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EDWARD POCOCKE (1604-1691)

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 873 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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EDWARD POCOCKE (1604-1691), English Orientalist and biblical scholar, was born in 1604, the son of a Berkshire clergy-man, and received his education at the free school of Thame in Oxfordshire and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (scholar in 162o, fellow in 1628). The first-fruit of his studies was an edition from a Bodleian MS. 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 Leiden at the instigation of G. Vossius in 163o, and in the same year Pococke sailed for Aleppo as chaplain to the English factory. At Aleppo he made himself a profound Arabicscholar, and collected many valuable MSS. At this time Wm. Laud was bishop of London and chancellor of the university of Oxford, and Pococke became known to him as one who could help his schemes for enriching the university. Laud founded an Arabic chair at Oxford, and invited Pococke home to fill it, and he entered on his duties on the loth of August 1636; but next summer he sailed again for Constantinople to prosecute further studies and collect more books, and remained there for about three years. When he returned to England Laud was in the Tower, but had taken the precaution to place the Arabic chair on a permanent footing. Pococke does not seem to have been an extreme churchman or to have meddled actively in politics. His rare scholarship and personal qualities raised him up influential friends among the opposite party, foremost among these being John Selden and John Owen. Through their offices he was even advanced in 1648 to the chair of Hebrew, though as he could not take the engagement of 1649 he lost the emoluments of the post soon after, and did not recover them till the Restoration. These cares seriously hampered Pococke in his studies, as he complains in the preface to his Eutychius; he seems to have felt most deeply the attempts to remove him from his parish of Childrey, a college living 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 Barhebraeus (Abulfaragius), with notes from a vast number of MS. sources which are still valuable. This was followed in 1655 by the Porta Mosis, extracts from the Arabic commentary of Maimonides on the Mishna, 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 pecuniary troubles were removed, but the reception of his Magnum opus— a complete edition of the Arabic history of Barhebraeus (Greg. Abulfaragii historic corn pendiosa dynastiarum), which he dedicated to the king in 1663, showed that the new order of things was not very favourable to profound 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), which are still worth reading. An Arabic translation of Grotius's De verit ate, which appeared in 166o, 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 Paris on his way back from Constantinople. Pococke married in 1646, and died in 1691. One of his sons, Edward (1648-1727), published several contributions to Arabic literature—a fragment of Abdallatif's description of Egypt and the Philosophus autodidactus of Ibn Tufail. The theological works of Pococke were collected, in two volumes, in 174o, with a curious account of his life and writings by L. Twells.
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