August 16th marks the 190th anniversary of the death of Charles Thomson. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress and a strong Christian, was one of only two people who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th (John Hancock was the other; the rest signed weeks later).
Thomson is also responsible for the Great Seal of the United States, which he prepared — and Congress approved — in 1782.
Thomson served fifteen years in the Continental Congress, and his political career came to a close when he notified George Washington that he had been unanimously selected the President of the United States.
But Thomson was not only a great patriot and supporter of the American cause, he was also a great supporter of the Word of God. In fact, his name is associated with some of America’s greatest Biblical works.
For example, his name, as Secretary of Congress, is found in the introduction to theAitken Bible, also known as “The Bible of the Revolution,” which was the first Bible printed in English in America. That Bible was printed by Robert Aitken, the official printer of the Continental Congress (Aitken described that Bible as “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools”), and was reviewed and approved by a committee of the Continental Congress, with an official congressional endorsement published in the front of that Bible. (All of the original books pictured below that are associated with Charles Thomson are from our library at WallBuilders.)
Thomson was also responsible for the first American translation of the Greek Septuagint (the full Greek Bible) into English in 1808 – a task that consumed nearly two decades of his life. Called Thomson’s Bible, it is a four volume-set that is considered one of the most scholarly of American Bible translations, and that translation is still available today.
Thomson also had an 8 volume set in which every other page was blank, thus allowing scholars a place to write notes on Scriptures as they studied them.
In 1815, Thomson published his famous Synopsis of the Four Evangelists
, in which he took all the passages from the four Gospels and arranged them chronologically, thus producing something like one super long Gospel, with all Jesus’ words and acts arranged sequentially. Today, we call such a work a synoptic Gospel.
Sadly today, Charles Thomson has become a forgotten Founding Father, but his contributions, both politically and spiritually, permanently shaped the course of America and blessed American life.