Bahrdt, Karl Friedrich

Bahrdt, Karl Friedrich a German Rationalist, notorious for his bold infidelity and for his evil life, was born Aug. 25,1741, at Bischofswerda, Saxony. He studied at Pforta and at Leipzig, where his father was professor of theology. The old Lutheran faith was still taught there; but Ernesti was one of the professors, and a new era was dawning. Bahrdt first imbibed Crusius's (q.v.) philosophical orthodoxy. In 1761 he became master, and began to lecture, and did it fluently and with applause, on dogmatic theology. He soon became very popular, also, from his eloquence in the pulpit. In 1768 he was compelled to resign as professor ext. of theology on account of a charge of adultery, and it is clear that even thus early he was leading a very immoral life. Through the influence of Klotz, a man of kindred spirit, he was made professor of Biblical archaeology at Erfurt; but he soon fell into ill repute there, and next obtained a chair at Giessen. Here he abandoned the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement, and published several books which brought down the wrath even of Semler (q.v.). After many wanderings to and fro in search of fame and wealth, of which he was always greedy, yet always poor, he returned to Halle in 1779. His career here for ten years was erratic and disgraceful; he wrote books, lectured when he could get hearers, and opened a tavern in a vineyard, with the assistance of his maid, who lived with him as his wife, though his own good wife was yet alive. In 1789 he was imprisoned. He died near Halle, April 23, 1792. He was the living type and illustration of the vulgar rationalism of his age. His writings were very numerous (nearly 150 in number), but are of no critical or theological value, and therefore need not be enumerated. — Kahnis, German Protestantism, ch. 2, p. 130; Hurst, History of Rationalism, p. 139-142.

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