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Pedersen, Johannes°


PEDERSEN, JOHANNES ° (1883–1951), Danish Semitist, religious historian, and biblical scholar. He studied Semitic philology under Frants Buhl, the reviser of Gesenius' Lexicon. From 1916 to 1921 Pedersen was a lecturer on the Old Testament, and from 1921 to 1950 professor of Semitic philology, at Copenhagen University. Among his works on Semitic philology are a Hebrew grammar (Hebraeisk Grammatik, 1926), a treatise of fundamental importance on the Keret (Kirta) text (cos i, 333–43) from Ras Shamra (Die Krt-Legende, 1941), and a translation and commentary on the Phoenician language Karatepe texts (in: Acta Orientalia, 21 (1950–53), 35–56). He also published a number of treatises on Islam in Danish. Of singular importance are Pedersen's achievements in biblical research. In 1920 he published the first volume of Israel (Israel: Its Life and Culture, Eng. tr., 1926), in which he endeavors to describe Israelite thinking and social life in terms of the mentality and behavior of a primitive civilization, thus making an attempt to extricate himself from the preconceived theological and philosophic notions that have influenced the interpretation of the old Israelite texts since Hellenistic times. In the second volume, published in 1934 (Eng. tr., 1940), Pedersen traces the development of Israelite civilization from the period of Judges until the Exile. The foundation of the religious development was the spontaneous experience of a cooperation between the divine forces and man himself; with David, purposefulness took the place of spontaneity in the relation to God, and the deity was looked upon as the strong will of personality. The preaching of the prophets emphasized the overwhelming greatness of God and the inferiority of man, thus preparing the way for Judaism's ideas of God and man. From the point of view of social development, the contact with the Canaanite way of life and urbanization resulted in a crisis in the ancient pattern of life.

In Israel and in his articles "Die Auffassung vom Alten Testament" (in: zaw, 49 (1931), 161–81) and "Passahfest und Passahlegende" (ibid., 52 (1934), 161–76), Pedersen condemned Higher Criticism's distinction of sources in the Pentateuch. He does not deny that there are discernible layers in the Pentateuch, yet he maintains that these cannot be distinguished and dated: "All sources are both pre-Exilic and post-Exilic." In 1931 Pedersen published Scepticisme israélite, a study of Ecclesiastes, and in Festschriften to Mowinckel (1955, pp. 62–72) and Rowley (1955, pp. 238–46), he shed light on the problems behind Genesis 2–3, with the help of late Jewish texts and old Oriental myths, especially the Adapa myth written in Akkadian (cos i, 449).


Two festschriften published in honor of Pedersen's 60th and 70th birthdays: Mélanges d'histoire des religions… J. Pedersen, 1–3 (1944–47); Studia Orientalia Joanni Pedersen (1953). add. bibliography: H. Ringgren, in: dbi, 2:254–55.

[Eduard Nielson]

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