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Edward Pococke (1604-1691) was an Englishmarker Orientalist and biblical scholar.

Early life

He was the son of clergyman from Chieveleymarker in Berkshire, and was educated at Lord Williams's Schoolmarker of Thamemarker in Oxfordshire and at Corpus Christi College, Oxfordmarker (scholar in 1620, fellow in 1628). The first result of his studies was an edition from a Bodleian Librarymarker manuscript of the four New Testament epistles (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude) which were not in the old Syriac canon, and were not contained in European editions of the Peshito. This was published at Leidenmarker at the instigation of Gerard Vossius in 1630, and in the same year Pococke sailed for Aleppomarker as chaplain to the English factor. At Aleppo he studied the Arabic language, and collected many valuable manuscripts.

At this time William Laud was both Bishop of London and chancellor of the University of Oxfordmarker, and Pococke was recognised as one who could help his schemes for enriching the university. Laud founded a Chair of Arabic at Oxford, and invited Pococke to fill it. He entered the post on August 10 1636; but the next summer he sailed back to Constantinoplemarker to prosecute further studies and collect more books, and remained there for about three years.

Return to England

When he returned to England, Laud was in the Tower of Londonmarker, but had taken the precaution to make the Arabic chair permanent. Pococke does not seem to have been an extreme churchman or to have been active in politics. His rare scholarship and personal qualities brought him influential friends, foremost among these being John Selden and John Owen. Through their offices he obtained, in 1648, the chair of Hebrew, though he lost the emoluments of the post soon after, and did not recover them till the Restoration.

These events hampered Pococke in his studies, or so he complained in the preface to his Eutychius; he resented the attempts to remove him from his parish of Childreymarker, a college living near Wantagemarker in North Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) which he had accepted in 1643. In 1649, he published the Specimen historiae arabum, a short account of the origin and manners of the Arabs, taken from Bar-Hebraeus (Abulfaragius), with notes from a vast number of manuscript sources which are still valuable. This was followed in 1655 by the Porta Mosis, extracts from the Arabic commentary of Maimonides on the Mishnah, with translation and very learned notes; and in 1656 by the annals of Eutychius in Arabic and Latin. He also gave active assistance to Brian Walton's polyglot bible, and the preface to the various readings of the Arabic Pentateuch is from his hand.


After the Restoration, Pococke's political and financial troubles ended, but the reception of his magnum opus--a complete edition of the Arabic history of Bar-Hebraeus (Greg. Abulfaragii historia compendiosa dynastiarum), which he dedicated to the king in 1663, showed that the new order of things was not very favourable to scholarship. After this his most important works were a Lexicon heptaglotton (1669) and English commentaries on Micah (1677), Malachi (1677), Hosea (1685) and Joel (1691). An Arabic translation of Grotius's De veritate, which appeared in 1660, may also be mentioned as a proof of Pococke's interest in the propagation of Christianity in the East. This was an old plan, which he had talked over with Grotius at Parismarker on his way back from Constantinople.

Pococke married in 1646. One of his sons, Edward (1648-1727), published several contributions from Arabic literature - a fragment of Abd-el-latif's work on Egyptology and the Philosophus Autodidactus of Ibn Tufayl (Abubacer).

Both Edward Gibbon and Thomas Carlyle exposed some pious lies in the missionary work by Grotius, which were omitted from the Arabic text but still extant in the Latin one.

The theological works of Pococke were collected, in two volumes, in 1740, with a curious account of his life and writings by L Twells.

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