesn't have a Targum.

RE: Who was William Norton? - Thirdwoe - 11-26-2015

It has both the Targums and the complete Peshitta OT.

Go to the main page here,

"Search the CAL lexical and textual databases"
Then click
"Text Browse"
Then choose
Then click
"Submit query"

The Peshitta OT begins at 62001 and ends at 62039 in the vertical list.

Then follows the western version of The Peshitta's text, called the Peshitto, to distinguish it from the original form of the original text.

RE: Who was William Norton? - cgjedi - 11-27-2015

Very cool. I just wasn't clued in to what I needed to look for. Thanks. That's extremely helpful.