Often referred to as the "father of Biblical criticism"; b. Dieppe, May 13, 1638; d. there, April 11, 1712. Simon, of a middle-class working family, completed the course of studies at the collège of Dieppe with distinction, lived some time in Paris, and then, in 1662, entered the Congregation of the Oratory. He became regent of philosophy at the collège of Juilly, was ordained on Sept. 20, 1670, and then took up residence at the Oratory in Paris on the Rue Saint-Honoré. After a period in which he applied himself to the study of the Eastern Churches and Judaism, he published his Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (Paris 1678). This work provoked the opposition of J. B. bossuet and of many other theologians, both Catholic and Protestant, and led to his expulsion from the Oratory. In retirement, first at Bolleville (in the Diocese of Rouen), he published several works under pseudonyms: Histoire de l'origine et des progrès des revenus ecclésiastiques (Frankfort 1684), Histoire critique du texte du N.T. (Rotterdam 1689), Histoire critique des versions du N.T. (Rotterdam 1690), Histoire critique des principaux commentateurs du N.T. (Rotterdam 1693), Le N.T. de N.S.J.-C. traduit sur l'ancienne édition latine, avec des remarques littérales et critiques (Trévoux 1702), and others.
Exceptionally learned in a number of fields (Biblical criticism, Eastern languages and literature, history of ecclesiastical institutions), Simon was clearly gifted with
rare genius for critical study. Working independently of B. Spinoza and animated by a quite different spirit, he alone of the Christians of his time discovered and attempted to resolve the problem of the composition of the Pentateuch. In spite of his deep and genuine attachment to the Catholic faith, many regarded his views with suspicion. He had no disciples, and his work had no influence on the history of exegesis.
Bibliography: a. bernus, "Richard Simon" in Essai de bibliographie oratorienne, ed. a. ingold (Paris 1880–82). j. steinmann, Richard Simon et les origines de l'exégèse biblique (Bruges 1960).