Friday, June 26, 2020
A. E. Cowley, Anti-Semite
A. E. Cowley was a major Semitics scholar of the early twentieth century, and the head of the Bodleian library from 1919-1931. His Wikipedia page is here.
Despite his still-important activity in the realm of Hebraica, you can encounter some nasty anti-Semitism in the introduction to his Aramaic Papyri of the 5th century BC (1923). Speaking of the Jewish colony on Elephantine, he says
"they aroused anti-Jewish feeling, and suffered violence which they ascribed, as always and probably with as little reason then as now, to hatred of their religion. ... [M]uch is also to be ascribed to natural suspicion of a community with customs differing from those of its neighbours, holding aloof from the common pursuits of its fellow-citizens, and showing contempt or hostility to everything outside itself."
Oof. Thus he explains the destruction of the YHW temple by the adherents of the god Khnub in 417 BCE. This description traffics in a number of well-known anti-Semitic tropes that would bear evil fruit less than two decades later in Nazi Germany.
This is the same Cowley who translated the Gesenius-Kautzsch Hebrew grammar, still in use today (GKC = Gesenius Kautzsch Cowley). He is still cited, without comment, and his despicable views forgotten.