Nordheimer, Isaac, Phd

Nordheimer, Isaac, Ph.D, one of the most noted Hebraists of modern times, and a philosopher of no mean order, was born of Jewish parents, in 1809, at Memelsdorf, a village not far from Erlangen, Germany. He received the rudiments of his education at a Jewish school of his native place, and having acquired that proficiency in Jewish learning which fitted him to become a rabbi, young Nordheimer, in 1828, entered himself at the Gymnasium of Wurzburg, to acquire a knowledge of classical literature, theology, and philosophy, in accordance with the demands made in the present day of a Jewish public teacher. After remaining two years in the gymnasium, he was transferred (1830) to the University of Wurzburg," which he left in 1832, and went to complete his studies at the high school in Munich, where he tooklhis degree as doctor of philosophy in the autumn of 1834, and afterwards sustained, pro forma, the public examination required of Jewish theologians. Assured by two American pupils, who took private lessons of him in 1832, that he could find a pleasant home in the United States of America, and more rapidly secure positions of trust and influence, Nordheimer left his home in 1835 for America, and arrived in New York in the summer of the same year. He soon received from the university of that city the nominal appointment as professor of Arabic and other Oriental languages, and acting professor of Hebrew. He also soon after received the appointment of instructor in the Union Theological Seminary, New York City, though he remained steadfast to the faith of his forefathers. His great learning, and especially his mastery of the Hebrew tongue, made him a desirable instructor and associate. He was the teacher of many divines now eminent in this country, and enjoyed the companionship of Dr. Alexander, Robinson, Stuart, and other noted Biblical scholars. He died Nov. 3, 1842. On his way to this country, on shipboard, Nordheimer had begun the construction of a Hebrew grammar on a philosophical basis. In 1838 he brought out the first volume of it, and in 1841 the second volume (2d ed. with additions and improvements, N. Y. 1842, 2 vols. 8vo). In a review of this work, Prof. Alexander writes: "This new work requires no painful effort of memory to keep its parts in order; the perusal in it of the most thorny part of Hebrew grammar opens a vista superior in clearness, extent, and beauty to that exhibited by any other writer. Nothing but the fear of being thought to deal in sweeping panegyric prevents our speaking in the highest terms" (Princet. Rep. [1858] 10:197 sq.). Home (in his Bibl. Bib. [1839] p. 197 sq.) does not hesitate to pronounce it "'the most elaborate and philosophical Hebrew grammar in the English language." The truth is, Nordheimer had made discoveries in the formative laws of language generally, and thus he was able to master the intricate Hebrew, and to simplify its study. He reduced the Hebrew declensions from Stuart's thirteen and Gesenius's nine to four; entered into the working and make-up of the verb, and accounted for the irregular ones on the ground that the regular verbs could not, without violation of all proper laws of speech, reduplicate their consonants sufficiently, especially when guttural, to give the intensive sense required, and that therefore new ones, called irregular, but normally constituted, had to appear. Similar explanations as to the changes in other parts of the verb, and in all parts of the Hebrew speech, lifted the obscurity from the language of the ancient writings, and made its study an intellectual pleasure and profit. Besides this great work, he published A Grammatical Analysis of Select Portions of Scripture, or a Chrestomathy (1838): — The Philosophy of Ecclesiastes, being an Introduction to the Book of Ecclesiastes, in the Biblical Repository (July, 1838). Of this work Prof. Rood, who was for ten years president of the theological seminary at Gilmanton, N. H., writes: "I think Nordheimer's masterly power, that in which he excelled other writers — such as the Kimchis, Ewald, Gesenius, and Prof. Stuart — consisted in the magnificent ease and absolute perfection of his analyses. I think that this talent was so much a part of his nature that he may have been quite unconscious of it. When his mind turned itself in a direction that called for the exercise of this faculty, it seemed like an eagle soaring over the heights, and yet peering into all below. He could separate elements, and throw aside all but the indispensable." He also contributed several valuable articles to the Biblical Repository. Dr. Nordheimer also left the following works in MS.: A Chaldee and Syriac Grammar, in German: — Arabic Grammar, in German: — A larger Arabic Grammar, in English: — A Translation and Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes, in German: — Hebrew Concordance, incomplete: — Philological Memoranda, etc. It is to be greatly regretted that Nordheimer did not live to complete his Concordance; the little of it extant proves. the master-mind that conceived it, and gives promise of a great and valuable work. Like his grammar, it would have brought honor to American scholarship. We are glad to say that He prided himself in his new country, and honored his scholarly associates. His criticisms on Roy's Hebrew Lexicon in the Biblical Repository (April, 1838), art. 6, in which he takes occasion to condemn that book because it may prove "a reproach to the literary character of the country in which it was produced" (p. 490), evince that he delighted to be counted a contributor to American literary history. See Dr. Robinson, in the Bibliotheca Sacra (1843), p. 389-390; Mill, Reminiscences of Dr. Isaac Nordheiner, in the New-Englander (July, 1874), art. 4. See also Allibone, Dict. Brit. and Amer. Auth. s.v.

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