Online Encyclopedia

GERHARD

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 768 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GERHARD,JOHANN (1582-1637), Lutheran divine, was born in Quedlinburg on the 17th of October 1582. In his fifteenth year, during a dangerous illness, he came under the personal influence of Johann Arndt, author of Das wahre Christenthum, and resolved to study for the church. He entered the university of Wittenberg in 1599, and first studied philosophy. He also attended lectures in theology, but, a relative having persuaded him to change his subject, he studied medicine for two years. In 1603, however, he resumed his theological reading at Jena, and in the following year received a new impulse from J. W. Winckelmann (1551-1626) and Balthasar Mentzer (1565-1627) at Marburg. Having graduated and begun to give lectures at Jena in 1605, he in 16o6 accepted the invitation of John Casimir, duke of Coburg, to the superintendency of Heldburg and master-ship of the gymnasium; soon afterwards he became general superintendent of the duchy, in which capacity he was engaged in the practical work of ecclesiastical organization until 1616, when he became theological professor at Jena, where the remainder of his life was spent. Here, with Johann Major and Johann Himmel, he formed the " Trias Johannea." Though still comparatively young, Gerhard had already come to be regarded as the greatest living theologian of Protestant Germany; in the numerous " disputations " of the period he was always protagonist, while on all public and domestic questions touching on religion or morals his advice was widely sought. It is recorded that during the course of his lifetime he had received repeated calls to almost every universityin Germany (e.g. Giessen, Altdorf, Helmstedt, Jena, Wittenberg), as well as to Upsala in Sweden. He died in Jena on the 2oth of August 1637. His writings are numerous, alike in exegetical, polemical, dogmatic and practical theology. To the first category belong the Commenlarius in harmoniam hisloriae evangelicae de passione Christi (1617), the Comment, super priorem D. Petri epistolam (1641), and also his commentaries on Genesis (1637) and on Deuteronomy (1658). Of a controversial character are the Confessio Catholica (1633-1637), an extensive work which seeks to prove the evangelical and catholic character of the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession from the writings of approved Roman Catholic authors; and the Loci communes theologici (1610-1622), his principal contribution to science, in which Lutheranism is expounded " nervose, solide, et copiose," in fact with a fulness of learning, a force of logic and Berlin as tutor in the family of an advocate named Berthold, whose daughter he subsequently married, on receiving his first ecclesiastical appointment at Mittelwald (a small town in the neighbourhood of Berlin) in 1651. In 1657 he accepted an invitation as " diaconus " to the Nicolaikirche of Berlin; but, in consequence of his uncompromising Lutheranism in refusing to accept the elector Frederick William's " syncretistic " edict of 1664, he was deprived in 1666. Though absolved from submission and restored to office early in the following year, on the petition of the citizens, his conscience did not allow him to retain a post which, as it appeared to him, could only be held on condition of at least a tacit repudiation of the Formula Concordiae, and for upwards of a year he lived in Berlin without fixed employment. In 1668 he was appointed archdeacon of Lubben in the duchy of Saxe-Nlerseburg, where, after a somewhat sombre ministry of eight years, he died on the 7th of June 1676. Gerhardt is the greatest hymn-writer of Germany, if not indeed of Europe. Many of his best-known hymns were originally published in various church hymn-books, as for example in that for Brandenburg, which appeared in 1658; others first saw the light in Johann Cruger's Geistliche Kirchenmelodien (1649) and Praxis pietatis melica (1656). The first complete set of them is the Geistliche Andachten, published in 1666–1667 by Ebeling, music director in Berlin. No hymn by Gerhardt of a later date than 1667 is known to exist. The life of Gerhardt has been written by Roth (1829), by Langbecker (1841), by Schultz (1842), by Wildenhahn (1845) and byy Bachmann (1863) ; also by Kraft in Ersch u. Gruber's Allg. Encycl. (1855). The best modern edition of the hymns, published by Wackernagel in 1843, has often been reprinted. There is an English translation by Kelly (Paul Gerhardt's Spiritual Songs, 1867).
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FRIEDRICH WILHELM EDUARD GERHARD (1795-1867)

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