After studying at Hamburg and Franeker, where Sixtinus Amama was one of his teachers, he became in 1630 professor of biblical philology at the Gymnasium illustre in his native town. In 1636 he was transferred to Franeker, where he held the chair of Hebrew, and from 1643 the chair of theology also, until 1650, when he succeeded the elder Friedrich Spanheim as professor of theology at the University of Leiden.
His chief services as an oriental scholar were in the department of Hebrew philology and exegesis. As one of the leading exponents of the covenant or federal theology, he spiritualized the Hebrew scriptures to such an extent that it was said that Cocceius found Christ everywhere in the Old Testament and Hugo Grotius found him nowhere.
He taught that before the fall of man, as much as after it, the relation between God and man was a covenant. The first covenant was a Covenant of Works. For this was substituted, after the Fall, the Covenant of Grace, to fulfil which the coming of Jesus was necessary. He held millenarian views, and was the founder of a school of theologians who were called after him Cocceians.
His theology was founded entirely on the Bible, and he did much to promote and encourage the study of the original text. In one of his essays he contends that the observance of the Sabbath, though expedient, is not binding upon Christians, since it was a Jewish institution.
His most distinguished pupil was the celebrated Campeius Vitringa. His most valuable work was his Lexicon et commentarius sermonis hebraici et chaldaici (Leiden, 1669), which has been frequently republished; his theology is fully expounded in his Summa Doctrinae de Foedere et Testamento Dei (1648).
His collected works were published in 12 folio volumes (Amsterdam, 1673-1675).
- ? This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.