GESENIUS, HEINRICH FRIEDRICH WILHELM:
Christian Hebraist and Orientalist; born at Nordhausen Feb. 3, 1786; died Oct. 23, 1842. At first devoting his attention to classical studies, he became a teacher at Heiligenstadt in 1809, but in the following year was appointed assistant professor of theology at Halle, where he remained active till his death. There he exercised remarkable influence on the study of the Hebrew language and on the exegesis of the Old Testament, which he helped to place on a purely philological foundation. Besides publishing various works on Semitic languages (e.g., "Versuch über die Maltesische Sprache," 1810, on Maltese; "Paläographische Studien über Phönizische und Punische Schrift," 1835; and "Scripturæ Linguæque Phœniciæ Monumenta," 1837, on Punic and Phenician), he devoted himself to Hebrew grammar and lexicography. His first lexicographical work was a "Handwörterbuch" in two volumes, 1810-12; a shorter edition appeared in 1814, which became the standard Hebrew dictionary, not alone for Germany, but also for the English-speaking world—the English editions by Robinson, Tregelles, and the Oxford improved edition by Briggs, Brown, and Driver being the main sources of Hebrew lexicography. (See
- Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, s.v.;
- Cheyne, Founders of Old Testament Criticism, pp. 53-65.