Pococke, Edward°

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POCOCKE, EDWARD ° (1604–1691), English Orientalist and Hebraist. In 1630–36, as Anglican chaplain to the English merchants in Aleppo, Syria, Pococke was able to perfect his knowledge of Arabic, Syriac, and Ethiopic, to translate Arab historical works, and to collect the Greek and Oriental manuscripts (bought with funds provided by Archbishop William Laud) which now constitute the Pococke collection in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. On his return to England in 1636 Pococke was appointed to a chair of Arabic at Oxford especially created for him by Laud. In 1640 Pococke found himself almost dispossessed because of his royalist sympathies and friendship with the unpopular archbishop. However, the eminent Puritan Hebraist John *Selden befriended Pococke, who was reappointed to the chair of Arabic at Oxford in 1647; in the following year he was also made regius professor of Hebrew and canon of Christ Church.

Pococke was an outstanding English Hebraist and one of the leading Orientalists of the age. His share in the preparation of Bryan *Walton's London Polyglot Bible (1657) was unmatched by any other editor: He prepared the Arabic text of the Pentateuch; provided manuscript texts of the Syriac Old Testament, the Ethiopic version of Psalms, and two Syriac manuscripts of Psalms; and also prepared parts of the Syriac New Testament with annotations and a Latin translation. Pococke's biblical scholarship may also be gauged from other works, such as his English commentaries on some of the Minor Prophets (Micah and Malachi, 1677; Hosea, 1685; Joel, 1691), which display familiarity with rabbinic exegesis and wide knowledge of Christian commentators (*Calvin, *Muenster, *Pellicanus). Among his other notable works are two translations of *Maimonides: Porta Mosis (Oxford, 1655), an annotated edition of six sections of the Mishnah commentary with the Arabic text in Hebrew characters and a Latin translation (this was the first Hebrew book printed in Oxford and at the university's expense); and a Latin version of Maimonides' preface to the Mishnah (Oxford, 1690). Pococke also cultivated friendly relations with Jews in the East (he studied with Judah Romano in Constantinople).

Of his two sons, the elder, edward pococke (1648–1726), was also an Orientalist; the younger, thomas pococke, issued an English translation of *Manasseh Ben Israel's treatise De termino vitae on free will and predestination, entitled Of the Term of Life… with the Sense of the Jewish Doctors (London, 1699).


L. Twells, in: E. Pococke, Theological Works (1740); G.H. Box, in: E.R. Bevan and C. Singer (eds.), Legacy of Israel (1927), 353–5; C. Roth, in: Bodleian Library Record, 2 no. 27 (1948), 215–9; I. Abrahams, in: jhset, 8 (1915–17), 105. add. bibliography: odnb online.

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman]