Christian Hebraist; born at Vaucouleurs Jan. 3, 1709; died at Paris Dec. 29, 1765. Though he achieved particular distinction as a Hebraist and Biblical exegete, this was not the only branch of scholarship in which he excelled: he was, in fact, an exceedingly versatile student and writer. Belles-lettres, mathematics, philosophy, history, and the classics, with the Oriental languages and the Holy Scriptures, all received his attention. In 1742 he became librarian of the Sorbonne; but his most fertile period as an exegete commenced in 1751 after he had been appointed to the chair in Biblical exegesis founded in the Sorbonne by the Duc d'Orleans. It was then that Ladvocat began to publish those theses on several books of the Old Testament—particularly the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the Book of Job—that won for him fame even in foreign countries. Two years after his new appointment he wrote "Grammaire Hébraïque à l'Usage des Ecoles de la Sorbonne" (Paris, 1753; last ed. 1822).
It is, however, his "Interprétation Historique et Critique du Psalm 68" (ib. 1767) that deserves a prominent place in the history of Biblical criticism. In a letter prefixed to the "Interprétation" Ladvocat dwells on the impossibility of a correct comprehension of the Scriptures without a pure and correct Hebrew text. "Without the latter," he says, "all commentaries must needs be erroneous. As a matter of fact, all our Hebrew Bibles, not excluding the edition of Athias (1705), are printed without taste, without critical judgment, according to the most modern and least correct manuscripts, and thus are replete with shortcomings, errors, and solecisms." Consequently he suggests, as the surest means of restoring the Hebrew text as far as possible to its pristine purity, a critical comparison of the extant texts with the versions of the Hexapla, the Targumim, and all other ancient versions—a task which he himself really purposed to accomplish by the publication of a critical edition of the several books of the Old Testament, together with linguistic and archeological apparatus.
It must be added that, notwithstanding the large number of its textual errors, Ladvocat firmly believed in the integrity and the authenticity of the Old Testament, a view and a defense of which he embodied in "Letters on the Authenticity of the Original Texts of the Holy Scriptures" (1766).
- Michaud, Biographie Universelle, new ed., xxii. 431;
- La Grande Encyclopédie, xxi. 735;
- Steinschneider, Bibliographisches Handbuch, 1859, p. 3, Supplement, p. 346, Leipsic, 1896.