Frederick von Nolan

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Frederick von Nolan (1784-1864) was a 19th century an Irish Anglican theologian, Greek and Latin scholar, and historian, who defended the Textus Receptus saying it was superior to all of other editions of the Greek New Testament. He also defends the work of Erasmus as a “great undertaking”. He spent 28 years tracing the Textus Receptus to apostolic origins. He argued that the first editors of the printed Greek New Testament intentionally selected the texts they did because of their superiority and disregarded other texts which represented other text-types because of their inferiority.

It is not to be conceived that the original editors of the New Testament were wholly destitute of plan in selecting those manuscripts, out of which they were to form the text of their printed editions. In the sequel it will appear, that they were not altogether ignorant of two classes of manuscripts; one of which contains the text which we have adopted from them; and the other that text which has been adopted by M. Griesbach.



Born at Old Rathmines Castle, County Dublin, the seat of his grandfather, on 9 February 1784, third son of Edward Nolan of St. Peter's, Dublin, by his wife Florinda. In 1796 he entered Trinity College, Dublin, but did not graduate, and on 19 November 1803 matriculated as a gentleman commoner of Exeter College, Oxford, chiefly in order to study at the Bodleian and other libraries. He passed his examination for the degree of B.C.L. in 1805, but he did not take it until 1828, when he proceeded D.C.L. at the same time. He was ordained in August 1806, and after serving curacies at Woodford, Hackney, and St Benet Fink, London, he was presented, on 25 October 1822, to the vicarage of Prittlewell, Essex. In 1814 he was appointed to preach the Boyle lecture, in 1833 the Bampton lecture at Oxford, and during 1833–6 the Warburtonian lecture, being the first clergyman to deliver these three lectures.

Nolan had a considerable reputation as a theologian and linguist. His religious views were evangelical, and he was strongly opposed to the Oxford movement. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1832. He died at Geraldstown House, County Meath, on 16 September 1864, and was buried in the ancestral vault in Navan churchyard. He was married, but left no issue, and with him the family became extinct.

Support of Erasmus

Regarding Erasmus, Nolan stated:

"Nor let it be conceived in disparagement of the great undertaking of Erasmus, that he was merely fortuitously right. Had he barely undertaken to perpetuate the tradition on which he received the sacred text he would have done as much as could be required of him, and more than sufficient to put to shame the puny efforts of those who have vainly labored to improve upon his design. With respect to Manuscripts, it is indisputable that he was acquainted with every variety which is known to us, having distributed them into two principal classes, one of which corresponds with the Complutensian edition, the other with the Vatican manuscript. And he has specified the positive grounds on which he received the one and rejected the other."

He concluded that it was "indisputable" that Erasmus knew about the Alexandrian documents.[1] He also found that the Vaticanus and the Vulgate have a number of remarkable similarities:

"The striking coincidence of the Greek of the Vatican manuscript with the Latin of the Vulgate leads to the establishment of the same conclusion. This version received the corrections of St. Jerome during his abode in Palestine; it is thus only probable that the Greek copies, after which he modeled it, were those, which far from being current in Palestine, were used in the monastery into which he had retired: but these he assures us were of the edition of Eusebius. For this edition he had imbibed an early partiality, through Gregory of Nazianzum, who first put the Scriptures into his hands, who had been educated at Caesarea in Palestine."2

Comma Johanneum

Nolan stated in 1815 concrning the Comma:

"'instead of "the Father, Word, and Spirit,' the remaining passage would have been direct concessions to the Gnostics and Sabellians, who, in denying the personal difference of the Father and the Son, were equally obnoxious to those avowed adversaries, the Catholics and the Arians. Nor did the orthodox require these verses for the support of their cause; they had other passages which would accomplish all that they could effect; and without their aid, they maintained and established their tenents."3<\sup>

Nolan gives two reasons why 1 John 5:7 is seemingly scanty in reference to quotations from the church fathers: One - The passage in I John 5:7 is among those like 1 Timothy 3:16 and Acts 20:28 that have all been tampered with in the manuscript tradition, all three having to do with the deity of Christ as "God." Two - That the major reason for not quoting 1 John 5:7 was based on its wording, chiefly, purporting Jesus Christ as the "Word" instead of the "Son." Hence, with the Sabellian heresy being debated that Jesus Christ is the Father with no distinction, 1 John 5:7 would further propagate that notion. Therefore it wasn't quoted.


Some of his works were printed at a press which he set up at Prittlewell. His major works were:

  • 'The Romantick Mythology, in two parts. To which is subjoined a Letter illustrating the origin of the marvellous Imagery, particularly as it appears to be derived from Gothick Mythology,' 4to, London, 1809.
  • 'An Inquiry into the nature and extent of Poetick Licence,' 8vo, London 1810; published under the pseudonym of 'N. A. Vigors, jun., Esq.'
  • 'The Operations of the Holy Ghost, illustrated and confirmed by Scriptural Authorities, in a series of sermons evincing the wisdom ... of the Economy of Grace,' London, 1813.
  • 'An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, or Received Text of the New Testament, etc.' London, 1815 (a 'Supplement' followed in 1830).
  • 'Fragments of a civick feast: being a Key to Mr. Volney's "Ruins: or, the Revolutions of Empires; by a Reformer,"' 8vo, London, 1819. In this work the revolutionary and sceptical opinions of the Comte de Volney are refuted.
  • 'A Harmonical Grammar of the principal ancient and modern Languages; viz. the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Samaritan, the French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Modern Greek,' 2 parts, London, 1822 (most of these grammars had been published separately in 1819 and 1821).
  • 'The Expectations formed by the Assyrians that a Great Deliverer would appear about the time of our Lord's Advent demonstrated,' London [Prittlewell printed], 1826.
  • 'The Time of the Millennium investigated, and its Nature determined on Scriptural Grounds,' London [Prittlewell, privately printed], 1831. The last two works form part of Nolan's 'Boyle Lectures.' After their delivery materials accumulated under his researches for a work of considerable extent, to be entitled 'A Demonstration of Revelation, from the Sign of the Sabbath,' but he did not complete it.
  • 'The Analogy of Revelation and Science established' (Bampton Lectures), Oxford, 1833.
  • 'The Chronological Prophecies as constituting a Connected System' (Warburton Lectures), London, 1837.
  • 'The Evangelical Character of Christianity ... asserted and vindicated,' London, 1838.
  • 'The Catholic Character of Christianity as recognised by the Reformed Church, in opposition to the corrupt traditions of the Church of Rome, asserted,' London, 1839; this was the first work published in reply to Tracts for the Times.
  • 'The Egyptian Chronology analysed, its theory developed and practically applied, and confirmed in its dates and details, from its agreement with the Hieroglyphic Monuments and the Scripture Chronology,' London, Oxford [printed], 1848.

See Also


  • 1. Hills, The King James Version Defended, 198. Frederick Nolan, An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate. 1815, 413-415 (63).
  • 2. Frederick Nolan, An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, or Received Text of the New Testament, pp. 83-84.
  • 3. An Inquiry Into The Integrity of the Greek Vulgate or Received Text of the New Testament, Rev. Frederick Nolan, 1815, pg. 278-279

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