1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vossius, Gerhard Johann
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Vossius, Gerhard Johann
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VOSSIUS [Voss], GERHARD JOHANN (1577-1649), German classical scholar and theologian, was the son of Johannes Voss, a Protestant of the Netherlands, who fled from persecution into the Palatinate and became pastor in the village near Heidelberg where Gerhard was born. Johannes was a Calvinist, however, and the strict Lutherans of the Palatinate caused him once more to become a wanderer; in 1578 he settled at Leiden as student of theology, and finally became pastor at Dort, where he died in 1585. Here the son received his education, until in 1595 he entered the university of Leiden, where he became the lifelong friend of Hugo Grotius, and studied classics, Hebrew, church history and theology. In 1600 he was made rector of the high school at Dort, and devoted himself to philology and historical theology. From 1614 to 1619 he was director of the theological college at Leiden. Meantime he was gaining a great reputation as a scholar, not only in the Netherlands, but also in France and England. But in spite of the moderation of his views and his abstention from controversy, he came under suspicion of heresy, and escaped expulsion from his office only by resignation (1619). The year before he had published his valuable history of Pelagian controversies, which his enemies considered favoured the views of the Arminians or Remonstrants. In 1622, however, he was appointed professor of rhetoric and chronology, and subsequently of Greek, in the university. He declined invitations from Cambridge, but accepted from Archbishop Laud a prebend in Canterbury cathedral without residence, and went to England to be installed in 1629, when he was made LL.D. at Oxford. In 1632 he left Leiden to take the post of professor of history in the newly founded Athenaeum at Amsterdam, which he held till his death on the 19th of March 1649.
His son Isaak (1618-1689), after a brilliant career of scholarship in Sweden, became residentiary canon at Windsor in 1673. He was the author of De septuaginta interpretibus (1661), De poematum cantu et viribus rhythmi (1673), and Variarum observationum liber (1685).
Vossius was amongst the first to treat theological dogmas and the heathen religions from the historical point of view. His principal works are Historia Pelagiana sive Historiae de controversiis quas Pelagius ejusque reliquiae moverunt (1618); Aristarchus, sive de arte grammatica (1635 and 1695; new ed. in 2 vols., 1833-35); Etymologicum linguae Latinae (1662; new ed. in two vols., 1762-63); Commentariorum Rhetoricorum oratoriarum institutionum Libri VI. (1606 and often); De Historicis Graecis Libri III. (1624.); De Historicis Latinis Libri III. (1627); De Theologia Gentili (1642); Dissertationes Tres de Tribus Symbolis, Apostolico, Athanasiano et Constantinopolitano (1642). Collected works published at Amsterdam (6 vols., 1695-1701).
See P. Niceron, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des hommes illustres, vol. xiii. (Paris, 1730); Herzog's Realencyklopädie, art. “Vossius”; and the article in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie.