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LOUIS CAPPEL (1585-1658)

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Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 288 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LOUIS CAPPEL (1585-1658), French Protestant divine and scholar, a Huguenot whose descent is traced above, was born at St Elier, near Sedan, in 1585. He studied theology at Sedan and Saumur; and Arabic at Oxford, where he spent two years. At the age of twenty-eight he accepted the chair of Hebrew at Saumur, and twenty years afterwards was appointed professor of theology. Amongst his fellow lecturers were Moses Amyraut and Josue de la Place. As a Hebrew scholar he made a special study of the history of the Hebrew text, which led him to the conclusion that the vowel points and accents are not an original part of the Hebrew language, but were inserted by the Massorete Jews of Tiberias, not earlier than the 5th century A.D., and that the primitive Hebrew characters are those now known as the Samaritan, while the square characters are Aramaic and were substituted for the more ancient at the time of the captivity. These conclusions were hotly contested by Johannes Buxtorf, being in conflict with the views of his father, Johannes Buxtorf senior, notwithstanding the fact that Elias Levita had already disputed the antiquity of the vowel points and that neither Jerome nor the Talmud shows any acquaintance with them. His second important work, Critica Sacra, was distasteful from a theological point of view. He had completed it in 1634; but owing to the fierce opposition with which he had to contend, he was only able to print it at Paris in 165o, by aid of a son, who had turned Catholic. The various readings in the Old Testament text and the differences between the ancient versions and the Massoretic text convinced him that the idea of the integrity of the Hebrew text, as commonly held by Protestants, was untenable. This amounted to an attack on the verbal inspiration of Scripture. Bitter, however, as was the opposition to his views, it was not long before his results were accepted by scholars. Cappel was also the author of Annotationes et Commentarii in Vetus Testamentum, Chronologia Sacra, and other biblical works, as well as of several other treatises on Hebrew, among which are the Arcanum Punctuations revelatum (1624) and the Diatriba de veris el antiquis Ebraeorum literis (1645). His Commentarius de Capellorum genie, giving an account of the family to which he belonged, was published by his nephew James Cappel (1639-1722), who, at the age of eighteen, became professor of Hebrew at Saumur, but, on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, fled to England, where he died in 1722. See Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopadie.
End of Article: LOUIS CAPPEL (1585-1658)
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