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Cocceius (Koch), Johannes°


COCCEIUS (Koch) , JOHANNES ° (1603–1669), Bible scholar and Orientalist. German by birth, he studied philology, theology, and philosophy at Bremen (1620) and from 1626 onwards Hebrew and Oriental languages in Franeker under the tutelage of Sixtinus Amama, one of the initiators of rabbinical studies in the Dutch Republic. Cocceius taught philologia sacra in Bremen (1630) and Hebrew in Franeker (1636; after 1643 also theology). From 1650 until his death in 1669 he held the theology chair at Leiden University. Before his academic studies he took private lessons in Hebrew with a Jew in Hamburg. Cocceius is also known to have had contacts with Rabbi Jacob *Abendana, who worked with his younger brother Isaac on the first translation of the Mishnah into European languages. Cocceius's writings include commentaries on all the books of the Bible, works on philology and dogmatics, including his famous Summa doctrinae de foedere et testamento Dei (1648), in which he presented the concept of covenant as a hermeneutical key for the interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. In opposition to the Orthodox Reformed, his followers formed a theological school known as "Cocceians." His inaugural lecture at Leiden (1650) concerned reasons for Jewish disbelief in Christianity and endorsed the traditional Christian expectation of the imminent conversion of the Jews. In another work entitled Consideratio responsionis judaicae ad viginti tres quaestiones, et quaestionum repositarum (Amsterdam, 1662) he discussed the responses of a Portuguese Jew to 23 questions posed by a Roman Catholic. On the initiative of Amama Cocceius had produced (1629) an edition of two tracts of the Mishnah – Sanhedrin and Makkot – together with extracts from the relevant gemara. Each separate mishnah is printed in Hebrew with a parallel Latin translation and notes. In the Hebrew text Cocceius used small circles to indicate those views in the Mishnah which are valid halakhah, for which he used the survey of the Kaf Naḥat. Cocceius's interest in Judaism as a living legal system was rather uncommon among Christian Hebraists of the 17th century. In the foreword he described the usefulness of rabbinical literature for a better knowledge of Hebrew and a good understanding of the Law of Moses. His main achievement was his Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon (Leiden, 1669). His collected works (Opera Omnia, Amsterdam, 1673–75) contain a biography written by his son, Johann Heinrich Cocceius.

add. bibliography:

W.J. van Asselt, The Federal Theology of Johannes Cocceius, 1603–1669 (2001), incl. bibl.; P.T. van Rooden, Theology, Biblical Scholarship and Rabbinical Studies in the Seventeenth Century (1989), 119–24; J.C.H. Lebram, in: Th. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer and G.H.M. Posthumus Meyjes (eds.), Leiden University in the Seventeenth Century: An Exchange of Learning (1975), 21–63.

[Raphael Loewe /

W. J. van Asselt (2nd ed.)]

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