The Man Who Learned 45 Languages

Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) was truly an amazing man. At the age of 20 he graduated Princeton University. He went on to acquire M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. He was a brilliant student of languages, able to read the New Testament in nine different languages before completing his academic preparation.

At the age of 25 he determined to spend the rest of his life investigating the text of the Bible to see whether or not it had been accurately transmitted through the ages. With that aim, and hoping to live to at least 70, he planned his life’s work in three periods of fifteen years each.

The first period would be devoted to the study of all the ancient languages into which the Bible had been translated down to the year A.D. 600. Amazingly, he accomplished that goal and in the process mastered 45 languages!

The second period was given to the intensive study of the Hebrew text, comparing ancient copies and investigating the variations. This was extremely detailed work. Wilson made a study of the entire text, consonant by consonant. His intention was to reduce Old Testament criticism to an objective science – textual analysis based on evidence, not opinion.

Dr. Wilson spent the final period of his life writing about the discoveries of his many years of meticulous labor. In his book, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament, Harper & Bros., New York, 1929, he presented detailed evidence of the accurate transmission of the Biblical text.

For example, he compared the lists of ancient Near Eastern kings given in the Bible with equivalent lists on monuments and engravings uncovered by archaeologists. In virtually every case the Bible had them written in exactly the same way, consonant for consonant. What makes this so remarkable is the comparison with other ancient histories in which the names of foreign kings are so misspelled and confused as to be almost unrecognizable.

Yet the 29 kings of Egypt, Israel, Moab, Damascus, Tyre, Babylon, Assyria, and Persia mentioned in the Bible are given their correct names, in their correct country, and are placed in their correct chronological order. This confirms the Biblical accounts dated back to the times they purport to describe; they were not the myths and legends the Biblical critics accused them of being. His work also proved the text has been preserved with incredible accuracy from those very, very ancient times until the present.

Summarizing the impact of his long years of study, Wilson wrote:

For forty-five years continuously, since I left college, I have devoted myself to one great study of the Old Testament, in all of its languages, in all its archaeology, in all its translations, and as far as possible in everything bearing upon its text and history. I tell you this so that you may see why I can and do speak as an expert. I may add that the result of my forty-five years of study of the Bible has led me all the time to a firmer faith that in the Old Testament we have a true history of the Israelite people; and I have a right to commend this to some of those bright men and women who think that they can laugh at the old-time Christian believer in the Word of God.

If you would like to read more about Robert Wilson’s work or other fascinating accounts regarding the historicity of the Bible then see Wayne Jackson’s Biblical Studies in the Light of Archaeology. I’ll be happy to loan you my copy (or better yet, you can buy your own. It’s not expensive).

– Bill

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