His father William Jocelyn Palmer was rector of Mixbury in Oxfordshire. His mother Dorothea was daughter of the Rev. William Roundell of Gledstone, Yorkshire; there were six sons and four daughters, and William Palmer and Roundell Palmer were his two eldest brothers.
At Oxford, he met William Stubbs, who was his future bishop when he became archdeacon, at the Hermes debating society, and they became lifelong friends. As a Fellow of Balliol College he was one of an influential group of liberal theologians in the college: Benjamin Jowett, T. H. Green and William Lambert Newman were others. With Edward Charles Wickham he started the intercollegiate lectures in the university. Oliver Wendell Holmes was his guest at Balliol in 1866. In 1870, with his Latin professorship, he became a Fellow of Corpus Christi College.
He set off on travel for his [health] during the winter of 1849/50 with his brother William in the Levant, meeting Alexandros Mavrokordatos in Athens and visiting Smyrna to see Yevfimy Putyatin. They went on to Damascus and Jerusalem. Returning, they visited Mount Athos. The trip ended back in England in August 1850, with Edwin Palmer in better health.
New Testament scholar
In 1881 Palmer edited The Greek Testament With the Readings Adopted by the Revisers of the Authorised Version , producing a Greek New Testament text representing the basis of the Revised Version. In the 1881 Revision it was stated "A revision of the Greek text was the necessary foundation of our work; but it did not fall within our province to construct a continuous and complete Greek text." Palmer's text was a post facto text, designed to meet the need of showing the Greek behind the decisions of the English committee, but worked up after completion of the English version of the New Testament rather than being the Greek text actually translated by the Committee. Later parallel editions from Oxford and Cambridge included a Received Text edition across from the Palmer edition. Palmer was assisted by Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener. The 1910 edition by Alexander Souter reproduces Palmer's text.
According to a booklet co-authored by Palmer, "Let a competent reader examine the Greek text as set forth in the Oxford edition of Archdeacon Palmer.... He will find, we believe, if he looks through the whole volume, not more than sixty-four readings in the Greek text of the Revisers which are to be found in the text of Dr. [Brooke Foss] Westcott and Dr. [Fenton John Anthony] Hort, and are not to be found in the Received Text or in the text of [Karl] Lachmann or [Constantin von] Tischendorf or [Samuel Prideaux] Tregelles."
- Robin Wheeler (2006), Palmer's Pilgrimage: the life of William Palmer of Magdalen; Google Books
- P. G. Naiditch, A. E. Housman at University College, London: the election of 1892 (1998), p. 35 note 10-5; Google Books.
- Wheeler p. 70 note 67.
- Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. .
- Wheeler, p. 12 note 2.
- The Charterhouse Registers 1769-1872 lists his birtdate as 18 June 1824, but the Records of the Club at Oxford 1790-1917 give his birthdate as 18 July 1824 and moreover provides his birthplace as Mixbury, the two agree on the date of his death.
- William Holden Hutton (editor), Letters of William Stubbs, Bishop of Oxford, 1825-1901 (1904), p. 21; archive.org.
- Denys Leighton, The Greenian Moment: T.H. Green, religion and political argument in Victorian Britain (2004), p. 42; Google Books.
- Curthoys, M. C. "Wickham, Edward Charles". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36887. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sir Frederick Pollock, Holmes-Pollock Letters: the correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Sir Frederick Pollock, 1874-1932, Volume 1 (1961), p. 75; Google Books.
- Thomas Fowler, Corpus Christi (1898), p. 219; Google Books.
- Wheeler, p. 303-9
- Wheeler, p. 312.
- Wheeler, p. 323.
- The Greek Testament with the Readings Adopted by the Revisers ..
- Jay P. Green, Unholy Hands on the Bible: An Examination of Six Major New Versions (1992), p. 329; Google Books. Palmer's edition was essentially the text of the third edition (1550) of Stephanus, with Palmer's changing the text only where the Revised Version had an undeniable change, thereby minimizing the departures from Stephanus even where Stephanus might have been in error; Bruce Manning Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (2nd ed., 1968) pages 138-139. As the text of Stephanus 1550 was the main text of F.H.A. Scrivener's edition of the Textus Receptus (most likely the revised edition of 1877; Novum Testamentum, Textus Stephanici ), to which Scrivener had appended notations of variants in modern editions such as Lachman, Tischendorf, and Tregelles. It may be that Palmer relied on Scrivener's annotations for historic precedents to variants from the Stephanus text.
- Bruce Manning Metzger, New Testament Tools and Studies (1968), p. 158; Google Books.
- Souter, Novvm Testamentvm Graece (Oxford 1910), .
- The Revisers and the Greek Text of the New Testament by Two Members of the New Testament Committee (London, Macmillan, 1882) [this booklet is commonly attributed to Bishop Charles John Ellicott and Archdeacon Edwin Palmer], page 41; archive.org. No examples are provided of these 64 readings but as the likely author of this comment is Palmer, the count is probably accurate; in fact, the count might be unintentionally inflated - Palmer might have been comparing readings from the text of Westcott & Hort itself with the notations of collated variants appearing in other recent editions such as found in the marginalia of Scrivener's edition of the Textus Receptus, some of the same variants might have occurred before Westcott & Hort but were not deemed worthy of a notation in Scrivener's collation (or a similar collation) and thus were mistakenly thought by Palmer to be entirely new with Westcott & Hort.
- Studdert-Kennedy, Gerald. "Palmer, Edwin James". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38837. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)