A learned Maronite, famous for his share in the publication of the Parisian polyglot of the Bible ; b. 1577, at Edden on the Lebanon ; d. 1648, at Paris. Though he came to Rome at the age of seven, he always looked upon Arabic as his mother tongue. At Rome he learnt Latin, Syriac, and acquired a slight knowledge of Hebrew; he studied theology, but did not receive the priesthood till much later, in Paris, at the advanced age of 45. Savary de Breves, once French ambassador to Turkey and interested in Oriental studies, when recalled from Rome, took two Maronites with him to Paris to assist in the publication of the polyglot under the auspices of de Thou, the royal librarian, and Cardinal Duperron. The two Maronites were Gabriel Sionita and John Hesronita. Gabriel, however, was by far the more prominent of the two. They received an annual stipend of 600 livres, and Gabriel was appointed to the chair of Semitic languages at the Sorbonne. Unfortunately both de Thou and Duperron died within four years, and serious financial difficulties arose. In 1619, it is true, the assembly of French clergy at Blois voted 8000 livres to support the undertaking; but through some malversation of funds, this money was never actually paid; at least such is the accusation brought by Gabriel in his preface to the Syriac Psalter which he published. The Maronites seem to have become involved in pecuniary embarrassments, which led to unseemly feuds with the leaders of the undertaking. In 1619, however, by royal diploma, Gabriel's stipend had been raised to 1200 livres; the following year he received the doctor's degree and two years later the priesthood. Evidently all had been done to honour and support these Eastern scholars; and the blame probably lies largely with Gabriel, who can hardly be excused from idleness and thriftlessness. In 1626, as Gabriel held no classes owing to lack of students, his stipend was curtailed. After some time, however, he was paid on the original basis; and, in 1629, his salary was increased to 2000 livres. In 1630, he recommenced work on the polyglot; but, as he did not apply himself industriously, and was even accused, apparently with some show of reason, of carelessness in the work, he again found himself in difficulties. In the quarrel which ensued, Richelieu supported the editor, Le Jay, against the Maronites ; and as it was feared that Gabriel might leave the country, the cardinal had him imprisoned in Vincennes (1640); he was released, however, at the expiration of three months' time, when he had signed an undertaking and given sureties that he would prepare the texts for the polyglot. He had actually completed his great task some time before his death, which occurred at the age of 71. Gabriel's share in the polyglot is as follows: he revised and corrected almost all Syriac and Arabic texts; and he translated the Arabic and Syriac texts into Latin with the exceptions of the Book of Ruth. But he made only a revision and not a fresh translation of the Gospels into Latin, nor did he translate from Syriac into Latin the Sapiential books or the Apocalypse. Together with John Hesronita and Victor Sciala he published, in 1614, a Latin translation of the (Arabic) Psalter ; in 1616, he published an Arabic grammar, of which, however, but one division (Liber I) appeared, containing rules for reading. In 1619, appeared his "Geographia Nubiensis", i.e. a translation of the Maronite editions of the same, or rather of Edrisi's geography, with a small treatise as appendix, "De nonnullis Orient. urb. nec non indig. relig. ac. moribus". In 1634, was issued a "Poema enigmaticum" in praise of Divine wisdom by an ancient Syrian philosopher ; in 1630, "Testamentum et pactiones inter Mohammedem et Christianae fidei cultores", in Arabic and Latin; and finally (1640-2) three small pamphlets, one in Latin and two in French, containing his defence in the actions of Le Jay and Vitre.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online