GROTIUS, HUGO (HUIG VAN GROOT):
Dutch Christian diplomat, theologian, and scholar; born at Delft, Holland, April 10, 1583; died at Rostock, Germany, Aug. 28, 1645. In the religious combat between the Gomarists and Arminians Grotius was a follower of Arminius. When in 1619 the Arminians were thrown into prison, he was sentenced to imprisonment for life, and escaped in 1621 only through a stratagem of his wife. He believedall his life in the doctrines of Arminius, and expounded his master's views in his religious writings, which were collected after his death in his "Opera Omnia Theologica," Amsterdam, 1679.
In 1644 appeared in Paris in three volumes his "Annotationes in Vetus Testamentum," including the Apocrypha (ed. Döderlein, Halle, 1775-76). This great work was at first read by the Arminians only; but it soon became well known through its philological-historical character.
In the course of his religious researches Grotius, through Isaac Vossius, became acquainted with Manasseh ben Israel. He corresponded with Manasseh, asking many questions concerning the Hebrew language, literature, and interpretation of the Old Testament. Manasseh answered his inquiries, and the two exchanged many letters.
Not being a theologian proper, Grotius was not bound by any dogmatic views; and his explanations of sentences and phrases are consequently based entirely upon the original text itself. The Jewish exegetes became known to Grotius through Manasseh ben Israel; and he frequently cites and follows them in his annotations. He often mentions that the Hebrew scholars explain a sentence as he does; and even where he differs from them he gives their views. It was a favorite accusation against Grotius' commentary that he Judaized, or followed Jewish rather than Christian methods of exegesis. It is possible that Grotius knew of Manasseh's plan to induce Queen Christina of Sweden to open north Scandinavia to the Jews, as he was Swedish ambassador at Paris from 1635 to 1645.
Grotius highly esteemed Manasseh, whom he compares with Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, and Abravanel. He studied his works, and was much impressed by them. Especially was Manasseh's "Conciliador" (Amsterdam, 1641) admired by Grotius. In a letter to Manasseh he says: "I implore you to spend all your spare time in explaining the Law. You will do a great favor to all scholars" ("Grotii Epistolæ," No. 564, Amsterdam, 1687). Again, in a letter to Vossius under date of Oct. 30, 1638: "Manasseh, whom I wish well, is a man of great usefulness to the state and to science" (ib. No. 476). Writing from Paris, he says: "His books, which I know, are much read and highly thought of here."
- Encyc. Brit. s.v.;
- Schaff-Herzog, Encyc. s.v.;
- Graetz, History of the Jews (Am. transl.), v. 21, 22, Philadelphia, 1895;
- Adler, A Homage to Manasseh ben Israel, in Trans. Jew Hist. Soc. Engl. 1893-94, i., London, 1895;
- Kayserling, Menasse ben Israel, in Jahrbuch für die Gesch. der Juden, ii., Leipsic, 1861;
- Grotii Epistolœ, Nos. 390, 423, 452, 454, 476, 564, 570, Amsterdam, 1687;
- Grotii Epistolœ Ineditœ (supplement to the foregoing), Leyden, 1809.