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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Alexander, Joseph Addison

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D.D., an eminent Presbyterian minister and scholar, third son of Dr. Archibald Alexander (q.v.), was born April 24, 1809. He graduated at Princeton in 1826, receiving the first honor of his class. He was soon after appointed tutor in that college, but declined the post, and united with Professor Robert B. Patton in the establishment of the Edgehill Seminary for boys at Princeton. In 1830 he was appointed Adjunct-professor of Ancient Languages at Princeton, but resigned in 1833 to visit the German universities. He spent a season at Halle and Berlin, and returned to accept the professorship of Oriental Literature in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, to which he had been appointed during his absence. In 1852 he was transferred to the chair of Ecclesiastical History. He died at Princeton, Jan. 28, 1860.

Dr. Alexander spoke almost all the modern languages of Europe, and as a scholar in Oriental literature had few, if any, superiors. His critical works are distinguished by keen analysis and sound discrimination. As a preacher, he was distinguished and popular. Preaching mostly from written notes, he was seldom known to take his eyes from the paper, though he kept up the interest of his auditors by the great learning, the clear method, and, at times, the high flight of eloquence he displayed. He had the rare capacity, both mental and physical, of almost incessant reading and intellectual labor, and he tasked his great energies to the utmost. The result is before us in a life of seldom paralleled intellectual achievement. He studied Arabic when a boy, and had read the whole Koran in that tongue when he was fourteen. Persic, Syriac, Hebrew, Coptic were successively mastered. He did not study these languages for the sake of their grammar, but of their literature; not for the purpose of knowing, but of using them. He studied, however, profoundly the philosophy of their structure and their analogies to each other, and learned the Sanscrit to possess the basis of comparative philology. Greek and Latin, and all the modern languages of Europe, were familiar to him. From this foundation of linguistic learning he proceeded to a wide and comprehensive system of historical, antiquarian, and philosophical studies. But all his other acquisitions were subordinated to the study and elucidation of the Word of God. His professional lectures and his commentaries were the fruit of his wide researches thus applied and consecrated. But his personal love for the Scriptures and delight in them were not less remarkable than his ability in illustrating them. He had learned whole books of them by heart, both in the original and in our English version. The exegetical works of Dr. Alexander have gained him a great reputation in Europe, as well as in America, and will doubtless remain a permanent part of Biblical literature. They include The earlier Prophecies of Isaiah (N. Y. 1846, 8vo): The later Prophecies of Isaiah (N. Y. 1847, 8vo): Isaiah illustrated and explained (an abridgment of the critical commentary, N. Y. 1851, 2 vols. 12mo): The Psalms translated and explained (N. Y. 1850, 3 vols. 8vo): Commentary on the Acts (N. Y. 1857, 2 vols. 12mo): Comm. on Mark (1858, 12mo). He also published (from the Princeton Review) Essays on the primitive Church Offices (N. Y. 1851). Since his death his Sermons have been published (2 vols. 8vo, N. Y. 1860); also a Commentary on Matthew (N. Y. 1860); and Notes on N.T. Literature (N. Y. 1861, 12mo).

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Alexander, Joseph Addison'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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