Autobiography Of Dr. Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider -- By: George E. Day

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 009:36 (Oct 1852)
Article: Autobiography Of Dr. Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider
Author: George E. Day


Autobiography Of Dr. Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider

George E. Day

[Dr. K. G. Bretschneider, long and widely known as one of the most eminent scholars and divines in Germany, died in Gotha, where for many years he had filled the office of general superintendent, on the 22nd of January, 1848. Among his papers was found an extended account of his own life, written with remarkable simplicity and frankness. At the earnest solicitation of his friends, this has been lately given to the public by his son, together with an appendix containing sixty-seven letters from the most eminent of his correspondents, such as Reinhard, Tittmann, Berthold, von Ammon, Gies-seler, Uhlich, Ronge, Hase, Wegscheider and others.

The memoir, with some omissions, has been deemed worthy of a place in this Journal, partly on account of the picture it presents of the literary and theological training and the ecclesiastical and pastoral experience of a prominent German divine, and partly on account of the light it sheds upon the rationalism of Germany in its near and every-day aspects. It is a singular fact that in this country the most opposite opinions have been entertained in respect to the theological position of Bretschneider. While some have erroneously regarded him as essentially evangelical in sentiment, others have classed him among the rationalists. These contradictory views may be accounted

for perhaps by the changes which passed around him and which altered his apparent, and to a certain degree, his real position. A protegé of the celebrated Reinhard, whose supranaturalism, as is well known, did not escape the enfeebling influence of the prevalent spirit of the times, Bretschneider, during the first half of his life, assumed like his master, though less distinctly, a certain conservative attitude. In contrast with the school of Wegscheider, Röhr and Paulus, who contended that human reason constitutes the exclusive source and arbiter of all religious knowledge, thus denying on the one hand the inspiration of the Scriptures, and on the other casting overboard the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel, he might almost appear to occupy high ground. The supernatural character of Christianity he received and defended; and if he claimed that the statements of the Bible mast be compared with the decisions of reason and experience, and only those which can pass this test be received as belonging to a revelation from God, it might easily appear to those who looked only upon the surface, that this was just the ground on which the supernatural character of the Christian religion could be best defended against the assaults of a growing and audacious scepticism.

But in 1815–17 the tide began to turn. I...

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