OLSHAUSEN, JUSTUS° (1800–1882), German Orientalist, theologian, and Bible scholar. He was born in Schleswig-Holstein and from 1830 to 1852 was professor of Oriental languages at the University of Kiel, and from 1853 professor at the University of Koenigsberg. From 1858, he was adviser to the Prussian Ministry of Religion and Culture. Olshausen was one of the first scholars who used modern philological and comparative linguistic methods in explanation of obscure passages in the Bible. He also applied modern studies in Assyriology to Bible research, and pioneered in the "Arabian School" which employs Arabic as a key to the elucidation of the Bible and the understanding of the Hebrew language and its radicals (in opposition to Ewald's system). In 1826, Olshausen published Emendationen zum Alten Testament, giving grammatical and historical explanations to the Old Testament. His theses on the geography, people, and culture of Mesopotamia were confirmed by the findings of later Assyriologists.

Other published works are: Observationes criticae ad Vetus Testamentum (1836); Ueber das Vocalsystem der hebraeischen Sprache nach der sogenannten assyrischen Punktuation (1865); and Beitraege zur Kritik des ueberlieferten Textes im Buche Genesis (1870). His critical method is explained in the second edition of Hirzel's commentary on Job which Olshausen edited (1852), and in his commentary on Psalms (1853), where he stated that most of the psalms were composed in the Maccabean period; this assertion was sharply criticized. His Zur Topographie des alten Jerusalem (1833) has been superseded by later discoveries; but Ueber den Ursprung des Alphabetes und ueber die Vocalbezeichnung im Alten Testamente (1841), a study on the origin of the Hebrew alphabet and its vocalization, is still important. Lehrbuch der Hebraeischen Sprache (1861) is probably his major work. It is a Hebrew grammar; the third volume, devoted to Hebrew syntax, was, however, not published.


Kamphausen, in: J. Herzog and A. Hauck (eds.), Realencyklopaedie fuer protestantische Theologie und Kirche, 14 (19043), 368–71; ADB, 24 (1887), 328–30.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.