Commentary on the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah

Commentary on the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah

Commentary on the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah

Commentary on the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah

Synopsis

Peter Martyr Vermigli's earliest biblical commentary to survive is his lectures on the Book of Lamentations. As a refugee from Catholic Italy, Martyr sympathises with the Hebrew poet, who looks over the devastation of Jerusalem. The Introduction gives a précis of Christian Hebraism and pays particular attention to the Bomberg Bible. The notes highlight Martyr's allusions to the Jewish commentators of that Bible.

Excerpt

Peter martyr lectures from a rabbinic bible

In 1542 Peter Martyr Vermigli, a refugee from Catholic Italy, arrived in Strasbourg and found work in Martin Bucer’s academy as a lecturer on the Old Testament. Martyr began teaching first the Minor Prophets and then Lamentations. An able Hebraist, he found so many of his students already knew Hebrew that he lectured on the Hebrew text; in an earlier period of the Christian church, Martyr would have had no such students, since knowledge of Hebrew among Christians was restricted to a few specialists. in his classroom, Martyr moved consciously away from the fanciful, often allegorical, exegesis of the Middle Ages and toward the newer, more philological methods of interpretation developed by Renaissance humanists; that is, he sought the most correct text available and its original meaning. the Old Testament text that he used was a so-called Rabbinic Bible, a Hebrew-Aramaic text surrounded by the commentary of medieval Jewish grammarians such as Rashi and Ibn Ezra. These grammarians had, in their own scholarly communities, introduced philological exegesis almost half a millennium earlier. Martyr expected his Christian students to follow him when he cited or alluded to the Jewish grammarians’ discussions of difficult points in the Hebrew text.

in a letter to his former congregation at Lucca, written soon after his arrival in Strasbourg, Martyr writes: “Because many in this academy know Hebrew, I expound the Hebrew text in Latin.” See lls, 98; hereafter Donnelly’s translation of this early biography is referred to as, Simler, lls. Simler first published Oratio de vita & obitu … Petri Mar tyris Vermilii in 1563. For Hebraism as an elistist phenomenon, see Jerome Friedman, The Most Ancient Testimony: Sixteenth-Century Christian-Hebraica in the Age of Renaissance Nos talgia (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1983), 13–14.

For a fuller description of this Bible and Martyr’s personal copy of it, see “The Rabbinic (Bomberg) Bibles,” p. xxvi below.

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