BackContentsNext

BUXTORF: A family of scholars at Basel, noteworthy for their services in the study of the Old Testament and Hebrew language and literature.

1. Johann Buxtorf the Elder: Orientalist; b. at Camen (8 m. s.w. of Hamm), Westphalia, Dec. 25, 1564; d. at Basel Sept. 13, 1629. He received his earliest education in the schools of Hamm and Dortmund, and then went to Marburg and Herborn, where he began his Hebrew studies under Piscator. Leaving Herborn, he studied successively at Heidelberg, Basel, Zurich, and Geneva, returning to Basel and taking his degree in 1590. In the following year, after much hesitation, he accepted the chair of Hebrew at the University of Basel, and later added other duties to this position, including the direction of the gymnasium. In 1610, however, he declined an appointment to a professorship of theology, as well as calls to Leyden and Saumur. Buxtorf was the greatest rabbinical student among the Protestants, availing himself not only of the Hebrew commentaries on the books of the Old Testament and the writings of learned Jews, but also carrying on an active correspondence with Jewish scholars in Germany, Poland, and Italy. His close relations with Jews, however, frequently exposed him to suspicion, and on one occasion he was fined 100 florins for attending the circumcision of a son of a Jew who resided in his house as his assistant in the printing of his Hebrew Bible. He devoted his Hebrew knowledge to the defense of the original text of the Old Testament against the Roman Catholics, who regarded the Vulgate and the Septuagint as the more reliable authorities, and also against the doubts cast upon it by such Reformers as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, his services being the more important in view of the necessity of appeal to the purity of the Hebrew text in Protestant polemics against Catholicism. His chief works are as follows: Manuale Hebraicum et Chaldaicum (Basel, 1602); Juden SchŁl (1603; Latin transl., Synagoga Juduica, by H. Germberg, Hanau, 1604); Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum (1607); De abbreviaturis Hebraicis (1613); Biblia Hebraica cum paraphrasi Chaldaica et commentariis rabbinorum (4 vols., 1618-19); and Tiberias, sive commentarius masorethicus (1620); but he did not live to complete his Concordantiú Bibliorum Hebraicú or his Lexicon Chaldaicum, Talmudicum et Rabbinicum, both of which were edited by his son (Basel, 1632, 1639).

2. Johann Buxtorf the Younger: Orientalist; son of the preceding; b. at Basel Aug. 13, 1599; d. there Aug. 17, 1664. After receiving his first education from his father, he attended the high school of his native city, and in 1617 went to Heidelberg, where he remained two years, then going to Dort, where he attended the synod. After its conclusion he made a tour of Holland, England, and France, in company with the delegates of the city, and then returned to Basel. At the age of twenty-three he published his Lexicon Chaldaicum et Syriacum (Basel, 1622), and in the following year studied at Geneva, but declined a call to the professorship of logic at Lausanne, preferring to remain in his native city, where he served as a deacon from 1624 to 1630. Delicate health, however, obliged him to resign all hopes of becoming a preacher, and in 1630 he succeeded his father as professor of Hebrew. He declined calls to Groningen and Leyden, and in 1654 accepted the chair of Old Testament exegesis, as being closely associated with the one which he already held. It was his task to defend the views of his father on the purity of the transmitted Masoretic text of the Old Testament against many attacks, particularly by Cappel, who assailed the credibility of rabbinical tradition and regarded the Hebrew text as inferior in places to the ancient versions. In this and kindred controversies Buxtorf wrote De punctorum, vocalium atque accentuum in libris Veteris Testamenti Hebraicis origine, antiquitate et auctoritate (Basel, 1648), and Anticritica, seu vindiciú; veritatis Hebraicú adversus Ludovici Cappelli criticam quam sacram vocat (1653), but though the logical victory rested with Cappel, who could appeal both to the judgment of Elias Levita, who exercised a powerful influence on the development of Old Testament studies among the Protestants, and could also claim the support of many of the Reformers, he was regarded as a dangerous man, who sought to deny the divinity of the Scriptures, while his opponent was looked upon as a defender of orthodoxy, and won the formal verdict. In a minor controversy with Cappel on the Eucharist he wrote his Vindiciú exercitationis Sanctú Cúnú contra Cappellum (Basel, 1646) and his Anticritica contra Cappellum (1653). He likewise made a Latin translation of the Moreh Nebukim of Maimonides (Basel, 1629) and edited, with notes and a translation the Liber Cosri, sive colloquium de religione of Judah ha-Levi (1660).

3. Johannes Jakob Buxtorf: Orientalist; son of the preceding; b. at Basel Sept. 4, 1645; d. there Apr. 1, 1704. He was educated at the university of his native city, and succeeded his father as professor of Hebrew in Nov., 1664. In the following year

325

he received leave of absence and visited Geneva, France, Holland (wintering at Leyden), and London. The general suspicion of foreigners in London just after the great fire, however, caused Buxtorf to take refuge in a neighboring village, whence he later went to Oxford and Cambridge. In 1669 he returned to Basel and resumed his duties at the university, in addition to acting as librarian. Although regarded as an excellent scholar and a diligent student, he wrote little with the exception of a preface to his edition of his grandfather's Tiberias (Basel, 1665), and his emendations to the Synagoga Judaica (1680).

4. Johann Buxtorf: Nephew of the preceding; b. at Basel Jan. 8 1663; d. there June 19, 1732. After completing his education at Basel, he went to Holland to continue his Oriental studies. In 1694 he was appointed preacher at Aristdorf, a village near Basel, and in 1704 he succeeded his uncle as professor of Hebrew at the University, holding this position until his death. His most noteworthy book was his Catalecta philologico-theologica cum mantissa epistolarum virorum clarorum ad Johannem Buxtorffium patrem et filium scriptarum (Basel, 1707).

(CARL BERTHEAU.)

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Athenú Rauricú, Basel, 1778, (contains biographies and catalogues of their publications); K. R. Hagenbach, Die theologische Schule Basels, pp. 27 sqq., ib. 1860; C. H. H. Wright, Introduction to the O. T., London 1891; C. D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-critical Edition of the Hebr. Bible, ib. 1897; C. A. Briggs, Study of Holy Scripture, passim, New York, 1899; Buxtorf-Falkeisen, Johannes Buxtorf Vater, Basel, 1860; E. Kautzsch, J. Buxtorf der šltere, ib. 1879. On the younger Johannes, L. Diestel, Geschichte des alten Testaments in der christlichen Kirche, pp. 336 sqq., Jena, 1868. On Johannes Jakob, S. Werenfels, Vita . . . J. J. Buxtorfii, Basel, 1705.

BackContentsNext


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 05/10/04. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely