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William Smits

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Orientalist and exegete, b. at Kevelaer in the Duchy of Geldern, 1704; d. 1 Dec., 1770. He entered the Order of Friars Minor, in the Belgian province, at the age of eighteen. As a religious he applied himself with remarkable success to the study of Biblical languages and Sacred Scripture and was appointed lector. From 1732 to 1744 he published, at Antwerp, several Biblical theses dealing with questions of textual criticism and chronology. In one of these, "Isagoge Romano-Catholica ad textum hebraeum. . .", he shows that the Latin Vulgate is substantially a faithful translation of the original Hebrew; and in another, "Isagoge Romano-Catholica ad textum graecum vulgo LXX. . .", he states the reasons why the Septuagint is preferable to the actual Hebrew text. Yielding to the entreaties of Cardinal Thomas Philip of Alsace, then Archbishop of Mechlin Smits undertook the translation of the entire Bible into Flemish. But far from merely rendering the Vulgate into his native tongue, he has left us a voluminous and learned work of monumental importance. The title is: "Biblia Sacra Vulgatae editionis, versione belgica, notis grammaticalibus, literalibus, criticis,. . .elucidata per FF. Minores Recollectes musae philologico-sacri antwerpiensis." Of this series he lived to finish only thirteen Sacred books, which were published, in seventeen volumes, from 1744 to 1767. The work was continued by his collaborator and former pupil, Peter van Hove. In 1765 Smits was appointed the first prefect of the "Musaeum philologico-sacrum", a Franciscan biblical institute at Antwerp which, though shortlived, has a glorious history.

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