Simon, Richard

Simon, Richard, a French Hebrew scholar, was born at Dieppe May 13, 1638. He entered the Congregation of the Oratory in 1662, and soon distinguished himself in Oriental studies. He taught philosophy first at Juillvy and then at Paris, where he employed himself in forming a catalogue of the numerous and valuable Oriental MSS. in the library of the Oratory, and thence making collections which assisted him greatly in his subsequent labors. From the beginning of his career he was distinguished by a boldness of thought and Acton which is rarely found in members of his communion and the first work of magnitude which he attempted was prompted by the offer of 12,000 livres by the Protestants of Charenton for a new translation of the Bible in place of that of Geneva, which was objected to as antiquated and obscure. But his plan of a version which should be equally acceptable to Protestants and Roman Catholics had no result except to bring upon him the rebukes of his Roman Catholic brethren. His celebrity is chiefly owing to his Critical History of the Old Test., first published in 1678. In the course of this work he denies that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, and attributes its compilation to scribes of the time of Esdras, acting under the direction of the Great Synagogue. So daring a criticism could not fail to excite the alarm of his censor Pirot, and the book was by him submitted to Bossuet, who obtained an order from the chancellor to forbid its publication until more rigorously examined. The result of the examination was a decree of council suppressing the work, and ordering all copies of it to be destroyed. One of these escaped, and was the basis of a defective edition published by the Elzevirs in Holland. A Latin translation by Aubert de Verse is still more defective. But a very correct edition, with preface, apology, marginal notes, and controversial tracts, was published at Rotterdam in 1685 by Raineer Leers. An English translation was published in London in 1682. In consequence of his views, Simon was compelled in 1678 to quit the Oratory, and retired to the village of Belleville in Normandy, of which he had been appointed curate in 1676. In 1682 he resigned this charge and went to Paris, where he occupied himself entirely in literary labor. He finally returned to Dieppe, where he died of fever April 11, 1712. He bequeathed his MSS. to the cathedral of Rouen. Besides the above work, Simon published a large number of others, chiefly on Biblical subjects, which are enumerated in Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, s.v.

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