NICHOLAS DE LYRE° (incorrectly Lyra; c. 1270–(not before)1349), Bible commentator and theologian. A 15th-century allegation of his Jewish extraction lacks all basis. Born in Lyre, near Evreux, Normandy, Nicholas joined the Franciscan Order at Verneuil (c. 1291) and subsequently studied in Paris. He held the position of professor of theology at the Sorbonne until he was appointed Franciscan provincial of Burgundy in 1325. He wrote controversial studies against Judaism (e.g., De Messia … ad Judaei argumenta, De diversis contra Judaeos …) and produced a commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences, which, together with the Bible, constituted the basis of Western theological studies. His importance, however, lies in Postillae Perpetuae, which he composed from 1322 to 1330 (published in Rome, 1471–72).
These works form a continuous commentary on the entire Bible, with priority accorded to the literal meaning, while other senses ("moralitates") are relegated to 35 substantial appendixes. The Postillae constitute the first Christian Bible commentary to be printed. The literalist approach led Nicholas to *Rashi, whom he often cites by name (Salomo). In this he had been anticipated by the Victorine scholars, especially by *Andrew of Saint Victor whom he quotes (G. Calandra, De… Andreae Victorini… in Ecclesiasten (1948), 83–85). However, Nicholas, who records his perusal of a controversial tract hebraice scriptus ("written in Hebrew"; see Hailperin in bibl., p. 140), used Rashi directly as well. In addition he read some rabbinic material in Raymond *Martini's Pugio Fidei. Soon after his death, Nicholas' Postillae were available in virtually every library in western Christendom. Nicholas had abiding influence (Hailperin, p. 282f.). Wycliffe acknowledged his indebtedness to Nicholas in his (later) English version of the Bible (c. 1388). *Luther was particularly dependent on him, especially on Genesis. In his commentary to Daniel, Abrabanel controverts Nicholas' christological exegesis.
L. Wadding, Scriptores Ordinis Minorum (1967), 178–9; R. Bellarmin, De Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis (1613), 213 (list of works); Catholic Encylopedia, 11 (1913), 63 (incl. bibl.); JE, 8 (1904), 231; EJ, 10 (1934), 1263; B. Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (19522), 185, 355; G.W.H. Lampe (ed.), The History of the Bible in the West, 2 (1969), 219; H. Hailperin, Rashi and the Christian Scholars (1963), passim.