‘Look to the rock from which you were hewn’: Hebraica and Judaica at Balliol College
Historic Collections Centre, St Cross Church, St Cross Road
Michaelmas Term 2016
A guide to the exhibition
Exhibits selected by Professor Elliott Horowitz, Visiting Fellow and Oliver Smithies Lecturer at Balliol College 2014-15.
Captions compiled by Anna Sander from Prof. Horowitz’s forthcoming essay for the exhibition catalogue.
We are indebted to Prof. Horowitz for shining a knowledgeable and sympathetic light on a previously rather neglected aspect of the College’s special collections, and bringing together such a wide range of fascinating text- and image-bearing objects in different formats from across nearly two millennia. Prof. Horowitz’s forthcoming companion essay details the many connections among the early producers of Hebrew texts, particularly in (and for) the early western European printed book market, their later collectors and scholars, and the 19th century Oxford academics, particularly theologians but also historians, linguists and antiquarians, who rediscovered an interest in Hebrew language and texts at Balliol and in the University. Medieval and later manuscripts and ancient coins are also included.
Prints of digital scans or photographs are used in the exhibition to complement original material: to show tiny details at a magnified size, and as a way of presenting pages from more than one opening in a codex, or both sides of a coin or letter.
1. Thomas Kelly Cheyne, Notes and Criticisms on the Hebrew Text of Isaiah , 1868. [Balliol Broad Street 1005 g 18]
2. Thomas Kelly Cheyne, The Book of Isaiah Chronologically Arranged: An Amended Version with Historical and Critical Introductions, and Explanatory Notes, 1870 [Balliol Broad Street 1005 g 20]
Robert Scott had been Master of Balliol from 1854-70, and Benjamin Jowett, who succeeded him, held the position until his death in 1893 – as was required of all Oxford dons, both were ordained Anglican clergy. Thomas Cheyne’s appointment to Oxford’s first fellowship in Semitic and Biblical studies at Balliol in 1869 came at a turning point in the leadership of the College, as well as in the study of theology at the University, where it made him ‘the first in Oxford to teach the methodology of biblical and textual criticism.’ Having studied at Göttingen under Heinrich Ewald after his undergraduate degree at Oxford, he was keen to adopt German scholarly methods of biblical criticism when he returned to Oxford as an ordained academic.
Notes and Criticisms on the Hebrew Text of Isaiah was Cheyne’s first book, published in 1868, when he was already Librarian and Lecturer in Hebrew at Balliol College, but not yet a Fellow. The historico-critical method of criticism which he advocated required a background of rigorous linguistic study as well as historic contextual understanding. As we will see, the study of Hebrew by Christian scholars in western Europe is a long tradition, reflected in Balliol’s collections since the early days of printed books. Cheyne notes Ewald’s scholarly influence on his own work in the introduction to Isaiah Chronologically Arranged.
3. Wilhelm Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (1853 ed, trans. Tregelles). [Balliol Broad St 1055 f 15]
Gesenius, a German scholar, had first published his Hebrew and Aramaic dictionary in 1833 under the Latin title Lexicon Manuale Hebraicum et Chaldaicum in Vetus Testamentum Libros. That work had been recommended to Thomas Arnold early in the 1830s, and may also have served Stanley when he began studying Hebrew late in that decade. Thomas Cheyne was succeeded as Pusey and Ellerton Scholar by an even more serious Hebraist, John Purves (Balliol 1860, Fellow 1866), who later wisely acquired the Tregelles translation of Gesenius’s second edition; his copy is on display. The Latin title of Gesenius’s dictionary clearly alluded to Johann Buxtorf’s influential Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum, which had originally appeared early in the seventeenth century and was republished well into the nineteenth.
4. Nicholas Crouch (ca. 1618 – ca.1690), Fellow of Balliol. MS 455.6, an unusual piece of direct evidence of a particular person’s use of a specific book: a single folio in Crouch’s hand, neatly copied in both Hebrew and Latin, from the introductory chapter of Crouch’s own copy of Buxtorf’s Epitome, with which it is displayed.
5. Johannes Buxtorf, Epitome grammaticae Hebraeae (Basel, 1613) [Balliol St Cross 30 b 227 (1)] – Nicholas Crouch’s copy. Shown in enlarged facsimile is the volume’s contents page, in Crouch’s hand.
6. Johannes Buxtorf, Epitome grammaticae Hebraeae (first published 1613, 6th ed pub 1669) [735 a 4]
7. Johannes Buxtorf, Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum, (first published 1602) [Balliol St Cross 735 c 5-8]
In 1613 the prolific Johannes Buxtorf (1564-1629), Professor of Hebrew at Basel and ‘the principal founder of rabbinical study among Christian scholars’[] published two important works on Hebrew lexicography and grammar: the Manuale Hebraicum et Chaldaicum, a practical abridgement of a much larger work, and Epitome grammaticae Hebraeae, a revision of his earlier Praeceptiones grammaticae de lingua Hebraea (1605). Balliol owns two copies of the Epitome, one of the fifth edition, published in 1629, and another copy published four decades later. Its copy of the earlier edition, had been acquired for a shilling by Nicholas Crouch (Balliol 1634, Fellow. Upon his death in 1690 Crouch, as John Jones has noted, “left the College the choice of all his books.” Another of those books, to which we shall return, was a bilingual (Hebrew and Latin) edition of three medieval Jewish commentaries on a single chapter of Psalms.
Buxtorf’s Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum originally appeared early in the seventeenth century and was republished well into the nineteenth. The later edition of the Lexicon represented here was edited and expanded (to four volumes) by the Dominican monk Joseph Montaldi, published in Rome in 1789, and was the earliest edition of the Protestant Buxtorf’s Lexicon to appear in a Catholic country.
8. Abraham ben Meir de Balmes (ca. 1440-1523), Mikneh Avram, Latin title Peculiam Abrae [The Possession of Abram], first published 1523.
9. Daniel Bomberg [Baumberg], printer, Rabbinic Bible [Mdrsh shmṿl …] Midrash Shemuel Samuel , 1546, [Balliol St Cross 550 e 2]
The Mikneh Avram is a bilingual work on Hebrew grammar, written in Hebrew and translated into Latin by the Italian physician Abraham de Balmes, and printed in a side-by-side bilingual edition by Daniel Bomberg shortly after the author’s death. Bomberg (van Bombergen, d.ca. 1549), a Roman Catholic printer from Antwerp, based in Venice, was one of the most important early publishers of Hebrew texts in the early decades of European printing. His introduction gives his reasons for publishing a Hebrew grammar directed to non-Jews; humanistic scholars in the Latin west had a growing interest in the Hebrew language and particularly the Kabbalah. The book is displayed with a page of Hebrew type on the left and Latin on the right; the languages switch positions in each opening. This will have allowed the typesetters to print all the Hebrew rectos and versos together, and the Latin together – a notable feat of typesetting, and of planning the layout to get all the pages of both languages in the right order. [Balliol St Cross 0560 e 16]
Bomberg’s Hebrew press produced the first Rabbinic Bible, which includes the definitive text of the Tanakh (‘Hebrew Bible’ – source of texts for the Christian Old Testament) and several sets of interpretive notes and commentaries.
10. Augustin Calmet (1672-1757), Historical, Critical, Geographical, and Etymological Dictionary of the Holy Bible, first translated into English (from French) in 1732, [Balliol 100. s. b. 2-4, 3 vols.]
Roman Catholic scholars such as Augustin Calmet (1672-1757) appreciated the importance of masoretic materials (interpretive notes) – and hence Jewish editions of the Rabbinic Bible – for Christian study of the Old Testament. Calmet’s Historical, Critical, Geographical, and Etymological Dictionary of the Holy Bible (first published 1720, enlarged edn 1730) was first translated into English from French in 1732. He also recognized that medieval Jewish exegetes had made valuable contributions to biblical scholarship. In his survey of Jewish commentators on the entire Hebrew Bible, whom he listed separately from Catholic and Protestant ones, Calmet included the Spanish-born Maimonides, “who wrote a great deal, and everything of his composition is very much valued.” The Benedictine monk was clearly familiar enough with the writings of the Jewish philosopher to recognize that his Guide of the Perplexed, originally written in Arabic, could be regarded as a commentary on the entire Hebrew Bible.
In the entry on “Massorah” in his eighteenth-century dictionary Calmet explained that “those Hebrew Doctors…called Massorites… have counted with a most scrupulous Exactness all the words, verses, and even Letters” of every biblical book, so that “the Reading of the Bible may be fixed forever.” One of the chief features of the Masorah, he explained, was the distinction between Ketiv and Kere – between the text as it should be written and the text as it should be read. Calmet noted that this distinction was maintained not only in cases where spelling or grammar might be equivocal, but also if the written form “was a Word which Modesty forbad to use, they put one instead of it which might be read.” Perhaps out of his own considerations of modesty, the monk did not provide examples.
11. Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204. Moreh nevukhim [Guide for the Perplexed] (first published in Venice, 5311 [i.e. 1551]). [Balliol St Cross 0590 b 12]
Just as Christian scholars eagerly made use of Jewish coins, biblical manuscripts, and printed editions of the Bible, so too were the writings of certain Jewish exegetes and philosophers particularly esteemed. Paramount in the latter category was Moses Maimonides. One composition that came to be especially valued by Christians was his philosophical work Guide for the Perplexed, which had originally been composed in Arabic – the philosophic lingua franca of medieval Jews through the twelfth century – and soon after translated into Hebrew.
The late fifteenth century translation by Samuel ibn Tibbon had been composed in consultation with Maimonides himself; the Venice 1551 edition [ʿim perush Shem Ṭov ve-ʿim perush ha-Efodi ] was the first to include the commentaries by Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov and Profiat Duran.
As a Protestant critic of Roman Catholic doctrine, the French-born humanist Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614) was particularly interested in the chapter Maimonides devoted, in the first section of his “book of miscellaneous observations on sacred matters” (I, 16), to the various meanings in biblical Hebrew of the word “rock” [tsur], which could denote, the philosopher asserted, a mountain or hard stone, but might also be used “figuratively to designate the root and principle of every thing.” The figurative sense was the one that Maimonides favored with regard to Isaiah’s exhortation “look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were digged (Is. 51:1, RSV),” an argument he supported by citing the opening words of the verse immediately following: “Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you.” For Maimonides this meant that “the rock from which you were hewn is Abraham your father,” the practical application being: “Tread therefore in his footsteps, adhere to his religion, and acquire his character.” Casaubon slyly suggested that this figurative interpretation might also be applied to the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”
12. Oxford, Balliol College MS 382. One of the finest extant examples of the complete Hebrew biblical codex (24 books), including decorative masoretic notes composed in intricate micrography. Given to Balliol College in 1804 by the Revd. Richard Prosser (BA 1770, Chaplain-Fellow of Balliol 1773).
The text was written on parchment by the Hebrew scribe Samuel b. Isaac de Medina and completed in Lisbon late in 1490, only a few years before the Jews were expelled from Portugal. Unlike most manuscripts and printed copies of the Hebrew Bible, it ends not with the books of Chronicles (1-2), but with the Five Scrolls, the last of which is the book of Esther. The last page of Esther, and thus of the entire codex, was left unvocalized, leaving the impression of an uncompleted work by the manuscript’s otherwise scrupulous scribe. De Medina did, however, compose a detailed colophon in which he gave both his name and that of the person who commissioned the manuscript: Judah b. Gedaliah ibn Yahya. Much of the manuscript’s ownership history in the intervening centuries remains unclear.
13. Oxford, Balliol College, MS 427. One parchment membrane, text in Hebrew, the last section of a Torah scroll, containing the final chapters of Deuteronomy (chs. 32-34). Written according to masoretic strictures , by a Jewish scribe. Purchased as a fragment in Tunis by the Rev. Greville Chester in 1865.
Chester (1830-92, Balliol 1849) amassed an enormous and wide-ranging collection of ancient and modern artefacts, both for himself and the British Museum, during his annual visits across the Mediterranean, which began in 1865. Following those visits he made numerous donations, as Gertrude Seidmann has shown, to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum and to Balliol College [MSS 364, 366, 371, 376, 377, 427, 466]. In our exhibition this scriptural fragment is contrasted with a complete codex of a Hebrew Bible – both would have been treated as holy objects, not merely authoritative texts, by the Jews who originally owned them.
14. Oxford, Balliol College Archives, Library Donors’ Register. Open to the page recording the gift to Balliol College of four volumes by Isaac Abendana (d.1699), a Hamburg Jew of Sephardic origin. Abendana, who had studied at the University of Leiden, taught Hebrew at Trinity College, Cambridge, and later at Magdalen College, Oxford. The gift entry, which records the book’s title in both Latin and Hebrew, is undated, but most likely occurred in the last decade of the seventeenth century, while the donor was teaching at Magdalen. Three of the books Isaac Abendana gave to Balliol are obviously relevant to Biblical and Hebraic studies, including the item above, Mikneh Avram / Peculiam Abrae, which is still in the College’s collection. The fourth may have been considered to have a link to Balliol’s history via Founder’s Kin Edward de Balliol (ca. 1249-1314, grandson of John de Balliol and Dervorguilla).
15. Three ancient coins: one minted by the Jews of Judea during their first revolt against Roman rule (66-70 CE), and two of the “Judea capta” series minted by the Romans several years later, showing the head of Vespasian on one side, and a captive Jew on the obverse. . [Ashmolean Museum, Strachan Davidson Coin Collection: HCR9562, HCR21481, HCR21499]
James Leigh Strachan-Davidson (1843-1916; Balliol 1862, Fellow 1866, Master 1907-1916), an undergraduate at the time that Chester made his gift, later became a considerable collector himself. At the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition of 1887, held in London’s Royal Albert Hall, these three ancient coins from his extensive collection were exhibited. MS 382, the biblical codex donated by Prosser also displayed here was displayed in the same exhibition. Strachan-Davidson left his coin collection to the College upon his death in 1916; they were first held in the Bodleian, and then in the Ashmolean. With the latter’s kind cooperation, and with thanks for their excellent images, this is the first time that they are being exhibited at Balliol
16. Siméon Marotte de Muis, In Psalmum XIX. Trium Ervditissimorvm Rebbonirvm commentarii, bilingual (Hebrew and Latin) edition of three Jewish commentaries on Psalms 19 (first published 1620). [Balliol 30 b 209 (7) and 630 a 21]
Maimonidean ideas were able to spread to wider audiences, including Christian ones, not only through the Guide for the Perplexed, but through the publication of biblical commentaries whose authors had responded to that multifaceted work. Among these was David Kimhi (known also by the name Radak), a resident of southwestern France who was an active member of the pro-Maimonides camp in the early thirteenth-century controversy over the latter’s writings.
Kimhi’s commentary on the Psalms, first published in 1477, was particularly popular among Christian scholars despite its occasional anti-Christian cricticsms – which were sometimes softened, and which in the 1517 Rabbinic Bible were published separately. English interest in Kimhi is perhaps best represented by Thomas Neale’s 1557 translation into Latin of the Jewish exegete’s commentary on the last three of the Latter Prophets – Haggai, Zacharia, and Malachi. The volume, which appeared in Paris, was dedicated to Cardinal Reginald Pole.
Siméon Marotte de Muis, Professor of Hebrew at the Royal College of France, published in 1620 a bilingual (Hebrew and Latin) edition of three Jewish commentaries on Psalm 19: Kimhi, Rashi and the Spanish-born Abraham ibn Ezra. Balliol’s copy of the 1620 volume is from Nicholas Crouch’s personal collection.
17. Jonathan ben Uzziel (active 1st century CE). Chaldæa Ionathæ in sex Prophetas interpretatio: Michæam, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophoniam, Zachariam & Malachiam, Latinitate nunc primùm donate. (first published in Paris, 1559). [Balliol St Cross 30 c 259]
Targums (Targumim) are an important genre of Jewish scriptural interpretation: vernacular glosses, paraphrases or explanations of the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh). Parallel with the project of translating medieval Jewish commentaries into Latin, from 1550 Jean Mercier (d. 1570), who preceded de Muis as Professor of Hebrew at the Royal College in Paris, published there several bilingual editions of the ancient Aramaic Targum, attributed to Jonathan b. Uzziel, on later books of the Hebrew Bible. That Targum, which combined commentary with translation, had been made widely available through the two Rabbinic Bibles published by Bomberg, but was well beyond the comprehension of most Christians. Mercier’s project testifies to exegetical value attributed by sixteenth century Christian scholars to ancient Jewish traditions. Balliol owns a copy of his bilingual edition of the Aramaic Targum on the last six books of the Latter Prophets, which appeared in Paris in 1559.
18. Jakob Koppelman, Targum shel Hamesh Megillot bi-Leshon Ashkenaz (Freiburg) [Yiddish Targum] (first published 1584). [Balliol St Cross 560 b 16]
Not only Christians had difficulty understanding the Targum attributed to Jonathan, which was composed in Palestinian Aramaic rather than the Babylonian variety more familiar to students of the Talmud. In 1584, Jacob Koppelman published a Yiddish rhymed paraphrase of the Targum to all ‘Five Scrolls’ – including Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, as well as Ruth . Koppelman’s work, composed in Metz, was published only once – in Freiburg, 1584 and was intended, as stated on its title page, for “men, women, and children (Jer. 40: 7).” Its dual intended audience – popular as well as learned – is reflected in the work’s bilingual nature. Side by side with the Yiddish paraphrase, Hebrew glosses were provided to explain some of the Targum’s difficult terms. Parallel with its two languages, the pages of Koppelman’s work were printed in two colours – an unusual and rather expensive process. Hebrew sections appeared in block red letters and Yiddish ones in black, set in the Vaybertaytsh font traditionally used for that Judeo-Germanic language.
19. Timberlake, Henry, True and Strange Discourse of the Travailes of Two English Pilgrimes (first published 1603). [Balliol St Cross 580 b 14]
As Calmet recognized, recent works of travel describing flora and fauna, peoples and their practices could be useful to early modern scholars for understanding the Bible and its world as well as translations and commentaries. Neither the scholars nor the travel authors they read had an adequate sense of how much Palestine and its environs had changed since biblical times; when the merchant Henry Timberlake published his True and Strange Discourse, an account of his recent travels in Palestine and Egypt with John Burrell, his subtitle informed readers that it would include “notable memories” of those countries, “concording with the ancient remembrances in the Holy Scriptures.”
Like many Christian travelers over the centuries, Timberlake sought to show ‘how justly the Scriptures are fulfilled,” and one of his prime illustrations was that Jerusalem, as punishment to the Jews, had been made “a heape of stones” for some fifteen miles in each direction, and was “the most barrenest place in all Mesopotamia.” The only place he could compare it with in England “for the like sterilitie” was “the unfruitfull place in Cornwall, where there is nothing but rockes and stones.” Like many other European travel accounts, Timberlake attempts, not always accurately, to provide equivalent distances between places, based on his own country. Thus, “Gaza, which is the south-west part of Palestine, is from Jerusalem as Salisbury is from London.” Timberlake’s brief but colourful account, which included descriptions of riding with ‘wild Arabes’ on dromedaries, was frequently reprinted during the early seventeenth century, appearing seven times by 1620.
20. ‘T.B.’, A journey to Jerusalem, or, A relation of the travels of fourteen English-men in the year 1669… , first published 1672. [Balliol St Cross 30 a 22 and 580 b 14]
The semi-anonymous ‘T.B.’ prefaces his text with a “brief description of Palestine” presenting the entire country as being in a state of “utter desolation” on account of the Jews having crucified “the son of God.” This goes a step beyond Timberlake, who confidently confined the desolation to Jerusalem and its environs. The later account also provides interesting information on the fate of England’s Jews after their expulsion by Edward I. Many, ‘T.B.’ asserted, fled to Scotland, “where they have propagated since in great Numbers.” As evidence of the prominent presence of Jews in Scotland’s population the author cited “the Aversion this nation has above all others to Hogs-Flesh.” This argument draws (silently) on James Howell’s assertion in his preface to The Wonderfull and Most Deplorable History of the Latter Times of the Jews, which was translated from medieval Jewish sources and first appeared in 1652, soon proving popular in England.
‘T.B.’ does not, however, repeat Howell’s description of the state of the Jewish people since their exile from Palestine: “a kind of curse [had] fallen upon their bodies,” as evidence to “the uncouth look and odd cast of eye whereby they are distinguished from other people.” That claim has well-known medieval roots, but unlike Howell, who wrote before the Jewish readmission to England, ‘T.B.’ would have seen Jews in person while travelling to and from Palestine, as well as inside the country. Although he judged the country to be utterly desolate as a consequence of divine punishment, he did not regard the Jews themselves as similarly cursed by God.
The above two items are in poor physical condition and are displayed closed, demonstrating their portable pocket size. Both are supplemented with enlargements of illustrations.
21. Thomas Shaw (1694-1751), Travels, or Observations Relating to Several Parts of Barbary and the Levant. First published in 1738; 2nd ed 1757. [Balliol St Cross Arch. F.X.13]
Countering more recent allegations than Timberlake’s of the desolation of Palestine was a concern for Thomas Shaw (1694-1751), an Oxford-educated Anglican divine, naturalist, and classical scholar, in his Travels, or Observations Relating to Several Parts of Barbary and the Levant, first published in 1738. His purpose was not to demonstrate the fulfilment of divine prophecy, but rather to question the veracity of scriptural descriptions of the Promised Land as flowing with milk and honey – i.e., as a fertile agricultural land.
Shaw acknowledged that the city of Jerusalem and the parts surrounding it were indeed “rocky and mountainous,” and had “been therefore supposed to be barren and unfruitful,” but responded that “a kingdom is not to be denominated barren or unfruitful from one single portion of it, but from the whole.”
During his time in North Africa as chaplain to the English “factory”, an establishment for traders doing business in a foreign country at Algiers, he travelled to Egypt, Sinai, Cyprus, and Palestine (1721-22), and later visited Tripoli and Tunis as well. On returning to England in 1733, he worked on his Travels. His research notes for that 1738 work (in the Bodleian) show that he made use not only of his written impressions and drawings made while travelling, but also extracts from the second French edition of Calmet’s Dictionnaire historique, even before it appeared in English.
A previous owner of Balliol’s copy of Shaw was clearly contemplating a trip to Egypt, as the margins of its pages dealing with the Nile and the pyramids are filled with handwritten comments comparing his observations with those of other authorities, from Herodotus to Pococke. Other reader comments pertain to the respective uses of watermelons and camels.
22. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-81), Sinai and Palestine: In Connection with their History , (1856) [Balliol Broad Street Morier 32]
In 1852-3 Arthur Penrhyn Stanley set off with three Oxford companions to visit “the well-known scenes of Sacred History in Egypt, Arabia, and Syria. His 1856 work, based largely on letters he wrote while travelling, was immediately popular; by the following year there was already a fourth edition. Balliol owns a copy of that edition, purchased in August of 1857 by Robert Morier (1826-93) [Morier Collection 32] , who after concluding his studies at Oxford pursued a diplomatic career, eventually becoming British ambassador to Russia.
Stanley, like Shaw sought to counter claims concerning Palestine’s alleged barrenness, asserting that its “countless ruins…tell us at a glance that we must not judge the resources of the ancient land by its present depressed and desolate state.” Like Shaw, too, he was convinced that the sites of sacred history had not changed since biblical times. Such travel was therefore a crucial component in fully comprehending the ancient biblical world. “There is hardly any limit,” he further remarked, “to the legitimate advantage derived by the historical and theological student from even such a transient glimpse of Eastern life which forms the basis of the previous volume.”
23. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-81). Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church (1863-76). [Balliol Broad Street 1005 g 1]
A decade after his initial sojourn in those Eastern lands, Stanley, by then Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford, was asked, partially owing to his Sinai and Palestine‘s great popularity, to accompany the Prince of Wales (Albert Edward, 1841-1910) on his own first (and last) trip to the region. Shortly after returning from that royal journey, Stanley published the first volume of his Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church (1863-76. As he explained in the preface, they had been addressed to his “usual hearers at Oxford, chiefly candidates for Holy Orders.”
In his initial lecture, devoted to “the Call of Abraham,” Stanley took issue with those who had criticized one of his ecclesiastical colleagues for describing Abraham as “a Bedouin Sheykh.” Anyone who had travelled in the East, he argued, could not disagree. “Every English pilgrim to the Holy Land,” wrote Stanley – alluding perhaps not only to himself and his three initial companions, but also to the Prince and members of his recent entourage- “is delighted to trace and record the likeness of patriarchal manners and costumes in the Arabian chiefs.” He added that refusing to do so “would be to decline the use of what we may almost call a singular gift of providence.” God, he suggested – and Stanley, as he presumably realized, was not the first to do so – had intentionally held back, or preserved, the Holy Land from change so that Scripture could be better understood by subsequent generations.
24. Matthew Arnold, The Great Prophecy of Israel’s Restoration: A Bible Reading for Schools, 1872. [Balliol St Cross Arnold 8/1 and 2]
It was ostensibly in his capacity as Government Inspector of Schools that Matthew Arnold in 1872 published The Great Prophecy of Israel’s Restoration: A Bible Reading for Schools, a volume, intended for “young learners,” of Isaiah’s final twenty-six chapters (40-66). It is likely, however, that his decision to follow the traditional order of chapters in the Authorized Version – and adhere closely to its language- was intended as a response to Cheyne’s rather radical Book of Isaiah Chronologically Arranged (1870). In his introduction to The Great Prophecy Arnold acknowledged that his command of Hebrew was far from expert; nonetheless, he felt confident enough to question and indeed criticise some of Thomas Cheyne’s corrections to the King James version.
Arnold was a literary intellectual of considerable weight, and the young Balliol Fellow felt obliged to respond – perhaps after consultation with Jowett, by the Master of the College, who had also been criticized (albeit more mildly) by Arnold. Cheyne published a review of Arnold’s Isaiah in The Academy, (19 Feb. 1876) in which he noted somewhat acerbically that although its introduction was “full of criticisms involving points of Hebrew scholarship,” the author’s knowledge of that language is as “a smoking flax” – alluding ostensibly to Isaiah 42:3 in the King James Version. This in itself was clever enough, drawing on a passage included in Arnold’s volume. But as both Oxonians presumably recognized, the verse from Isaiah reappears in the Gospel of Matthew (12:20). Cheyne may have intentionally alluded to its derivative character in the Gospel as an additional dig at the derivative Hebraic knowledge of his distinguished critic, who shared the evangelist’s name.
* * *
After his death in 1915, Thomas Cheyne was eloquently praised by the Harvard scholar Crawford Howell Toy for “the variety of his learning, the vital character of his style, and his frankness and courage in the expression of opinion.” When Cheyne left Balliol for Oriel, upon being appointed Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, the College lost its greatest Hebraic scholar ever. The books and objects included in this exhibit testify to its continuing engagement, over the centuries, with the Hebrew language, the Hebrew Bible, and the Hebraic tradition.
Most of the information in these captions is quoted directly from Prof. Horowitz’s essay for the exhibition catalogue, forthcoming.
For more information about Balliol’s special collections, exhibitions, open days, public talks and other events, please follow us:
 Joanna Hawke, ‘Cheyne, Thomas Kelly(1841–1915)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32395, accessed 8 Sept 2016]
 Crawford Howell Toy, Meyer Kayserling, ‘BUXTORF (BUXTORFF), JOHANNES (usually called “Father,” or “the Elder”), 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia; online edn, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3860-buxtorf-buxtorff-johannes
 Masorah – authoritative text of the Hebrew Tanakh, the Jewish scriptural canon and a key source of the texts in the Christian Old Testament.
Resources and further reading:
Constructing Borders & Crossing Boundaries: Social, Cultural, & Religious Change in Early Modern Jewish History, An Online Exhibition from the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies 2013-2014 Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Libraries. http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/cajs/fellows14/
More of Nicholas Crouch’s manuscripts at Balliol College: http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Modern%20Papers/crouch.asp
Papers of JL Strachan Davidson at Balliol: