The Study Of Isaiah Since The Time Of Joseph Addison Alexander -- By: Edward J. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 09:1 (Nov 1946)
Article: The Study Of Isaiah Since The Time Of Joseph Addison Alexander
Author: Edward J. Young

The Study Of Isaiah Since The Time Of Joseph Addison Alexander

Edward J. Young

ON JUNE 21, 1836 Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander wrote in his diary, “I began my notes on Isaiah and wrote on the first ten verses of chapter xlix”.1 Exactly ten years later, the first volume of his commentary appeared, bearing the title The Earlier Prophecies of Isaiah, and this was followed a year later by the second volume The Later Prophecies of Isaiah. The work soon was out of print, so that in 1865, four years after the author’s death, a new edition appeared under the editorship of Dr. John Eadie of Edinburgh. The work of the “learned American”2 stands out as a monument to the scholarship of the time and is a true milestone in the history of the interpretation of the evangelical Prophet. It is to celebrate the centennial of the publication of this unique commentary that the present article is written.

I. Alexander and his Commentary on Isaiah

Joseph Addison Alexander was born in Philadelphia on April 24, 1809. At a very early age he manifested a love for the study of languages and music. Under the tutelage of his distinguished father, Archibald Alexander,3 the young Addison soon acquired a knowledge of several thousand Latin words.4

When only ten years of age he commenced the regular study of Hebrew, and before entering college had begun the study of Arabic, Syriac and Persian. This diligent study of languages continued throughout his life, and Alexander proved to be a linguist of the highest order. According to the estimate of his biographer, he possessed a philological knowledge of the following tongues as well as the ability to read, write and speak them: English, Latin, German, French, almost certainly Italian and Spanish and probably Portuguese. Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Greek, Romaic and Aramaic he both read and wrote and knew philologically. In addition to these languages he read Ethiopic, Dutch, Sanskrit, Syriac, Coptic, probably Flemish and possibly Norwegian. He knew the grammar of Polish and Swedish and to some extent had knowledge of Malay and Chinese.5

Alexander, as is evident, was not merely a linguist but a philologian, and his wide knowledge admirably fitted him for writing Biblical commentaries. He possessed, however, certain other qualifications which are indispensable for one who would expound the Scriptures. He had, as Charles Hodge pointed out, a sincere and humble piety coupled with fi...

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