Bunsen, Christian Karl Josias

Bunsen, Christian Karl Josias was born at Korbach, in the German principality of Waldeck, Aur. 25, 1791, and studied at Marburg and Gottingen. In the latter university he came especially under the influence of the great philologist Heyne, whose instructions and example gave a bent to the youthful studies of Bunsen, and affected his career through life. At twenty he had so distinguished himself that he obtained a professorship in the gymnasium of Gottingen. In 1813 he published a dissertation, De Jure Atheniensium haereditario, which made his name known widely among the savans of Germany. Soon after he undertook a journey to Holland and Denmark, in which latter country he made the acquaintance of a disciple, if not a descendant, of Magnussen, who taught him the Icelandic tongue. After a while Bunsen made his' way to Berlin, and there commenced his first acquaintance with Niebuhr, who was afterward to be his best patron and friend. Niebuhr suggested to the young man to visit Paris, where he studied, under the celebrated Orientalist De Sacy, Arabic, Persian, and Sanscrit. In 1817 he went to Rome, where Niebuhr was Prussian ambassador. Niebuhr in 1818 appointed him his private secretary, and speedily procured him the place of secretary of embassy. A couple of years after his appointment, King Frederick William III arrived at Rome, and Bunsen became his cicerone. The king was struck with the erudition of his young official, and marked him out for promotion. In 1824 he made him his charge d'affaires at Rome, and in 1827 his minister resident. While enjoying this almost sinecure, Bunsen devoted himself to philological and antiquarian studies, and formed an enduring friendship with Champollion and his own countrymen Lepsius and Gerhard. He devoted himself alternately to Egyptian hieroglyphics, to the topography of ancient Rome, and to ancient Greek literature, more especially to the study of Plato. He also took a great interest in the Protestant Church and worship at Rome. In 1838 he was recalled, on account of a difficulty between the papal court and that of Prussia about certain extravagances of the Archbishop of Cologne. In 1841 Bunsen was appointed ambassador to England, and remained in that post until 1854. His political ideas being too liberal for the times, he was recalled home in that year, and spent the remainder of his life in his favorite studies, chiefly at Heidelberg, where he had a charming home, in which all visitors, and especially English and American travelers, were received with a free and cordial hospitality. He died at Bonn on Nov. 28,1860. As a fruit of his residence in Italy, he furnished a large part of the material for Cotta's Beschreibung von Rom, and in 1843 he published, under his own name, Die Basiliken des Christlichen Roms (Munich, 8vo). His Vesfassung der Kirche der Zukunft (Hamb. 1845) was translated into English, and published, both in London and New York, under the title of The Church of the Future (12mo). In 1845 he commenced the publication of his AEgyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschichte, the fifth and last volume of which appeared in 1857. Part of this work has been translated into English, under the title Egypt's Place in Universal History. It is a vast repertory of facts and fancies, not a thoroughly digested book of science. He issued his Ignatius von Antiochien u. seine Zeit in 1847, and his Briefe des Ignatius in the same year. His Zeichen der Zeit appeared in 1855-6, and was translated into English as — The Signs of the Times (London and New York). This work is a powerful plea in behalf of the principle of religious liberty, and was principally directed against the intolerant views of Stahl and Hengstenberg. It led to a very violent controversy with Stahl, in which a number of the leading theologians of Germany took part on both sides. His Gott in der Geschichte (1857) has not, we think, been translated. His most important work of late years is his Hippolytus (Lond. 1851, 4 vols. 8vo), afterward republished in 1854 in a fuller form, as Christianity and Mankind: their Beginnings and Prospects (Lond. 7 vols. 8vo), which contains, indeed, a vast deal of learned lumber, and of vague and conjectural dissertation, but is yet a very valuable contribution to our knowledge of early Church history. At the time of his death he was engaged upon his Vollstandiges Bibelwerk fur die Gemeinde, of which the first half volume appeared in 1858. The preface shows the character of the work fully. It was to be completed in eight volumes, four of which were to consist of his new version of the Bible in German, three of Bible Documents, and one of Bible History. It abounds in proofs of learning, but, like the other theological writings of Bunsen, it is entirely wanting in sobriety and discrimination, and has called forth very decided remonstrances on the part of the evangelical theologians of Germany as well as of other countries. M. Pressense, in the Revue Chretienne, Dec. 1860, gives a touching description of the last days and the death of Bunsen, which has been translated in many English and American journals. See also Getzer, Bunsen als Staatsmann und Schriftsteller (Gotha, 1861).

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