Richard Rothe’s Years Of Authorship -- By: Samuel Osgood

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 031:124 (Oct 1874)
Article: Richard Rothe’s Years Of Authorship
Author: Samuel Osgood

Richard Rothe’s Years Of Authorship1

Rev. Samuel Osgood

We gave, in a previous Article, an account of Rothe’s four years of ministry in Rome, with a short sketch of his previous life and education, such as would prepare our readers to interpret intelligently his conspicuous career as a thinker and author. At the end of September 1828, we found him, on his return from Rome, at Wittenberg, once more among kindred and friends, ready for new service at this familiar post, where he had labored more than two years (1820–1822) as a seminarist, and he was now to serve in that same seminary as professor for nine years (1828–1837). From Wittenberg he went to Heidelberg, where he remained in the university twelve years (1837–1849), and which he left for a time to be professor at Bonn (1849–1854), but to which he returned, much to his satisfaction, after five years absence, for the remainder of his life (1854–1867). To many readers, and especially to a limited circle of scholars, the particulars of these nearly forty years of academic life, with his personal friendships and discussions, his private correspondence and his theological and ecclesiastical miscellanies, have undoubtedly great interest, and all the minute detail of Nippold’s careful and elaborate work will be most welcome to them. But our business is now with Rothe as a thinker; and we care to give now only such facts as may bear upon the development and import of his characteristic thought.

It is evident that his literary life moved in a most eventful period of modern history. From 1828 onward for forty years we trace now a new and remarkable transformation not only of scientific, political, and theological opinions, but of the very constitution of government and society. What was coming when he returned from Rome to Wittenberg he did not know nor presume to say; but he evidently had within his experience and conviction the seeds of thought that were virtually prophecies of things to come. After those four years of life in Rome, with that constant spectacle of a false theology, carried out into a false social and political as well as ecclesiastical order, he could not be content to spin fine theories of philosophy or religion; and the two great masters of the dominant thinking, who were then near the end of their career — Hegel, with his absolute reason, and Schleiermacher, with his ideal Christ, — must have appeared to him dreamers of fond dreams, after the break of day had come and the bell had rung for work, or the signal had been given for the battle. There was the old despotism, a substantial and aggressive fact, and the new thought ought to be quite as substantial and aggressive. He felt probably the gre...

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