Samuel Lee, D.D.
Please Allow a Special Introduction to PreteristArchives.org’s
Number One All-Time Preterist:
Samuel Lee, D.D.
PROFESSOR OF HEBREW AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
“Father of Syriac Studies in Britain” – Canon of Bristol
“I was fully aware of the difference in our views on Prophecy. You, I know, are a Preterist” G.S. Faber to Lee in 1846
“ALL PROPHECY IS FULFILLED”
Yet Not Full Pret, in that the Second Resurrection is Not Past
“It is scarcely possible not to perceive the allusion here made to Rom. vi. 3-—6 : and Col. ii. 12, 13, which again brings before us, in terms a little different, the prophetic and apostolic doctrine of a new creation, in the newness of mind and of life, so inculcated. But the Apostle Paul carries the Resurrection, here supposed to be realized in the baptized Believer, onward to its intended issue; namely, the final resurrection of the dead: and, what is most remarkable, he argues from the certainty of the first, as a thing to be taken for granted, to that of the last. His words are, ” What shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all. Why, repeats he, ” are they then baptized for the dead i.e. in behalf of their own dead bodies, if there be no final resurrection of these ? As if he should say, This symbolical rite, representing to us the cleansing and renewing powers of Christianity, and admitting us to a full participation in them,—to be cultivated moreover continually, and under all the other means— likewise holds out to us, as its intended issue and end, the resurrection to eternal life: i.e. the certainty of the first implies the certainty of the last. Something more than the symbol must here, therefore, have been taught by the Apostle: i. e. the means of a spiritual resurrection now secured to the baptized person. But see this argument followed out in a Tract, entitled, ” Why are they then baptized for the dead” by the Rev. J. Blackburne, Cambridge, 1850. (Events and Times, pp. 58-59)
“I think probable, that at no very distant day my views, and those of the early Church, may prevail.”
“We cannot humble ourselves too much, we cannot love Christ too much, we cannot depend too much upon Him, nor cast our cares too implicitly and fully upon Him, nor indeed can we rejoice too much in His power, readiness and willingness to “save to the uttermost all those who come” to Him by faith.’ “
Plus Two Dissertations ; with an original Exposition of the Book of Revelation.
the second on the interpretation of prophecy generally, with an original exposition of the book of Revelation, shewing that the whole of that remarkable prophecy has long ago been fulfilled.
Rev. Samuel Lee
Arabic Professor Cambridge
1816. — The Syriac New Testament.
1817-18. — Edited the Malay Scriptures, Arabic and Coptic Psalter and Gospels, translated Genesis into Persian, superintended the Hindustani Prayer-Book, and Morning and Evening Prayers in Persic.
1820. — A New Zealand Grammar.
1821. — A Letter to Mr J. Bellamy on his new Translation of the Bible, with some Strictures on a Tract, entitled ‘Remarks,’ etc., Oxford, 1820.
1821-22– A Vindication of Certain Strictures on a Pamphlet entitled ‘Remarks,’ etc., Oxford, 1820, in answer to ‘A Reply,’ etc., Oxford, 1821.
1823. — The Syriac Old Testament.
1824. — Controversial Tracts on Christianity and Mahommedanism, by Henry Martyn, and some of the most Eminent Writers of Persia, translated and explained, to which is appended an additional Tract on the same question ; and in a Preface, Some Account of a Former Controversy on this Subject, with Extracts from it.
1827;–A Grammar of the Hebrew Language.
1828.–A Grammar of the Persian Language, by Sir W. Jones, Revised, with considerable additions.
1829.–Prolegomena in Biblia Polyglotta Bagsteriana.
1829.–The Travels of Ibn Batuta, translated from the abridged Arabic MS. copies, with Notes.
1830.–Six Sermons on the Study of the Holy Scriptures : their nature, interpretation, and some of their most important doctrines : preached before the University of Cambridge, in the years 1827-8 : to which are annexed two dissertations, the first on the reasonableness of the orthodox views of Christianity, as opposed to the rationalism of Germany : the second on the interpretation of prophecy generally, with an original exposition of the book of Revelation, shewing that the whole of that remarkable prophecy has long ago been fulfilled. Hamilton Circulating Coll. BS415.L43 1830 – “This did not occur to me when I wrote my Exposition on this book. I then followed Dr. Hammond, erroneously placing these powers beyond the limit assigned to them by Daniel and St. John.” (Dissertation on Eusebius)
A Review of Lee by J. Nisbet (1832)
1832.–Grammar of the Hebrew Language, second edition.
1837.–A Translation of the Book of Job, with an Introduction and Commentary.
1840.–A Lexicon, Hebrew, Chaldee and English.
1841.–Grammar of the Hebrew Language, third edition.
MOST HEAVILY PRETERIST INFLUENCED PUBLICATIONS
1842.–Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, on the Theophania, or Divine Manifestation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. A Syriac Version. Edited from an ancient manuscript recently discovered by S. Lee. Syriac. London: Society for the Publication of Oriental Texts (1842). 8o. Printed in the Peshito Character. **
1842-3.–The Prayer-Book, translated into Arabic. 1843.–A Translation of the ‘Theophania,’ by Eusebius.
1843.–Tracts on Tithes.
1849.–A Letter to G. S. Faber, B.D., containing an Interpretation of 2 Peter iii.
1849.–A Letter to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Glo’ster and Bristol.
1849-51.–The New Testament translated into Arabic, and the Old as far as Numbers.
** “EVER since his translation of Eusebius’s ‘Theophania,’ my father’s mind had been more or less occupied on the subject of Prophecy, and he became convinced that the views which he entertained, known as the Preterist, were those held by the early Church. The subject was one of absorbing interest to him during the few last years of his life, and as a child I can remember the animated conversations between him and my mother on Prophecy in their walks about our beautiful garden, or in the leisure of meal times, she holding the more general and popular opinions of the restoration of the Jews to their own land, etc. “
“These predictions so limited, therefore, were fulfilled to the very letter : and the facts of the case make it utterly impossible they can be fulfilled again.” (vi)
“We have in Daniel a Persecutor foretold under the symbol of a Little horn. This, every respectable Commentator has seen, must mean the heathen Roman Empire. But, as it has not been also seen, that all so foretold took place under that Empire, it has been imagined that PAPAL ROME must be meant, i.e., heathen Rome, drawn out as it were and continued in Papal Rome.” (i)
“We are next told that, then should the People of the Prince who should come, destroy both the city and the sanctuary. I now know therefore, that, some time after the cutting off of the Messiah, Jerusalem should fall. But I know when this took place : and, therefore, that it happened within Daniel’s seventieth week, as I also do, that this event cannot take place again” (iii)
“My answer is, as these charges are the mere assumptions of a very plausible, pious, but weak man, I have a right also to assume, that they are entitled to no farther notice or reply from me.” (vii)
“As we know of but one great promise made to the Fathers, which the coming of Christ was intended to fulfil, it should follow that, — as the Bible is necessarily consistent with itself, — event ministration of the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, would in one way or other be subservient to its fulfillment : and this again, would have the effect of exhibiting in the Scriptures one plain, consistent and invariable system : and, accordingly, that how numerous and various soever the modes of expression adopted might be, all would in the main conspire to put forth, declare, and illustrate, the particulars of this one great events. (xiv.)
“According to (I Peter 1:12), the Prophet ministered to nothing beyond Apostolical Christianity. They do not seem — i.e. as explained to us by the Apostles — to have had any idea whatever of a future restoration of Jews, Christian Millennium, new Dispensation, personal reign of Christ on earth, or of any think of the kind.” (xv)
And again, St. Peter (Acts ii. 17, seq.) applies a place, here (Joel ii.28) to this very period generally : i.e. the seventieth week of Daniel. These predictions apply, therefore, to these particular times : and the destroying army, so described, must necessarily be that of heathen Rome ; and the destruction mentioned, that of Jerusalem.” (xl)
“As the law was a shadow of good things to come, and as the Prophets ministered under it for our edification, let us be careful in duly separating its shadows, types, &c., from the realities, antitypes, &c., which these shadowed out. Christianity being a purely spiritual system, can in no way amalgamate with the carnal one of Judaism.” (xlvii)
(On Daniel 8:13 and the “Little Horn”)
11 By him the daily sacrifice was to be taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was to be cast down.
12 And an army was to be given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, (i.e., because the transgressors had now come to the full: see note, page 165,) and it cast the truth to the ground, and it practiced and prospered.
13 How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?
14 The answer is, unto 2300 days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
“The wording of the Hebrew is peculiar here and highly deserving of remark. It stands literally thus, — “Until (the) evening (and) morning, or it may be until the evening of the morning, two thousand and three hundred, and the sanctuary (lit. holiness) shall be sanctified.” Evening and morning, I take here to be a mere periphrasis for a day; and so our translators have taken it, Genesis 1:5. The day here had in view must mark the period of Daniel’s seventieth week — the numbers given above must be understood indefinitely, and as intended to designate a considerable length of time. This consummation could not be effected by Antiochus Epiphanes: he only suspended the service of the Temple for about three years and a half. By every consideration, therefore, it is evident that the Little Horn of Daniel’s seventh and eighth chapters, is identically the same, and that this symbolized that system of Roman rule which ruined Jerusalem, and then made war upon the sainted servants and followers of the Son of man; and in this he prospered and practiced, until he in his turn fell, as did his predecessors, to rise no more at all. (An Inquiry into the Nature, Progress, and End of Prophecy, p. 168.)
“Of one thing I think I may say I am certain, viz., that I am not wrong in the main, that my system is good, and hence, I have no doubt, it will first or last prevail. Its results are certainly good. I care not, therefore, for the present popularity of the opposite view.” (Letter to brother, May 2, 1850)
“I know that many — no matter how right or wrong — will not take the trouble to investigate a question of so large an amount as that of prophecy, merely for the truth’s sake. Others would rather accept a system which seems to promise so much that is glorious than be convinced that it is not true. ” (July 27, 1850)
If so, I believe I shall be made the honoured instrument in the hands of Him who has, of His mercy, done so much for me, of more effectually arresting the progress of doubt as to the inspiration of the Scriptures than I had ever imagined, or perhaps than anyone hitherto has.’ (July 27, 1850)
(On the Restoration of the Jews)
“On this question much need not be said, for if the events of prophecy have all been fulfilled, and were so fulfilled upon the establishment of the Christian Church, as already shown, every hope of a restoration of the Jews to Palestine must be groundless and futile. Besides, it must be most incongruous to look for the temporalities of the Old Testament under the New, in which we are taught that there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all. That neither on Mount Gerizim, nor in Jerusalem exclusively, should the Father be worshipped, but that wherever there was a real spiritual child of Abraham there should be a temple of God the Holy Ghost. And, let it be remembered, this was the doctrine which the Apostles themselves felt the greatest difficulty in receiving, met the greatest in its propagation, and laboured most anxiously and constantly to preserve entire from commixture with Jewish notions. . . . In this case, then, as before, nothing short of a new revelation and a new dispensation can justify the expectation of any such things as these. Whether we are to expect any such new light and new appointment, I leave it to others to determine. I can find no such things foretold. I conclude on this question, therefore, that no restoration of Jews, either to temporal or spiritual exclusive privileges, is to be expected ; that all such expectation is groundless; and, what is worse, that it tends only to confirm Jewish prejudices, which have hitherto proved all but invincible without it; and further, that those who are so anxiously pressing it are unwarily calling into exercise a power more than equal to all their better efforts to the contrary. To call the Jews to a belief in Christ is a legitimate work of Christian faith and love. It is that which our Lord commanded, and it is that in which the Apostles persevered to the utmost. Circumstanced as the Jews now are, they are “strangers to the covenants of promise, they are without hope and without God in the world.’ They are as branches broken off and dissevered from the stock of Abraham ; and it is faith in the Redeemer alone which can graft them in and make them the spiritual seed of Abraham, the fleshly descent availing nothing whatever under the New Covenant. To this end it is the duty of the Christian Church to labour; and in this work there are the best grounds for believing that their labour shall not be in vain.’
‘TRIN. COLL., CAMB.,
‘Oct. 3, 1843.
(On Romans 8:28-30)
‘It is with great pleasure and thankfulness that I sit down to write my last Sunday bulletin for this year. I have indeed much to be thankful for |210 that I have been enabled to get through my duties with so much ease and comfort to myself. My sermon was on Rom. viii. 28, 29, 30 ; rather a long and comprehensive text. My object was to show that the predestination here was that of prophecy, or promise, to be fulfilled in all believers under the New Covenant, just as those belonging to the temporary Israel were under the Old; that conformity to Christ, and hence justification and glorification, were in like manner pre-determined for all believers. “
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
“In an article furnished by Mr. Desprez in the July number, 1856, of the “Journal of Sacred Literature” on the Neronic date of the Apocalypse, he says, “That the coming of Christ took place at the destruction of Jerusalem,” will require more consideration. And here I am glad to shelter myself under the authority of the late Prof. Lee, who says in a letter to a friend, ‘I am so much overwhelmed with the crowd of matter that I hardly know on which first to seize. It is truly a noble and glorious subject. How the church should have lost sight of it in this its simplicity, I am at a loss to conceive, particularly as it is quite certain that in early times this was the only view entertained.”
Thomas Witton Davies
DR. SAMUEL LEE AND HEINRICH EWALD
“Of all the personal encounters in which Ewald had part, none was conducted with more acrimony and ill-will than that between him and the Rev. Samuel Lee, D.D. (1852), Professor of Arabic, and afterwards Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University of Cambridge. This Samuel Lee was the son of a Salop labourer, and worked himself as a journeyman carpenter until he was nearer thirty than twenty. Then he became a schoolmaster, and in 1813, at the age of thirty, he gained admission into the University, of which he became subsequently.
He was author of a Hebrew Lexicon and of a Hebrew Grammar, which had a considerable vogue in this country half a century back. [See A Brief Memoir of S. Lee. London, 1896.] In 1827 Ewald and Lee issued the first editions of their Hebrew Grammars, and each claimed to have introduced important improvements in the treatment of the subject. Lee said that Hebrew has two tenses —what he called Present ( = Imperfect) and Preterite (= Perfect). Of course, English has, without the aid of auxiliaries, also but two tenses—I love, I loved— Present and Preterite. Not at all unlikely the English practice suggested to Lee the names he gave to the Hebrew tenses. Ewald, on the other hand, maintained [See p. 523 of the Grammatik (1827)] that the conception of time, as such, does not enter into the Hebrew verb, any more than it does into the participle: it is modes or kinds of action that the so-called tense forms express. That called previously Preterite (our Perfect) is the Indicative mode or mood; the so – called Future (our Imperfect) is the Conjunctive mode or mood. Both appeared to agree that the so-called Waw (or Vav) Conversive is really nothing of the kind. Ewald gave it the name by which it is now known—Waw- consecutive. Without using the name that came from Ewald, Lee nevertheless gave a very similar account of the thing itself, as Schroder had done long before.
Both Ewald and Lee were at one in rejecting the Jewish doctrine of the three tenses— the participle under the designation benoni (the tense between [ben] Preterite and Future) constituting, according to the Jews, a present tense, which of course in Aramaic and late Hebrew it is. Ewald and Lee agreed further in putting aside the Jewish teaching about Waw (Vav) Conversive. In 1828 a second edition of Ewald’s Grammar came out, and in 1835 a third. In these editions the author abandoned the description and designation of the so- called Hebrew tenses as modes, and instead spoke of them under the names Perfect and Imperfect, so familiar now to all Hebrew students. In the edition of 1827 Ewald has nothing to say about the Hebrew accents, apparently, Lee insinuates, because the author knew nothing about the subject. By the time he was preparing the third edition (1838) he had learned a good deal from Lee’s Grammar, so that he is able to make a contribution on his own account in the edition of 1855. Lee is good enough to acknowledge that he is indebted for most of what he writes on the accents in his Grammar to older authorities ; but he honestly gives his authorities, and he claims to have been the first to adapt the accents to Hebrew syntax.2 Ewald, according to his opponent, makes undue use of what the latter had put forth in his Grammar of 1827, but he has not the honesty to acknowledge it. To a still greater extent was the German Hebraist held to be indebted to Lee’s doctrine of the Hebrew tenses. Why, asks Lee, does Ewald, in the first edition of his Grammar, call the ” tenses” -modes or moods, and then go on in later editions to adopt his distinction of Past and Present, only disguising the plagiarism by calling them Perfect and Imperfect! The answer given is that Ewald had been ” ploughing with his heifer.”1 It does not seem to have occurred to Lee that between Ewald’s conception of the Hebrew ” tenses ” as modes not strictly tenses at all, and his doctrine of the Perfect and Imperfect, there was really no contradiction, but only a development of view; that, moreover, down to the very last there was a fundamental difference, if not contradiction, between what Ewald and Lee wrote on the matter. According to Lee, Past and Present are the ideas conveyed by the so-called tense forms in Hebrew. Ewald denied that time, as such, is implied in any form of the Hebrew verb.
Ewald was not the man to be silent under such accusations as these. He replies with his wonted vehemence in The Churchman’s Review’1‘ for May 1847, in an earlier number of which 3 Lee had repeated his charges; and also in the Jahrbiicher for 1849, p. 34 ff., Ewald denies having seen or heard of Lee’s Grammar until he had published the works in which he was charged with having purloined from that Grammar. Since Lee continued to make his charges, Ewald sent to the Journal of Sacred Literature for April1 1849 a final answer put into English by Dr. Nicholson. A more crushing rejoinder has hardly ever been made. It is a series of propositions of which the first is this : ” That, as a teacher of Hebrew, Dr. Lee understands nothing of that language, since every pupil in a German Gymnasium, who intends to visit the University as a theological student, knows infinitely more of it than he does.” Ewald finds, he says, no other kind of reply likely to suit an antagonist like Dr. Lee. The controversy was begun by Lee in the preface to his Grammar of 1841. In the Jahrbiicher for 18492 Ewald writes of Lee’s Job in the following words: ” In his thick Commentary on the Book of Job, Lee showed that he understands as good as nothing of Hebrew grammar.”3 Lee’s words concerning Ewald’s notice of his Job cannot well be reconciled with what Ewald here states. Thus in 1847 Lee wrote: 4 ” That I am exceedingly unpopular with the Neologian school there” (in Germany), ” I am very well aware, and I rejoice at it; as I am of the very good-natured and scholar-like remarks which Mr. Ewald supplied some years ago to the Gottingen Anzeigen on my Job” It does seem that Ewald or Lee makes some mistake here.
A few extracts will show how bitterly Lee wrote of his German opponent: they are taken from the pamphlet, An Examination, etc.: — “Von Ewald declares, indeed, in a manner superlatively contemptuous, that he has seen none of my works. Contemptible, however, as they may be, he has, by some means or other, got at, and adopted, the contents of some of them.” After a notice of the English edition of Ewald’s Grammar which appeared in 1837, Lee writes: ” So much for the new light lately imported from Tubingen and made available to the English nation by John Nicholson.” ” Ewald,” says Lee, ” possesses less learning than I had imagined.” In the letter to Dr. Tregelles, already referred to, Lee defends the view that the Nipk’al and Hithpael are primarily passive and only secondarily reflexive. He then writes:4 “If either Gesenius or Mr. Ewald had consulted the native Arabic Grammars they would have seen what these passives really are, and how a reflexive sense has grown out of them . . .” ” The Baron de Sacy laboured under a similar want of knowledge.” (Heinrich Ewald, orientalist and theologian: 1803-1903, a centenary appreciation, pp. 50-52)
LeRoy E. Froom (1946)
“The projection of the Preterist view into the discussion in 1830, by Samuel Lee (1783-1852) – noted Orientalist and professor of Arabic and of Hebrew at Cambridge [One of the most profound linguists of his time and ‘master of 18 languages,’ he held various churchly posts and was author of numerous books], and rector of Barley, Hertfordshire (later canon of Bristol) — brought the three post-Reformation schools of interpretation again into definite conflict — the Historicist, Futurist, and Preterist. Preterism had become well-nigh dominant in the rationalistic universities of Germany. And now the noted linguist, Lee, under whom Wolff studied at Cambridge, espoused it. His Events and Times of the Visions of Daniel and St. John, first published in 1830, is strictly Preterist; that is, all the specifications of Daniel and the Apocalypse were allegedly fulfilled in the downfall of pagan Rome and the overthrow of Jewry.
“A general resume must suffice: Lee builds nearly everything around the seventy weeks of Daniel 9, not as a definite chronological term but as an indefinite period. He makes the three and a half times of Daniel 7 coincident with the last of Daniel’s seventy mystical weeks, and comprehends within it the two catastrophes – first the fall of Jerusalem and the reprobate Jewish nation, and then the heathen Roman as God’s instrument for desolating Jerusalem. So the three and a half times is the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week. [1851 ed, pp. 69,70]
“In the Apocalypse the seals, trumpets, and vials are synchronous, according to Lee, and are compassed in this elastic seventieth week – the fourth seal referring to Jerusalem’s fall in the middle of the week, the fifth to the pagan persecutions. The trumpets likewise depict the fall of the Jews. The witnesses testify in the first three and a half days of the seventieth week, and are assailed in the latter three and a half days by the heathen Roman power, the beast from the abyss. Christ is the child of the church of Revelation 12, and the persecution of the beast of Revelation 13 is under heathen Rome, from Domitian to Diocletian inclusive.
“Thus the devil is loosed for a little season, Lee holds, as is depicted by the sixth trumpet – the hour, day , month, and year being the same as the three and a half times. Finally, the compassing of the beloved city and the destruction of Satan and his hosts signify the fall of the pagan Roman power with the apocalyptic new heavens and earth, the Christian church after Constantine. So the 1,000 years constitute “the apostolic period.” Such was Lee’s strange and yet familiar Preterist view of prophecy, which was as yet shared by relatively few in Britain.” (Prophetic Faith of our Fathers Vol. 3, p. 596-597)
Thomas Myers, M.A (Calvin’s Translator)
“The Expositor who sympathizes most with our Lecturer (Calvin) among writers of our own day, is the late Professor Lee, of Cambridge. In his translations of the Hebrew Scriptures he is unrivaled; no scholar of our age can approach him in the extent of his learning or the soundness of his erudition. His expository system of the prophecies of Daniel and St. John will meet in these days with the most vehement condemnation, and it happily does not fall within the province of the Editor of these Lectures to express any other opinion, than that they throw light upon the views of our Reformer. It will be sufficient at present to refer the reader to his valuable work, entitled “An Inquiry into the Nature, Progress, and End of Prophecy,” Cambridge, 1849. He discusses the subject of our second volume from page 152, to page 230, and translates the Hebrew and Chaldee text of Daniel, adding valuable explanatory notes. Before the student is competent to pass an opinion on the Professor’s hermeneutical conclusions, he should be intimately familiar with his elaborate verbal criticisms.” (Dissertation on Calvin’s Commentary on Daniel)
The possession of the kingdom by the saints of the most high, (Daniel 7:22,) was interpreted by the early Fathers, of the general spread of Christianity after the first advent. Professor Lee, in replying to Dr. Todd, has collected their testimony to the reign of Christ and his saints, as spread far and wide in the very earliest period of the Gospel history. His list of authorities will support the system of interpretation adopted by Calvin.
See Tertullian adv. Jud., page 105. Ed. 1580.
Irenoeus. Edit. Grabe, pages 45, 46, 221, etc.
Justin Martyr. Edit. Thirlby, pages 369, 328, 400.
Cyprian. adv. Jud, Book 2:passim, and De Unit. Eccl., page 108. Edit. Dodwell. Euseb. Hist. Eccl., Book 8, and elsewhere. De, Vit. Const., Book 1, chapters 7, 8, and his other writings.
Fabricii Lux. Sanct. Evan. contains similar extracts from the earliest Fathers to the same purpose.
For the Professor’s own view, see his Treatise on the Covenants, page 112 and following.” (Dissertation on Calvin’s Commentary on Daniel)
(On Daniel 12)
“Professor Lee considers that the events which occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus fulfilled the prediction of verse. 1. “The children of thy people,” found written in the book, are said not to be the Jews at large, but the holy remnant who embraced Jesus as Messiah, and escaped to carry the tidings of salvation to the ends of the earth. The many who slept in the dust of the earth were to awake “in a first resurrection with Christ,” Romans 6:3-6, and “some to shame and everlasting contempt, i.e., awakened to hear through the preaching of the gospel, the judgments denounced against unbelief, and to feel this in a general overthrow.” The resurrection is here interpreted of our regeneration and union with the Savior through the Spirit, and the precise period of its accomplishment is confined to the early spread of the gospel among mankind.
The “time, times, and a half” of Daniel 12:7, “must, of necessity, signify the time that should elapse from the fall of Jerusalem, to the end of Daniel’s seventieth week; for, according to the prediction enouncing this, the Temple and the City were to fall in the midst of this week,” page 199.” (Dissertation on Calvin’s Commentary on Daniel)
(On the Fourth Kingdom)
The followers of Mede have met with a formidable antagonist, and the adherents of Calvin a staunch supporter in the late Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University of Cambridge. Dr. Lee, in his pamphlet on the Visions of Daniel and St. John (Seeleys, London, 1851.) has stated his reasons for adhering to the Older Interpreters, thus adopting the principle of the Praeterists, and entirely discarding the slightest reference to the Pope and the Papacy. His conclusions may be exhibited in a few word. Respecting Nebuchadnezzar’s Image, “the feet must of necessity symbolize Heathen Rome in its last times.” “Papal Rome cannot, therefore, possibly be any prolongation of Daniel’s Fourth Empire.” “These Kings,” represented by the Toes, “may, therefore, be supposed in a mystical sense to be, as the digits ten, a round number, and signifying a whole series.” (Ibid., p2) “The Little Horn” is said to be Heathen Rome — its persecuting Emperors from Nero to Constantine fulfilling the Prophetic conditions. The phrase “a Time, Times, and a Half,” is said to refer to the “latter half (mystically speaking) of the Seventieth Week of our Prophet.” “Daniel’s Week of seven days — equivalent here to Ezekiel’s period of seven years — is, we find, divided into two parts mystically considered halves, or of three days and a half.” (See Introductory.)… “That the Roman Power took away the Daily Sacrifice, arid cast down the place of its Sanctuary, it is impossible to doubt. Titus, during the reign of his father Vespasian desolated Jerusalem by destroying both the City and the Sanctuary.” Thus in his general principles of Exposition, this celebrated Hebraist pronounces his verdict in favor of Calvin and his interpretation.”
(On the Seventy Weeks)
“Professor Lee’s translation of the passage, and explanation of the Hebrew words, is exceedingly valuable. His exegetical comments admit of some variety of opinion as to their value. The seventy weeks, says he, were not “to be considered chronological in any sense, but only to name an indefinite period, the events of which, as in most similar cases, should make all sufficiently clear,” Bk. 2, chapter 1, page 160.” (Daniel 9)
“There is no native writing system for Māori. Missionaries made their first attempts to write the language using the Roman alphabet as early as 1814, and Professor Samuel Lee of Cambridge University worked with chief Hongi Hika and his junior relative Waikato to systematize the written language in 1820. Their efforts at phonetic spelling were remarkably successful, and written Māori has changed little since then, with only the distinguishing of w and wh and the addition of macrons late in the 19th century, though they were not commonly used outside of specialist publications until late in the 20th. Literacy was an exciting new concept that the Māori embraced enthusiastically, and missionaries reported in the 1820s that Māori all over the country taught each other to read and write, using sometimes quite innovative materials, such as leaves and charcoal, carved wood, and the cured skins of animals, when no paper was available.” (Maori)
Robert Young (1863)
“Style of the Sacred Writers, and of this Translation
ONE of the first things that is likely to attract the attention of the Readers of this New Translation is its lively, picturesque, dramatic style, by which the inimitable beauty of the Original Text is more vividly brought out than by any previous Translation. It is true that the Revisers appointed by King James have occasionally imitated it, but only in a few familiar phrases and colloquialisms, chiefly in the Gospel Narrative, and without having any settled principles of translation to guide them on the point. The exact force of the Hebrew tenses has long been a vexed question with critics, but the time cannot be far distant when the general principles of the late learned Professor Samuel Lee of Cambridge, with some modification, will be generally adopted in substance, if not in theory. It would be entirely out of place here to enter into details on this important subject, but a very few remarks appear necessary, and may not be unacceptable to the student.
1. It would appear that the Hebrew writers, when narrating or describing events which might be either past or future (such as the case of Moses in reference to the Creation or the Deluge, on the one hand, and to the Coming of the Messiah or the Calamities which were to befall Israel, on the other), uniformly wrote as if they were alive at the time of the occurrence of the events mentioned, and as eye-witnesses of what they are narrating.
It would be needless to refer to special passages in elucidation or vindication of this principle essential to the proper understanding of the Sacred Text, as every page of this Translation affords abundant examples. It is only what common country people do in this land at the present day, and what not a few of the most popular writers in England aim at and accomplish—placing themselves and their readers in the times and places of the circumstances related.
This principle of translation has long been admitted by the best Biblical Expositors in reference to the Prophetic Delineation of Gospel times, but it is equally applicable and necessary to the historical narratives of Genesis, Ruth, etc.
2. The Hebrew writers often express the certainty of a thing taking place by putting it in the past tense, though the actual fulfilment may not take place for ages. This is easily understood and appreciated when the language is used by God, as when He says, in Gen. xv. 18, “Unto thy seed I have given this land;” and in xvii. 4, “I, lo, My covenant is with thee, and thou hast become a father of a multitude of nations.”
The same thing is found in Gen. xxiii. 11, where Ephron answers Abraham: “Nay, my lord, hear me; the field I have given to thee, and the cave that is in it; to thee I have given it; before the eyes of the sons of my people I have given it to thee; bury thy dead.” And again in Abraham’s answer to Ephron: “Only—if thou wouldst hear me—I have given the money of the field; accept from me, and I bury my dead there.” Again in 2 Kings v. 6, the King of Syria, writing to the King of Israel, says: “Lo, I have sent unto thee Naaman, my servant, and thou hast recovered him from his leprosy,”—considering the King of Israel as his servant, a mere expression of the master’s purpose is sufficient. In Judges viii. 19, Gideon says to Zebah and Zalmunnah, “If ye had kept them alive, I had not slain you.” So in Deut. xxxi. 18, “For all the evils that they have done“—shall have done.
It would be easy to multiply examples, but the above may suffice for the present. Some of these forms of expression are preceded by the conjunction “and” (waw, in Hebrew), and a very common opinion has been that the conjunction in these cases has a conversive power, and that the verb is not to be translated past (though so in grammatical form), but future. This is, of course, only an evasion of the supposed difficulty, not a solution, and requires to be supported by the equally untenable hypothesis that a (so-called) future tense, when preceded by the same conjunction waw (“and,”) often becomes a past. Notwithstanding these two converting hypotheses, there are numerous passages which have no conjunction before them, which can only be explained by the principle stated above.
3. The Hebrew writers are accustomed to express laws, commands, etc., in four ways:
1. By the regular imperative form, e.g., “Speak unto the people.”
2. By the infinitive, “Every male of you is to be circumcised.”
3. By the (so-called) future, “Let there be light;” “Thou shalt do no murder; ” “Six days is work done.”
4. By the past tense, “Speak unto the sons of Israel, and thou hast said unto them.”
There can be no good reason why these several peculiarities should not be exhibited in the translation of the Bible, or that they should be confounded, as they often are, in the Common Version. In common life among ourselves, these forms of expression are frequently used for imperatives, e.g., “Go and do this,”—”This is to be done first,”—”You shall go,”—”You go and finish it.” There are few languages which afford such opportunities of a literal and idiomatic rendering of the Sacred Scriptures as the English tongue, and the present attempt will be found, it is believed, to exhibit this more than any other Translation.
The three preceding particulars embrace all that appears necessary for the Reader to bear in mind in reference to the Style of the New Translation. In the Supplementary “Concise Critical Commentary,” which is now in the course of being issued, abundant proofs and illustrations will be found adduced at length.” (Young’s Literal Translation Introduction)
CHAPTER XIII WORK ON PROPHECY
EVER since his translation of Eusebius’s ‘Theophania,’ my father’s mind had been more or less occupied on the subject of Prophecy, and he became convinced that the views which he entertained, known as the Preterist, were those held by the early Church. The subject was one of absorbing interest to him during the few last years of his life, and as a child I can remember the animated conversations between him and my mother on Prophecy in their walks about our beautiful garden, or in the leisure of meal times, she holding the more general and popular opinions of the restoration of the Jews to their own land, etc.
In the year 1849 he published his ‘Inquiry into the Nature, Progress and End of Prophecy.’
A Scotch minister, the Reverend W. Paul, himself a Hebrew scholar, with whom my father corresponded, has so clearly and forcibly set forth his views in one of his letters, as he gathered them from the book, that I give an extract from it:–
‘MANSE OF BANCHORY,
‘BY ABERDEEN, 30 March, 1850.
‘REVD. AND DEAR SIR,–Since I last wrote to you I have perused with great care and interest your work on Prophecy, and I felt every inclination to write to you sooner with a view to the expression of my opinion of its contents. I, however, delayed doing so until I had fully and maturely considered the principles you set out with, and the result you have arrived at. I had given very little attention previously to this important subject, chiefly from the very unsatisfactory manner in which I had seen it pursued. I could discover no solid ground to rest upon, and I was called upon to hold, almost as a matter of faith, results which had no foundation but that of ingenious conjecture, which left ample scope for anyone becoming a prophet who was not deficient in vanity and presumption. . . .
‘Notwithstanding these views, which in a somewhat confused form occasionally floated through my mind previously to the perusal of your work, I do confess that I was completely staggered by enunciations that all prophecy had already had its fulfilment; that the Book of Revelation is rather confirmatory of old than a record of new predictions–that the believing remnant of the Jews have become the heirs of the world, and that to them have been already fulfilled all the promises made to their fathers–that there exist no promises in Scripture of the restoration of their brethren on their acceptance of the promised Saviour, to the earthly Canaan and Jerusalem– that the fulness of the Gentiles has arrived in the Scriptural sense of the term, and that the Gospel has in that sense been preached to every creature under heaven — and that the Jews, at whatever time converted, will, on their conversion, lose all their distinctive characteristics as a nation, and will become, with the Gentiles, one body in Christ.
‘I have marked with great attention and interest the way in which you have cleared your ground, and laid down, followed out and established your principles. I have carefully considered these principles, weighed the arguments by which they were supported, and reflected upon the results to which they have led, and I am happy to say that they have carried full conviction to my mind. The fact is, I cannot resist your conclusions. I find nothing in them to clash with the great leading principles of divine truth which are most surely believed in by all the true Church of Christ, while they throw a flood of light upon otherwise unintelligible parts of the Old Testament history, doctrine and prophecy which is most satisfactory. One regrets to see the talents and learning of such men as Mr Elliott and Dr Todd wasted in confirming and perpetuating the errors of Mr Mede. The year-day theory you have very properly rejected, and have rightly tested the application of prophecy by the whole of the circumstances taken in cumulo. No one has succeeded, who has attempted, to fix down the accomplishment of a prophecy to periods calculated from time specified in the prophecy itself.
‘One great difficulty has been removed in regard to the application of prophecy to the Jews, by the dissertation on the Covenants introduced into your work. You have there clearly pointed out the different condition, under these covenants, of those that serve the Lord, and of those that serve Him not–that the promises made to Abraham are the portion only of the former ; that these promises do not include any peculiar blessings of a temporal character in Canaan or Jerusalem; and that Jews as well as Gentiles were only to be blessed in Christ by their being turned from their iniquities, and obtaining salvation through Him. In that dissertation, likewise, the confusion between doctrine, i.e., contingent prediction, or intimation of the consequences of certain conduct as good or evil, on the fate of nations or individuals, and prediction, properly so called, has been removed, by which means many otherwise very difficult passages of Scripture have been made extremely plain.
‘I have often thought that “Glassen’s Rhetorica Sacra” might, in the hands of one mighty in the Scriptures, be of essential service to the elucidation of prophecy. I have often thought that the rhetorical figures of Scripture might, through the instrumentality of that work, in good hands, be reduced to a precision, which would make the study of prophecy, conducted on proper principles, comparatively easy. Nothing can be more satisfactory than the manner in which you have arranged this part of your subject. Indeed, you have accomplished in this way more than I ever thought to be practicable. You have, indeed, brought unusually great talents and theological attainments of every variety to bear upon this very difficult question, and a mind, unless I am much mistaken, sincerely anxious for the Spirit’s light and guidance in the investigation of divine truth, together with an earnest desire for the advancement of the spiritual interests of others.
‘It is not wonderful that prophecy is expressed under highly figurative language, but it is remarkable to trace the extent to which what is figurative is involved in the whole of the Jewish history. In their journeyings from place to place; in their captivities and deliverances ; in occurrences that happened to individuals ; in Egypt, in the Wilderness and in Canaan; in the language and ceremonies of their ritual; in their offices of prophet, priest and king, are perceptible types and shadows of good things to come, and events applicable to the circumstances of the Church under the last dispensation of the Covenant of Grace. All this fully justifies the spiritual interpretation which you have given to many of the prophecies, where temporal events in the first instance are evidently pointed at.
‘I have only now to conclude with the expression of my hearty concurrence in the views you have adopted, of my thanks for your having put the work into my view, and of my sincere desire that it may be extensively read and pondered, and impart to others the same gratification and instruction which it has afforded me. . . . Were mine the prayers of the righteous man which could “avail you much,” be assured they would be offered up for you with all sincerity.–Believe me to be, rev. and dear sir, with great respect and esteem, very faithfully yours,
‘ WILLIAM PAUL.
The following letter is from the Reverend W. Carus, acknowledging a copy of his work on Prophecy, which Dr Lee had sent him :–
‘March 31, 1849.
‘MY DEAR DR LEE,–How much have I been longing for the appearance of your work on Prophecy ! But I little expected the favour of a copy from the author, especially valuable from the kind inscription, and also from the but too kind note which accompanied it. Allow me to express to you my grateful and affectionate acknowledgments for this very gratifying remembrance of me. I can truly say no one in Cambridge will feel your separation from us more deeply than myself. Your presence and friendship has been one of the bright and happy gifts which made my labour here pleasant, and self-sacrifice light and easy. But we are not separated though we cannot meet just so frequently within the walls of our good College. I shall feel more than ever bound to visit Barley, and so fulfil my long-made promise. Indeed, I have here a volume brought from Armenia for you, by Mr Birch, about which I wrote to you last autumn. Shall I send it? or bring it ? I go on Monday to the Pyms. . . . I shall take your book as my company. Whether you will make me a convert or not, I don’t think you will have a more friendly reader. Wednesday I go to the F.’s of S., the week following, the Scholarship Examinations will detain me here. But, about June, if you are at Barley I will gladly come over.–With kindest regards, ever believe me, your affect, and obliged,
Letter from Dr LEE to his BROTHER-IN-LAW.
‘BARLEY, Jan. 1st, 30, 1849.
‘MY DEAR BROTHER HOPPER,– . . . I think I said in my last that I should show what the principles of Mr Mede were, and what sort of reliance can be placed on them. I have finished my preface, and in a day or two shall send it to press. You will not be sorry to hear that I find my principles and the main of my results to accord exactly with those of the early Christian Church. So far as it judaized, Mr Mede and his school are with it.’
‘BARLEY, May 2, 1850.
‘My DEAR BROTHER HOPPER,–Many thanks for your kind note, and for all the kind things said in it. I have no doubt Mr N.’s letter would please you, not only as entering very fully and particularly into the character of my book, but as exhibiting a very rare specimen of an ingenuous mind. In this last respect, I must confess it surprised me. I have had some letters much to the same point, but none that so particularly and carefully investigated the matter before he pronounced his conclusions. Only a few days ago I had a letter, much to the same effect, from London, and a little earlier another from Brighton. What I prize principally in Mr N. is the care he has taken to understand the subject. I am not one of those who labour under a very high opinion either of myself or my productions. I am therefore greatly obliged when anyone takes the trouble to follow me, and to state his reasons either for approving or disapproving of anything that I have written. Of one thing I think I may say I am certain, viz., that I am not wrong in the main, that my system is good, and hence, I have no doubt, it will first or last prevail. Its results are certainly good. I care not, therefore, for the present popularity of the opposite view. It must have its day, and this, God knoweth, I do not envy it. I have, indeed, much to be thankful for, and I praise my God for the great honour He has been pleased to put upon me. I must confess I do not expect much from a review by Mr Nangles, for, in the first place, I have doubts whether he has either ability or candour sufficient to enter fairly into the question. He cannot in a day or two see where the great point of the question rests, and he cannot spare more time, as the editor of a newspaper, to bestow upon it. Then, again, he writes for a party who will not take his paper if he desert the Millennarian, etc., doatings of his supporters. The manner, too, in which he has been accustomed to view Scripture will not quadrate well with that adopted by me. He is, and will continue, like many others similarly circumstanced, satisfied with his present notions. If this is not the case, you may fairly conclude that, whatever I may be as an interpreter of the prophets, I am no prophet myself; you will soon be able to judge in this matter if, indeed, Mr Nangles is at work on the book. Poor Lamb! *[ * Dean of Bristol.] I saw him about nine days before he died. He seemed then to have no idea of his danger. I invited him to Barley, for I thought a change of air might do much for him. But it could have done him no good. . . . You, and those about you, are very kind in wishing to see me at the Deanery. I am pretty sure, however, this will not be the case. I am told that Lord Wriothsley Russell has long been wishing for it; if so, he will have it, of course. Lord Melbourne wished Lamb to take Ely, and to vacate Bristol, in order, as it is said, to make way for Lord W. R. If he comes to you, you will have a most excellent man, and one who will fill that post much better than I can. . . . We are all, thanks to our God, doing very well. I do not think I shall see you now before Midsummer, unless, indeed, our new Dean should deem it right to summon us earlier.’
‘BARLEY, July 27, 1850.
‘My DEAR BROTHER HOPPER,– . . . This day week I must be in Bristol to commence my two months’ residence there. . . . I am interested in hearing of any progress made in the knowledge of prophecy. The case you mention seems to promise well. Still, I know that many — no matter how right or wrong — will not take the trouble to investigate a question of so large an amount as that of prophecy, merely for the truth’s sake. Others would rather accept a system which seems to promise so much that is glorious than be convinced that it is not true. And here I think the stumbling-block and rock of offence to my scheme is likely long to continue, perhaps to the end of time. But I must be content to succeed in just as much as the great Head of the Church will allow me, and for this, little as it may be, I shall be thankful. You will be glad to hear, I think, that I shall shortly publish an outline of my work, D. V. In this it will be my object to fix the dates and events of prophecy in such a manner as to be incapable of misunderstanding, and I think of avoiding their adoption. My own convictions certainly grow stronger daily on this great and interesting subject. Every day adds something to my stock which I had not before, and this, I have no doubt, will be the case to the end of my career. If so, I believe I shall be made the honoured instrument in the hands of Him who has, of His mercy, done so much for me, of more effectually arresting the progress of doubt as to the inspiration of the Scriptures than I had ever imagined, or perhaps than anyone hitherto has.’
Anna Mary Lee
“SHORTLY after the death of Professor S. Lee, over forty years ago, a suggestion was made that some record of his remarkable talents and career, in a more extensive and lasting form than mere newspaper articles could supply, should be given to the public. He had, however, left no diaries or memoranda, nor yet copies of his large literary correspondence, and the idea was abandoned. A year or two ago I was passing through Shrewsbury, and, visiting the museum, saw there, amongst other portraits, a large oil-painting of my father. Attached to the picture was a card, with the statement that he had been Professor of Hebrew at Oxford! Finding such inadequate knowledge of him within eight miles of his native place, it occurred to me that he could scarcely be known even by name to many of the present generation, to whom the story of his life might be a stimulus, and an encouragement to make the most of their far greater opportunities for the acquirement of knowledge. “
‘DEAR Miss LEE,–I heartily wish I could be of more service to you in your contemplated enterprise than your letter seems to intimate, as I had a great respect for your worthy father, though by no means intimately acquainted with him, and ’tis sixty years since! I, had two Cambridge acquaintances who passed under your father’s hands who could have borne far higher estimony to his capability and value as at teacher than myself–Arthur Dawson of Christ’s College, and Edward Harold Browne of Emmanuel (afterwards Bishop of Winchester), both of whom became Hebrew Scholars of the University of Cambridge. But though a mere sciolist in that language myself, I had learned to appreciate and honour what was perhaps not so generally known by the public at large as by his contemporaries at College–the remarkable manner in which, from his earliest days, he had persisted, in spite of most adverse circumstances, in the acquisition of knowledge of the most valuable description–that of the original language of the Old Testament Scriptures, and of other cognate tongues bearing upon its elucidation –and in imparting that knowledge to others. But this is not all of which I have a vivid recollection ; for added to it was the faithfulness with which he adhered to “the truth as it is in Jesus,” never, by the grace of God, having been led away by those “will-o’-the-wisps” by which many allowed themselves to be distracted, some even in those early days of heresy, and (alas!) many more later. ” (FOXLEY PARSONAGE, ‘NORFOLK, Jan. 14, 1895.)
Rev. Fr. Dale A. Johnson
I purchased my first Syriac book when I was 23 years of age at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon. It was the Syriac New Trestament of Samuel Lee. Having studied Latin for a few years previously, I read with delight the Latin introduction of Samuel Lee. It was a masterpiece of scientific and philological scholarship. He cited from Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, Syriac, Persian, and other sources to support his theories about the Syriac Language and the text we had before us. It not only overwhelmed me but inspired me as a westerner to learn the “Language of our Lord.”
Little did I know at the time that Samuel Lee came from humble beginnings. Handicapped by poverty, a sixth grade education, and his obligations as a young husband and father, he overcame these obstacles and rose to conduct a brilliant and successful life as a scholar/priest.
SAMUEL LEE was born May 14th, 1783, He was the youngest of a family of six brothers and five sisters living at Longnor, about eight miles from Shrewsbury, England. Of these, he and a brother and sister were the children of a second marriage, and much younger than the rest
Samuel Lee attended school until the age of 12 when he was made a carpenter’s apprentice shortly after his father died. His mother needed his small income to help provide for her. After five years he was employed as a handyman and carpenter in the Roman Catholic chapel of Sir Edward Smith. There he was exposed to books with Latin quotes. It inspired him to learn Latin. The priests who came to the chapel were not helpful knowing this boy to be a Protestant.
For seven years he labored during the day and studied alone by night. After mastering Latin he conquered Greek and then Hebrew. He reports the following:
I read the Latin Bible, “Florus,” some of “Cicero’s Orations,” “Caesar’s Commentaries,” “Justin,” “Sallust,” “Virgil,” “Horace’s Odes” and “Ovid’s Epistles.” It may be asked how I obtained these books? I never had all at once, but generally read one and sold it, the price of which, with a little added to it, enabled me to buy another, and this being read, was sold to procure the next. I was now out of my apprenticeship, and determined to learn the Greek. I bought, therefore, a “Westminster Greek Grammar,” and soon afterwards procured a Testament, which I found not very difficult with the assistance of “Schrevelius’s Lexicon.” I bought next “Hunford’s Greek Exercises,” which I wrote throughout, and then, in pursuance of the advice laid down in the Exercises, read “Xenophon’s Cyropoedia,” and soon after “Plato’s Dialogues,” some part of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” of Homer, “Pythagoras’s Golden Verse,” with the “Commentary of Hierocles,” “Lucian’s Dialogues of the Dead,” and some of the “Poetae Minores,” with the “Antigone of Sophocles.” I now thought I might attempt the Hebrew, and accordingly procured “Bythner’s Grammar,” with his “Lyra Prophetica,” and soon after obtained a Psalter, which I read by the help of the “Lyra.” I next purchased “Buxtorf’s Grammar and Lexicon,” with a Hebrew Bible, and now I seemed drawing fast to the summit of my wishes, but was far from being uninterrupted in those pursuits. A frequent inflammation in my eyes, with every possible discouragement from those about me, were certainly powerful opponents; but habit and a fixed determination to proceed had now made study my greatest happiness,
Finally at age 25 he went to work as a carpenter for his brother. He married and for a short time gave up his secret life of study. Then one day a fire broke out in the house he was repairing and all his tools were burned up. He fell into the ashes of despair and began to think about what to do with his life. He began to investigate using his mind instead of his hands. He sought out a former school master who helped him improve his math and English skills. Finally, the Reverend Archdeacon Corbett hearing of his circumstances became his benefactor and over the next year Samuel Lee learned Persian, Arabic, and Urdu.
‘I thought that of a country schoolmaster would be the most likely to answer my purpose. I therefore applied myself to the study of “Murray’s English Exercises” and improved myself in arithmetic. There was, however, one grand objection to this–I had no money to begin, and did not know any friend who would be inclined to lend. In the meantime, the Revd. Archdeacon Corbett had heard of my attachment to study, and having been informed of my being in Longnor, sent for me in order to inform himself of particulars. To him I communicated my circumstances, and it is to his goodness I am indebted for the situation I now hold, and several other very valuable benefits, which he thought proper, generously, to confer. My circumstances since that time are too well known to you to need any further elucidation. It is through your kind assistance I made myself thus far acquainted with the Arabic, Persian and Hindoostanee languages, of my progress in which you, sir, are undoubtedly the best judge.’
Syriac was the seventh language for Samuel Lee. He learned it through a project he did for the British and Foreign Bible Society . He was commissioned to produce a Syriac New Testament for the Malabar Syriac Archbishop and his diocese. It was published in 1816 when Lee was 33 years of age. It was the beginning a great scholarly career. He produced twenty three major publications. Three of these works were specific contributions to Syriac studies: the Syriac New Testament, the Syriac Old Testament, and Eusebius’ Theophania.
In the October term of 1817 Samuel Lee took the degree of B.A., and was soon afterwards admitted to Holy Orders as curate of Chesterton, near Cambridge. He remained a priest in the church of England for the rest of his life. During all this time he combined scholarship with the pedestrian duties of a faithful priest, visiting the sick, preaching on Sundays, and attending to the cares and worries of his congregations.
The publication of the ‘Syriac New Testament’ raised the reputation of Samuel Lee abroad as well as at home. The University of Halle, in Saxony, accordingly presented him with the degree of D.D., through the hands of Dr Gesenius, the Hebrew professor of that University. The Syriac Old Testament was not completed till the year 1823, when four thousand copies in quarto were issued.
Samuel Lee went on to learn Ethiopic, Abbyssinian, and Malay. The latter he learned in two months during Christmas break. Lee was asked why it was so easy for him to learn languages.
Mr Lee made the remark that the acquisition of languages was to him as easy and certain a process as the study of Newton’s “Principia” appeared to be to his fellow-student; that in all languages there were certain links and dependencies which, when once understood, fixed the language in the mind ; and that afterwards the copia verborum might be acquired at your leisure.
The commencement of the next year, 1818, introduces a new era of his life. The Arabic professorship at Cambridge became vacant by the resignation of Mr Palmer. His friends proposed that he should become a candidate; but as it was necessary that he should have an M.A. degree, the first step was to procure a royal mandate for conferring that degree upon him before the mandatory time had been completed. For this purpose, the consent of a majority of heads of houses, and a vote of the Senate, were required. Samuel Lee’s modesty and retired habits had made him little known in the University. He was opposed also by a gentleman already of the degree of M. A., who had been many years in India, and was an accomplished Oriental scholar. Under these circumstances, a paper was printed and circulated among the members of the Senate, simply giving a list of the various Oriental works which he had edited, and a few testimonials from well-known Oriental scholars. Amongst them was the testimony of four native Persian gentlemen at that time residing in London, who testified to his thorough knowledge with the idiom and pronunciation, as well as with the grammar of that language, in the following emphatic terms :– ‘Upon the whole, this being the entire persuasion of your servant, and in like manner the belief of all his companions, who have spoken with the above-mentioned Mr Lee, both in Persic and Arabic, that, whether as regards pronunciation, or reading, or writing, he is learned and perfect.’ The claims of Mr Lee upon the vacant chair, and his pre-eminent learning, were recognized by all parties and he was voted to the chair by a count of 9 to 4.
Later in his academic life Lee became Regius Professor of Hebrew.
He died on the 16th December 1852, and was buried in a vault in Barley Church.
Notes: Primary source for this article is from the daughter of Samuel Lee, Anna Mary Lee, in her book, A Scholar of a Past Generation, 1896, Seely and Co. It is a compilation of letters and journal entries. Its major contribution is a list of all of Dr. Lee published works. An online version is found at .