Henry Owen

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For other people named Henry Owen, see Henry Owen (disambiguation).
Henry Owen

Henry Owen (1716 – 14 October 1795) was a Welsh theologian and Biblical scholar. Perhaps his most significant contribution to biblical scholarship is his discussion of the date of publication and the form and manner of the composition of the four canonical gospel accounts. It is arguable whether his thoughts on the subject contributed to the development of Johann Jakob Griesbach's Synoptic Gospel hypothesis.

Owen was born in 1716 near Dolgellau, Merionethshire (Gwynedd), and died on 14 October 1795 at Edmonton. He entered Jesus College, Oxford, in 1736, where he took his degrees in arts (BA 1739, MA 1743), while also devoting himself to mathematical studies, before concentrating on medical studies (MB 1746, MD 1753).

He practised medicine for three years; but, by his own admittance considerations of health and inclination then caused him to dedicate himself fully to his academic studies and pastoral work, having been ordained deacon and priest in the Anglican Church in 1746. Contemporaries acknowledged his learning; and from 1769 to 1771 he was Boyle Lecturer. In 1760 he married Mary Butts, daughter of an Anglican bishop. He had a son and five daughters with her.

Whilst neither of them seems to mention a meeting in their writings, it is conceivable that Owen had been personally known to J. J. Griesbach. For the latter had visited England upon completion of his undergraduate studies; and, according to an extant list of books, his estate contained a copy of Owen's seminal work, Observations on the Four Gospels, tending chiefly to ascertain the time of their Publication, and to illustrate the form and manner of their Composition (1764).

Among Owen's other publications are:

  • Harmonia Trigonometrica, or A short treatise on Trigonometry (1748);
  • The Intent and Propriety of the Scripture Miracles considered and explained (1755);
  • An Enquiry into the present State of the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament (1769);
  • Critica Sacra, or a short Introduction to Hebrew Criticism (1777);
  • Collatio codicis Cottoniani Geneseos cum editione Romana a Joanne Ernesto Grabe jam olim facta nunc demum summa cura edita ab Henrico Owen, M.D. (1778);
  • A brief Account, historical and critical, of the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament, to which is added a Dissertation on the comparative Excellency of the Hebrew and Samaritan Pentateuch (1787);
  • The Modes of Quotation used by the Evangelical Writers, explained and vindicated (1789).


  • Informed by the entries in The General Biographical Dictionary, London 1815, and The Dictionary of National Biography.