Founders of the Massachusetts Bible Society - 1809

The Massachusetts Bible Society began on July 6, 1809 and is an ecumenical, Christian organization dedicated to promoting Biblical literacy, understanding, and dialogue. This blog lists brief biographies of our founders who gathered in the Massachusetts State House Senate Chamber on that historic day to sign the Charter founding MBS. Please visit our website:

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Location: Newton Centre, MA, United States

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rev. John Eliot, DD

No relation to the 17th century John Eliot, who was known as the “apostle to the Indians,” our John Eliot was born in Boston on May 31, 1754, living in the house built by Rev. Increase Mather. After graduating from Harvard in 1772, he studied theology in Cambridge until the army took possession of the students’ rooms during Spring Break of 1775.

After preaching for a bit in Salem, he succeeded his father as pastor of the New North Church in November of 1779, two years after the University of Edinburgh conferred upon him the degree of S.T.D. Keeping his connection with Harvard, he was a fellow there from 1804 until his death on Feb. 14, 1813, being part of the corporation at Harvard that elected founder Henry Ware in 1805. Founder Francis Parkman succeeded him at New North Church.

Not only was Rev. Eliot a founder of the Massachusetts Bible Society, but he also was a founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society and a fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. He published two addresses to the Freemasons and in 1779, along with one other minister from the town, had the Masonic degrees conferred upon them “quietly and gratuitously” at a special meeting. But neither became members.

The Memorial History of Boston published in 1882 says of Rev. Eliot: “He was well known in connection with historical researches and labors, and at the same time had in his special calling a reputation for superior attainments as a scholar and ability as a writer, while his social gifts and the qualities of his character made his presence always welcome, whether in literary circles or in the homes of his parishioners.”

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