Johann Leusden

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Johannes Leusden
Excerpt from Leusden's Sefer Tehilim Liber Psalmorum
using God's name Jehovah.

Johannes Leusden (also called Jan (informal), John (English), or Johann (German)) (26 April 1624 – 30 September 1699) was a Dutch Calvinist theologian and orientalist.

Leusden was born in Utrecht. He studied in Utrecht and Amsterdam and became a Professor of Hebrew in Utrecht, where he died, aged 75.

Leusden was one of the most prominent Bible experts of his time, and wrote several works about the Bible and about Hebrew philology (Philologus Hebraeus, 1656; Philologus Hebraeo-Mixtus, 1663; Philologus Hebraeo-Latino-Belgicum, 1668; Philologus Hebraeo-Graecus, 1670; Korte Hebreusche en Chaldeusche taalkonst, 1686). In 1661, together with the Amsterdam book printer Joseph Athias, he published his Biblia Hebraica, the first edition of the Hebrew Bible with numbered verses.[1] The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 dismissed Leusden's copious notes to the text as being "of little value".[2]

The 1667 edition was strongly criticized in 1669 by the Protestant Samuel Desmarets, who died in 1673. Athias answered the charges in a short work whose title begins, Caecus de coloribus.[2][3] Athias’ pamphlet was a full-blown attack on a senior Christian theologian in the United Provinces of the Netherlands. That the true author of the pamphlet was not Athias but Johannes Leusden, and that the Utrecht professor had published it in Athias’ name, is an assessment that scholars have followed ever since.[4]

His name and the "Philologus hebraeograecus" figures in a short story of Jorge Luis Borges, argentinian writer (1889-1986) called "la muerte y la brújula" (the death and the compass)


  1. ^ L. Fuks and R.G. Fuks-Mansfeld, Hebrew Typography in the Northern Netherlands, 1585-1815. Historical Evaluation and Descriptive Bibliography, Part II (E.J. Brill, Leiden 1987), pp. 292-93 (Google).
  2. ^ a b A.J. Maas, 'Joseph Athias', in C. Herbermann (ed.), Catholic Encyclopedia (Robert Appleton Company, New York 1913), 2.
  3. ^ Read this in T.T. Crusius, Animadversiones Philologicae et Historicae, Pars II (David Severinus, Leyden 1696), pp. 120-27 (Google).
  4. ^ T. Dunkelgrün, 'Like a blind man judging colors: Joseph Athias and Johannes Leusden defend their 1667 Hebrew Bible', in S. Berger, E. Schrijver and I. Zwiep (eds.), Mapping Jewish Amsterdam: The Early Modern Perspective. Dedicated to Yosef Kaplan on the Occasion of his Retirement, Studia Rosenthaliana 44 (Peeters, Leuven and Paris 2012), pp. 79-115.