Kennicott, Benjamin, Dd
Kennicott, Benjamin, D.D., one of the most eminent Biblical scholars, was born of humble parents at Totness, in Devonshire, England, Apr. 4,1718. At quite a youthful age he succeeded his father as master 'of a charity school in his native place, and here continued until 1744, when, having previously given proof of possessing superior talents, he was, through the kindness of several gentlemen in the neighborhood who interested themselves in his behalf, and opened a subscription to defray his educational expenses, enabled to go to the University of Oxford. He entered at Wadham College, and applied himself to the study of divinity and Hebrew with great diligence, and while yet an undergraduate published Two Dissertations: 1. On the Tree of Life in Paradise, with some Observations on the Fall of Man; 2. On the Oblations of Cain and Abel (Oxf. 8vo), which came to a' second edition in 1747,' and procured him, free of expense, the distinguished honor of a bachelor's degree, even before the statute time. Shortly afterwards he was elected fellow of Exeter College, and in 1750 took his degree of M.A. By the-publication of several sermons at this time he acquired additional fame, but his great name is due to his elaborate researches for the improvement of the text of the Hebrew Bible, for which he laid the foundation in 1753. It was in this year that he inaugurated his great undertaking by giving to the public the first volume of his dissertations, entitled The State of the Printed Hebrew Text of the O.T. considered (Oxford, 1753-1759, 2 vols. 8vo). In this work he evinces the necessity of the undertaking upon which he had set his heart by refuting the popular notion of the "absolute integrity" of the Hebrew text. In the first volume he institutes a comparison of 1 Chronicles xi with 2Sa 5; 2Sa 23 followed by observations on seventy Hebrew MSS., and maintains that numerous mistakes and interpolations disfigure the sacred Scriptures of the O.T.; in the second volume he vindicates the Samaritan Pentateuch, proves the corruption of the printed copies of the Chaldee paraphrase (the accordance of which with the text of the O.T. was boasted of as evincing the purity of the latter)' gives an account of 'the Hebrew MSS. supposed at his day to have been extant, and closes with the proposition to institute a collation of existing Hebrew MSS. for the purpose of securing a correct edition of the O.T. Scriptures in the original; extending a very hearty invitation for assistance to the Jews also. This undertaking, as we' might naturally expect, met with much opposition both in England and on the Continent. It was feared by many that such a collation might overturn the received reading of various important passages, and introduce uncertainty into the whole system of Biblical interpretation. The plan was, however, warmly patronized by the majority 'of the English clergy; and when, in 1760, he issued his proposals for collecting all the Hebrew MSS. prior to the invention of the art of printing that could be found in Great Britain or in foreign countries, the utility of the proposed collation was very generally admitted, and a subscription to defray the expense of it, amounting to nearly ten thousand pounds, was quickly made. Various persons were employed, both at home and abroad; among foreign literati the principal was professor Bruns, of the University of Helmstadt, who not only collated Hebrew MSS. in Germany, but went; for that purpose into Switzerland and Italy. In consequence of these efforts, more than six hundred Hebrew: MSS., and sixteen MSS. of the Samaritan Pentateuch, were discovered in different libraries in England and on the Continent, many of which were wholly collated, and others consulted in important passages. To this collation of MSS. was also added a collation of the most noted printed editions of the Bible, including those edited by the Rabbins, whose annotations, as well as the Talmud itself, were frequently consulted by the learned Kenicott. The collation continued from 1760 to 1769, during which period an account of the progress making was annually published. At length, after sixteen years of. unmitigated industry, appeared the first, and four years later the .second volume of Kennicott's edition of the Hebrew Bible — etus Testamentum Hebraicum cune variis Lectionibus (Oxonii, 1776,1780, 2 vols. fol.). Though the number of various readings was found to be very great; yet they were neither so numerous nor by any means so important as those that are contained in Griesbach's edition of the New Testament. But this is easily accounted for from the revision of the Hebrew text by the Masorites in the 7th and 8th centuries, and from the scrupulous fidelity with which the Jews have transcribed the same text from that time. "The text of Kennicott's edition;" says Marsh (Divinity Lectures, pt. ii)," was printed from that of Van der Hooght, with which the Hebrew manuscripts, by Kennicott's direction, were all collated. But as variations in the points v were disregarded in the collation, the points were not added in the text. The various readings, as in the critical editions of the Greek Testament, were printed at the bottom of the page, with references to the corresponding readings of the text. In the Pentateuch the variations of the Samaritan text were printed in a column parallel to the Hebrew; and the variations observable in the Samaritan manuscripts, which differ from each other as well as the Hebrew, are likewise noted, with references to the Samaritan printed text. To this collation of manuscripts was added a collation of the most distinguished editions of the Hebrew Bible, in the same manner as Wetstein has noticed the variations observable in the principal editions of the Greek Testament. Nor did Kennicott confine his collation to manuscripts and editions. He further considered that as the quotations from the Greek Testament in the works of ecclesiastical writers afford another source of various readings, so the quotations from the Hebrew Bible in the works of Jewish writers are likewise subjects of critical inquiry." To the second volume Kennicott added a Dissertatio Generalis, in which an account is given of the manuscripts and other authorities collated for the work, and also a history of the Hebrew text from the time of the Babylonian captivity. This dissertation, which the best Biblical scholars regard as able and valuable, was reprinted at Brunswick, Germany, in 1783, under the superintendence of professor Bruns. The faults attaching to this great work of Dr. Kennicott are thus summarized by Dr. Davidson
(Biblical Crit. 2d edit.. p. 154 sq.): "He (i.e. Kennicott) neglected the Masorah (q.v.) as if it were wholly worthless. In 'specifying his sources, he is not always consistent or uniform- in his method. Some MSS. are only partially examined. Neither was he very accurate in extracting various readings from his copies. Where several letters are wanting in MSS. there is no remark indicating whether the defect should be remedied, and how. The MSS. corrected by a different hand are rejected without reason. Old synagogue MSS. are neglected, though they would have contributed to the value of the various readings.
Van der Hooght's text is not accurately given, since the marginal keris, the vowel points,' and the accents, have been left out. The Samaritan text should have been given in Samaritan letters, that readers might see the origin of many of the various readings. The edition wants extracts from ancient versions, which is a serious defect. His principles or rules for judging Hebrew MSS., and determining the age, quality, or value, are defective. In applying his copious materials he often errs. He proceeds too much on the assumption that the Masoretic text is corrupt where it differs from the Samaritan Pentateuch and ancient versions, and therefore sets about reforming it where it is authentic and genuine. Yet," Dr. Davidson continues, "there can be no doubt that Kennicott was a most laborious editor. To him belongs the great merit of bringing together a large mass of critical materials. The task of furnishing such an apparatus, drawn from so many sources, scattered through the libraries of many lands, was almost Herculean, and the learned author is entitled to all the praise for its accomplishment." An important Supplement to Kelnicott's Hebrew Bible was published by De Rossi, under the title of Varic Lectiones Veteris Testamenti (Parma, 1784-88,4 vols. 4to, with an Appendix in 1798). The works of Kennicott and De Rossi are, however, too bulky and expensive for general use. An edition of the Hebrew Bible, containing the most important of the various readings in Kennicott's and De Rossi's volumes, was published by Doderlein and Meissner, Leipz. 1793; but the text is incorrectly printed, and the paper is exceedingly bad. A far more correct and elegant edition of the Hebrew Bible, which also contains the most important of Kennicott's and De Rossi's various readings, is that of Jahn (Vienna, 1806,4 vols. 8vo). Dr. Kennicott, during the progress of this work, resided at. Oxford, where he was librarian of the Radcliffe Library after 1767, and canon of Christ Church. He died there Sept. 18, 1783. Kennicott's' other works are, The Duty of Thanksgiving for Peace, etc.
(Lond. 1749, 8vo): — A Word to the Hutchinsonians, etc. (London, 1756, 8vo):-Christian Fortitude: a Sermon on Romans 8:35, 37 (Oxford, 1757, 8vo): — Answer to a Letter from the Rev. T. Rutherford, D.D., F.R.S. (London, 1762, 8vo):-A Sermon preached before the University of Oxford at St. Mary's Church, May 19, 1765 (Oxf. 1765, 8vo): — Observations on 1 Samuel 6:19 (Oxford, 1768, 8vo): — Ten Annual Accounts of the Collation of Hebrew MSS. of the O.Test., 1760-1769 (Oxf. 1770, 8vo).:-Critici Sacri, or Short Introd. to Hebrew Criticism (Lond. 1774, 8vo): — Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum, etc. (Oxonii, 1776-80, 2 vols. fol.): -Dissertatio generalis in Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum, etc. (Oxonii, 1780, fol.): — Epistola ad celeberrimum professorem Joannem Davidem Michaelis, de censura primi tomi Bibliorum Hebraicorum nuper editi, in Bibliotheca ejus Orientali, parte xi (Oxonii, 1777, 8vo): — Editionis Veteris Testamenti Hebraici cum variis lectionibus brevis defensio, contra Ephemeridum Goettingensium criminationes (Oxon. 1782, 8vo): — The Sabbath, a Sermon (Oxf. 1781, 8vo): — Remarks on select Passages in the 0. T., to which are added eight Sermons (Oxford, 1787, 8vo), of which more than one hundred pages are occupied with a translation of thirty-two psalms and critical notes on the entire book. " It is worthy of the author's reputation." See Dr. Paulus, Memorabilia, No. i, p. 191-198; Gentl. Magazine, 1768; North Amer. Review, 10:8 sq.; Walch, Neueste Religionsgesch. i, 319-410; 5:401-536; Eichhorn, Einleitung indas A. T. vol. ii; Darling, Cyclopedia Bibliograph. ii, 1721; English Cyclopaedia; Kitto, Bibl. Cyclopedia, vol. ii, s.v.