Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Buxtorf, John (1599-1664)
A considerable portion of his public life was spent in controversy regarding disputed points in Biblical criticism, in reference to which he had to defend the views advanced by his father. The attitude of the Reformed churches at that time, as opposed to the Church of Rome, led them to take up and maintain many opinions in regard to Biblical questions, which were not only erroneous in point of fact, but which were altogether unnecessary for the stability of their position. Having renounced the dogma of an infallible church, it was deemed necessary to maintain as a counterpoise, not only that of an infallible Bible, but, as the necessary foundation of this, of a Bible which had been handed down from the earliest ages to the present time without the slightest alteration or change in its text. The letters in which the Old Testament was written, were, it was asserted, the same as those in which the two tables of the law had been written; the vowel points and accents which accompanied them had been given by divine inspiration; and the words themselves had not undergone the slightest change from the time they had flowed from the pens of the respective writers. The Masoretic text of the Old Testament, therefore, as compared either with that of the recently discovered Samaritan Pentateuch, or of the Septuagint, or of the Vulgate, was alone the " Hebrew Verity," wherein the true words of the sacred writers were to be found. Although many of the Reformers, as well as learned Jews, had long seen that these assertions could not be made good, there had been as yet no formal controversy upon the subject. It was reserved for a learned and acute Frenchman, Ludovicus Cappellus the younger, professor of Hebrew at Saunmr, to enter the field, and by a series of controver sial writings effectually to dispel the illusions which had long prevailed in many minds As early as 1622 or 1623, Cappellus had submitted in manuscript to the elder Buxtorf a work on the modern origin of the vowel points and accents, which he had been led to undertake in consequence of the statements made by the Swiss pro fessor in his Tiberias, or Commentary on the Masora, in which he had controverted the views of Elias Levita on the laic origin of the points. Buxtorf saw the force of the arguments employed by Cappellus, but counselled him not to publish his work, pointing out the injury which it would do to the Protestant cause, and the advan tage which it would afford to Romish controversialists on the ques tion of the infallible accuracy of the text of Scripture. Cappellus, however, was not to be deterred by fear of consequences. He sent his MS. to Thomas Erpenius of Leyden, the most learned Orientalist of his day, by whom it was published in 1624, under the title Arcanum Punctationis rcvclatum, with a laudatory preface, but without the author's name In this work Cappellus adduced those arguments and considerations which have satisfied most scholars since his day that the vowels and accents are the invention of the Masoretes, and that they are not older than the fifth century of the Christian era. It is worth noting that although the elder Buxtorf lived five years after the publication of the work, he made no public reply to it, and it was not until 1648, nearly a quarter of a century afterwards, that Buxtorf, junior, published his Tractatus de punctorum originc, antiquitate, ct authoritate, oppositus Arcano punctationis revelato Ludovici Cappclli. In this treatise he endeavoured to prove by copious citations from the rabbinical writers, and by arguments of various kinds, that the points, if not so ancient as the time of Moses, were at least as old as that of Ezra, and thus pos sessed the authority of divine inspiration. In the course of the work he allowed himself frequently to employ contemptuous epithets towards Cappellus, such as "innovator," " prophet," "revealer," "a seer of visions," "dreams," &c. Cappellus was not the man to remain silent in such circumstances. He speedily prepared a second edition of his work, in which, besides replying to the argu ments of his opponent, and fortifying his position with new ones, he retorted his contumelious epithets with interest. Owing tovarious causes, however, among which may be mentioned the distrust with which Cappellus was coming to be regarded on account of his critical opinions among Protestants themselves, this second edition did not see the light until thirty years after his death; when it was published at Amsterdam in 1685, in the edition of his collected works. Besides this controversy, Buxtorf engaged in three others with the same antagonist, on the subject of the integrity of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament, on the antiquity of the pre sent Hebrew characters, and on the Lord's Supper. Into the details of these, however, our space does not allow us to enter. In the two former Buxtorf supported the untenable position that the text of the Old Testament had been transmitted to us without any errors or alteration, and that the present square or so-called Chaldee characters were coeval with the original composition of the various books. These views were triumphantly refuted by his great oppo nent in his Critica Sacra, and in his Diatrila dc vcris ct antiquis Elraicorum literis. Besides the works which have been already mentioned in the course of this article, Buxtorf edited the great Lexicon Chaldaicum, Talmudicum, ct liabbinicum, on which his father had spent the labour of twenty years, and to the completion of which he himself gave ten years of additional study, and the great Hebrew Concordance, which his father had little more than begun. In addition to these, he published new editions of many of his father's works, as well as others of his own, complete lists of which may be seen in the AtJicncc llauricce, and other works enu merated at the close of the preceding article. (f. c.)
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