The Study Of The Hebrew Language Among Jews And Christians -- By: B. Pick

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 042:167 (Jul 1885)
Article: The Study Of The Hebrew Language Among Jews And Christians
Author: B. Pick


The Study Of The Hebrew Language Among Jews And Christians1

Rev. B. Pick

Period II.—The Study of Hebrew among Christians (A.D. 1500-1700).

With the more general study of antiquity which preceded the Reformation, and received a new impulse from it, there began also amongst Christians the revival of a more lively interest in the study of the original language of the Old Testament. Luther himself declared a knowledge of Hebrew to be of the utmost importance for the establishment of an enlightened creed, and recommended it with almost vehement zeal. “Scanty as the measure of my attainments in the knowledge of the sacred language is, I would not barter that which I possess for all the treasures of the universe. There are some who, when they have learned to pronounce a Hebrew word, immediately think themselves the masters of that sacred language. Unless we have command of it, they will thereupon ridicule and insult us as asses; but if we also are armed with a knowledge of this language we shall be able to shut up their impudent mouths.”2 As Luther, so thought

Melanchthon. “It is necessary,” said the praeceptor Germaniae, “to preserve the knowledge of the Hebrew tongue in the church; for, although there are extant interpretations necessary for the people, yet God wills there should always be witnesses of those interpretations. He wills that upon obscure passages the fountains be consulted…..How much clearer the meaning is to those who are acquainted with the fountains, the skilful are able to judge. This is plain, that, when the language of the prophets is known, ingenious minds are delighted with the certainty of the sense.” His exhortation and example were not in vain. Many hastened to acquire the Hebrew, even under many difficulties and by sacrifices; and they prized it as a most precious accomplishment. Not only were the works of the old Jewish grammarians — the almost exclusive sources of the earlier Christian Hebraists— studied, but learned Jews themselves were sought for as teachers. Thus Jacob Jehiel Loanz, of Linz, and Obadiah ben Jacob de Sforno3 were the distinguished teachers of Reuchlin; Jochanan Allemano was the friend and preceptor of Pico della Mirandola, and the famous Elias Levita guided the studies of Cardinal Aegidius de Viterbo.

Before, however, we speak of the Christian Hebraists, let us glance at the principal Jewish grammarians of that period:

1. Elijah ben As her Hallevi, called also Elias Levita Habbachur,

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