Early Harvard and Biblical Studies 1765
Hancock Professorship of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages Established
The Hancock Professorship of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages, the third oldest endowed chair at Harvard after the Hollis Professorship of Divinity and the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, was established in 1765 and was the professorship through which Arabic was taught at Harvard, even if sporadically, in the 18th and 19th centuries. The statutes for the Hancock Professorship required that the professor be a Protestant, a Master of Arts, instruct students in the Oriental languages, especially Hebrew and Chaldee [Chaldaen Aramaic], give public lectures in the chapel once per week, and offer private instruction 2-3 hours per week to such of his pupils as should desire it “in the Samaritan, the Syriac, and the Arabic." The first instructor dedicated to teaching Hebrew at Harvard was Judah Monis, a former Jewish rabbi born to Sephardic parents “in Italy or in one of the Barbary states,” possibly in Algiers, who published the first Hebrew grammar in America. Monis’s successor in Hebrew instruction, Stephen Sewall, was the first to hold the Hancock chair.