Gilbert Wakefield, an English theologian, born in Nottingham, Feb. 22, 1756, died in London, Sept. 9, 1801. He graduated at Cambridge in 1776, obtained a fellowship, and in the same year published a volume of Latin poems. In 1778 he was ordained deacon, though he signed the articles with reluctance, and was appointed to a curacy in Stockport, and soon after in Liverpool. He vacated his fellowship by marriage in 1779, became in the same year classical master of a dissenting academy at Warrington, and published a series of writings involving attacks upon the doctrines of the established church. He made himself familiar with the Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldee, Samaritan, and other languages, and published in 1781 "A New Translation of the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians," " A Plain and Short Account of the Nature of Baptism," and an "Essay on Inspiration," and in 1782 "A New Translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew." After the dissolution of the academy of Warrington in 1783, he lived successively at Bramcote, Richmond, and Nottingham; published in 1784 the first volume of "An Inquiry into the Opinions of the Christian Writers of the three first Centuries concerning the Person of Jesus Christ;" and preached occasionally, till in 1786 he left the church and became its open assailant.
He resided six years at Nottingham, instructing a few pupils, and producing among other works "Remarks on Dr. Horsley's Ordination Sermon" (1788); "Four Marks of Antichrist" (1788); "A New Translation of those parts of the New Testament which are wrongly translated in our Common Version" (1789); " Remarks on the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion" (1789); Silva Critica (1st part, 1789; 4 other parts, 1790-'95), intended for the illustration of the Scriptures from the Greek and Roman writers; and "Cursory Reflections on the Corporation and Test Acts" (1790). In 1790 he was called to the classical professorship in the dissenting academy at Hackney, but resigned it in the following year. His subsequent works include a "Translation of the New Testament, with Notes " (2 vols., 1791; 2d ed., 2 vols., 1795); "An Enquiry into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship " (1791); " Memoirs " of his life (1792), continued by Rutt and Wainewright (1804); and several pamphlets. He also edited numerous translations and editions of Greek and Latin classics.
His " Reply to some Parts of the Bishop of Llandaff's Address to the People of Great Britain " (1798) occasioned a prosecution first of his publisher and then of himself, and caused his imprisonment for two years in Dorchester jail. His friends and partisans raised a subscription for him of about £5,000.