J. A. Bengel — “Full of Light” -- By: Andrew Helmbold

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 006:3 (Summer 1963)
Article: J. A. Bengel — “Full of Light”
Author: Andrew Helmbold

J. A. Bengel — “Full of Light”

Andrew Helmbold

Among the luminaries of the Lutheran Church, none should shine brighter than Johann Albrecht Bengel, who has met the underserved fate of being known only in academic circles. Yet he certainly was the greatest Biblical scholar of his century, and made more lasting contributions to Biblical studies than many more famous men. The purpose of this article is to point out those contributions. To do so one must look at Bengel’s life and character, for his studies were the direct result of his own spiritual experience.

Bengel as a Christian

Bengel was born to a Lutheran parsonage family at Winnenden, Germany, on June 24, 1678. He lost his father at the age of six. As a child he read Arndt’s True Christianity and Francke’s Introduction to the Reading of the Scriptures.1 Thus early was he influenced by the pietistic movement, although the never became a pietist. In later life he used Arndt’s work and Francke’s Sermons and Muller’s Hours of Refreshing in family devotions. He completed his theological education at Tubingen in 1706. Then followed a curacy at City Church, Tubingen, a period as theological repetent at his alma mater, another curacy at Stuttgart, and a professorship at Denkendorf (1713-1741) which he left only to serve as prelate of the church. His home was blessed with twelve children, but six died in infancy. His comfort in his hours of sorrow was that “if a vacancy has been made in his family circle, another vacancy had been filled up in heaven.”2 At his death, on Nov. 2, 1752, the words “Lord Jesus, to Thee I live; to Thee I suffer; to Thee I die: Thine I am. in death and in life; save and bless me O Saviour, for ever and ever. Amen.” were repeated over him. He signified his assent by placing his hand over his heart, thus reaffirming what he had said previously, “All that I am and have, both in principle and practice, is to be summed up in this one expression—the Lord’s property.”3

The depth of his own spiritual life is seen in his hymns “Daysman! Source of Power” and “Word of the Father! Speak!”4 He constantly drew upon heavenly resources. As he began to revise his Exposition of the Apocalypse, he said, “O what cause have I to ask continual help of God in this important business.”5 Combining thus deep personal piety, which he considered the conditio sine qua non, with extensive learning, he was well qualified to become “the most important ...

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