Johann Severin Vater
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Johann Severin Vater

Johann Severin Vater (German: ['fa:t?]; May 27, 1771, Altenburg - March 16, 1826, Halle) was a German theologian, biblical scholar, and linguist.[1]


He was a student and professor at Jena and Halle. In 1809, he became professor at Königsberg. In 1820, he resumed his chair at Halle. Although he taught theology, he is chiefly known as a philologist.[2] In 1817, Vater was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society[3]


Following Alexander Geddes, he applied the fragmentary hypothesis to the whole of the Pentateuch, treating it as an aggregate of numerous minor documents that had been compiled together.[4] Vater's major work, Commentar über den Pentateuch was published in three volumes in Halle between 1802 and 1806.[5] This work's primary purpose was to advance the Supplementary Hypothesis against the earlier Documentarian endeavors of Jean Astruc, Johann Gottfried Eichhorn, and Karl David Ilgen. Many of Vater's conclusions - most prominently, his assertion of the late nature of the Pentateuch as compared to the historical books - mirror the independent work of Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette, whose Beiträge zur Einleitung in das Alte Testament was published in 1806-7. Against de Wette, though, Vater supposed, based on historical book allusions to Deuteronomy, that at least some parts of Deuteronomy had existed prior to the collection of the Pentateuch.[6]


Besides the Commentar, his works include:

  • Hebrew grammar (1797)
  • Handbuch der hebräischen, syrischen, chaldäischen und arabischen Grammatik (1801)
  • Polish grammar (1807)
  • Russian grammar (1809)
  • Continuation of Adelung's Mithridates (1809-17)
  • Literatur der Grammatiken, Lexika und Wörtersammlungen aller Sprachen der Erde (1815)

He also edited and continued Henke's Allgemeine Geschichte der christlichen Kirche (1818-23).

Honors and Memberships

Elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1821.[7]


  1. ^ Books in the German National Library Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 25 September 2010
  2. ^ Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). "Vater, Johann Severin" . The American Cyclopædia.
  3. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved .
  4. ^ Joseph Estlin Carpenter and George Harford, The Composition of the Hexateuch (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1902), 73.
  5. ^ Johann Severin Vater, Commentar über den Pentateuch, 3 vols. (Halle, 1802-1805).
  6. ^ John Rogerson, Old Testament Criticism in the Nineteenth Century: England and Germany (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1984), 35.
  7. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory

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