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Arias Montanus Benedictus

Orientalist, exegetist, and editor (1527-1598)

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Arias Montanus, BENEDICTUS, Orientalist, exegetist, and editor of the “Antwerp Polyglot”, b. at Frejenal de la Sierra in Estremadura, Spain, 1527; d. at Seville, 1598. Passing through the schools of Seville, he studied theology and the Oriental languages at Alcali, later gaining proficiency in the various European languages by means of extended travel. He became a clerical member of the Military Order of St. James, and accompanied the Bishop of Segovia to the Council of Trent (1562) where he won great distinction. On his return he retired to a hermitage at Aracena whence he was summoned by Philip II (1568) to supervise a new polyglot edition of the Bible, with the collaboration of many learned men. The work was issued from the Plantin press (1572, 8 volumes) under the title “Biblia sacra hebraice. chaldaice, graece et latine, Philippi II regis catholici pietate et studio ad sacrosanct Ecelesim usum”, several volumes being devoted to a scholarly apparatus biblicus. Arias was responsible for a large part of the actual matter, besides the general superintendence, and in obedience to the command of the king, took the work to Rome for the approbation of Gregory XIII. Leon de Castro, professor of Oriental languages at Salamanca, to whose translation of the Vulgate Arias had opposed the original Hebrew text, denounced Arias to the Roman, and later to the Spanish Inquisition for having altered the Biblical text, making too liberal use of the rabbinical writings, in disregard of the decree of the Council of Trent concerning the authenticity of the Vulgate, and, confirming the Jews in their beliefs by his Chaldaic paraphrases. After several journeys to Rome, Arias was freed of the charges (1580) and returned to his hermitage, refusing the episcopal honors offered him by the King. He accepted however, the post of a royal chaplain, but was only induced to leave his retirement for the purpose of superintending the Escorial library, and of teaching Oriental languages. He led the life of an ascetic, dividing his time between prayer and study. In addition to the works written in connection with the Polyglot, the most celebrated of which is “Anti—quitatum judaicarum libri IX” (Leyden, 1593), Arias left many commentaries on various books of the Bible; also: “Humanie salutis monumenta” (Antwerp, 1571); a Latin translation of the “Itinerary’ of Benjamin of Tudela, and other works on widely varying subjects. He was also celebrated as a poet his verses being chiefly of a religious nature.


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