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Peter George Niger

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Dominican theologian, preacher and controversialist, b. 1434 at Kaaden in Bohemia ; d. between 1481 and 1484. He studied at different universities (Salamanca, Montpellier, etc.), entered the order in 1452 at Eichstätt, Bavaria, and after his religious profession took up philosophy and theology at Leipzig, where he also produced his first literary work "De modo praedicandi" (1457). In 1459 he defended publicly in Freiburg a series of theses so successfully that the provincial chapter then in session there sent him to the University of Bologna for advanced courses in theology and canon law. Recalled after two years, he was made lector of theology and engaged in teaching and preaching. In 1465 he taught philosophy and was regent of studies in Cologne; in 1467 taught theology at Ulm; in 1469 or 1470 was elected prior in Eichstätt, on 31 May, 1473, the newly founded University of Ingolstadt conferred on him the degree of Doctor of theology ; in 1474 he taught theology in the convent at Ratisbon and in 1478 became professor of Old-Testament exegesis in the University of Ingolstadt. Shortly after, upon the invitation of the patron of learning, Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, he became rector of his newly-erected Academy of philosophy, theology, and Sacred Scripture at Buda, in gratitude for which honor he dedicated to his royal friend his "Clypeus Thomistarum adversus omnes doctrinae doctoris angelici obtrectatores" (Venice, 1481), in which he defends the teaching of St. Thomas against the Scotists and Nominalists. Niger ranks among the most eminent theologians and preachers of the latter half of the fifteenth century. He was a keen disciple of St. Thomas, zealous for the integrity of his teachings and adhering strictly to the traditions of his school. In his few theological works he limits himself almost entirely to the discussion of abstract questions of logic and psychology. He devoted most of his time to preaching to the Jews. He had learned their language and become familiar with their literature at Salamanca and Montpellier by associating with Jewish children and attending the lectures of the rabbis. At Ratisbon, Worms, and Frankfort-on-the-Main he preached in German, Latin, and Hehrew, frequently challenging the rabbis to a disputation: He wrote two anti- Jewish works, one in Latin, "Tractatus contra Perfidos Judaeos" (Esslingen, 1475), which is probably the earliest printed anti- Jewish work, and in which he severely attacked the Jews and the Talmud. The other, written in German, is entitled "Stern des Messias" (Esslingen, 1477). Reuchlin in his "Augenspiegel" declared them absurd. Both works are furnished with appendices giving the Hebrew alphabet in Hebrew and Latin type, rules of grammar and for reading Hebrew, the Decalogue in Hebrew, some Messianic texts from the Old Testament, etc. They are among the earliest specimens of Hebrew printing in Germany, and the first attempt at Hebrew grammar in that country by a Christian scholar. They were afterwards published separately as "Commentatio de primis linguae Hebraicae elementis" (Altdorf, 1764). Peter Teuto, O.P. (Quétif, I, 855) and Peter Eystettensis (Eck, "Chrysopassus Cent.", XLIX) are most probably to be identified with Peter Niger.

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