Munster, Sebastian

Munster, Sebastian a German theologian and Hebraist, who identified himself with the Reformers, but exerted an influence only as a scholar, was born in 1489 at Ingelheim, in the Palatinate. At sixteen years of age he went to Tubingen, where Stapfer and Reuchlin became his teachers. He then joined the Order of the Franciscans; but, brought in contact with Luther, he quitted the convent and embraced Protestantism. He was elected professor of Hebrew and theology at the University of Heidelberg, and subsequently at that of Basle, where he died of the plague in 1552. Besides being an eminent Hebraist, he was also an excellent mathematician; yet his erudition is hardly more praised by his contemporaries than his modesty. His tombstone bears the inscription, "Germanorum Esdras hie Straboque conditur." He was a sweet-tempered, pacific, studious, retired man, who wrote a great number of books, but never meddled in controversy; all which considered, his going early over to Luther must seem somewhat extraordinary. And vet he was one of the first who attached himself to Luther; but he seems to have done it with little or none of that zeal which distinguished the early Reformers, for he never concerned himself with their disputes, but shut himself up in his study, and busied himself in such pursuits as were most agreeable to his humor; and these were the Hebrew and other Oriental languages, the mathematics, and natural philosophy. His works are, Biblia Hebraica Charactere Singulari apud Judeos Germanos in usu recepto, cum Latina planeque Nova Translatione, adjectis insuper e Rabbinorum Commentariis Annotationibus, etc. (Basle, 1534-35, fol.; reprinted in 2 volumes, fol. in 1546, with considerable additions and corrections). This version is considered much more faithful and exact than those of Pagninus and Arias Montanus, and his notes are generally approved, though he dwells a little too long upon the comments of the rabbins. For this version he received the appellation of "the German Esdras:" — Grammatica Chaldaica (4to): — Dictionarium Chaldaicum non tam ad Chaldaicos interpretes, quam ad Rabbinorum intelligenda Commentaria necessarium (4to): — Dictionarium Trilingue (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, fol.): —

Captivitates Judeorum incerti autoris (Hebrew and Latin, 8vo): — Calendarium bibl. Hebr., ex Hebraeorum penetralibus editum: — Higgaion, logica R. Simeonis, Latine versa: — Institutiones Grammaticae in Hebr. linguam: — Grammatica Ebraea: — Institutio elem. Gramm. Hebr.: — Hebraicae Institutiones: Catalogus omnium praeceptorum legis Mosaiae, quae ab Hebraeis sexcenta et octodecies numerantur, cum succincta Rabbinorum expositione et additione traditionum, etc. (Hebrew and Latin, 8vo): — Organum Uranicum; theorica omnium planetarum motus, canones (fol.): — Cosmographia Universalis (1544, fol., translated into German, French, Italian, English, Bohemian, and other languages). It is one of the first universal geographies published in modern times, and is remarkably well executed considering the age in which it was written. The author is most diffuse in treating of Germany and Switzerland. He gives a description of the principal towns, their history, the laws, manners, and arts of the people; the remarkable animals of the country; the productions of the soil, the mines, etc.; and the whole is illustrated by wood-cuts, with a portrait of the author. Munster mentions several learned men of his time who furnished him with an account of their respective countries, of Sardinia, the Illyricum, etc. He also gives specimens of several languages: — Rudimenta mathematica in duos libros digesta: — Horaologiographia (being a treatise of gnomonics). Munster also translated into Latin several works of the learned Hebrew grammarian, Elias Levita, on the Massorah and on Hebrew grammar. He also wrote notes on Pomponius Mela and Solinus. His commentaries upon several books of the Old Testament are inserted among the Critici Sacri. See Brucker, Ehrentempel der teutschen Gelehrsamkeif, page 137 sq.; Schrockh, Kirchengesch. s.d. Ref. 5:72, 92 sq.; Adam, Vite Philos. Germ. page 66 sq.; Rosenmuller, Handb. f.d. Lit. d. bibl. Kritik u. Exegese, 5:224 sq.; Gieseler, Ecclesiastes Hist. (Harper's ed.) volume 4. (J.H.W.)

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