Monday, June 05, 2017


Learn Hebrew in Eight Days

Piet van Boxel, "Robert Bellarmine, Christian Hebraist and Censor," History of Scholarship: A Selection of Papers from the Seminar on the History of Scholarship Held Annually at the Warburg Institute. Edited by C.R. Ligota and J.-L. Quantin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 251-275 (at 255):
Versed in Latin and with a good knowledge of Greek, Bellarmine had never been trained in Hebrew. At age 71, now a cardinal, he wrote about his time at the Jesuit school:
In those days N [Bellarmine] considered the Hebrew language very useful for the understanding of the Holy Scriptures and decided to study it. After having been taught the alphabet and some basic grammatical rules by somebody who knew the language, he himself wrote a Hebrew grammar according to a simpler method than that used by the rabbis and in a short time he learned the Hebrew language as far as seemed sufficient for a theologian. He then established an academy and studied Hebrew and Greek with some friends. In order to prove that his grammar was easier than others, he promised one of his students of the theological school, who knew no Hebrew at all, that if he were to teach him for eight days, he would be able to understand Hebrew books with the help of a dictionary, as he himself had managed to do.23
23 Döllinger and Reusch, Selbstbiographie (as in n. 2), 34. His claim to be able to teach a student Hebrew within eight days is clearly inspired by the legend that Jerome taught his spiritual daughter Blesilla the Hebrew language in a few days; see N. Frizon, La Vie du Cardinal Bellarmin, de la Compagnie de Jésus (Nancy, 1708), 78.

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