Gieseler Johann Karl Ludwig
Gieseler Johann Karl Ludwig, one of the greatest of modern Church historians, was born at Petershagen, near Minden, March 3, 1793. His father and grandfather, from both of whom, he received instruction in childhood, were Lutheran ministers, somewhat of the Pietistic school. In 1803 ha went to study at the Latin school of the Orphan House at Halle, and was afterwards made one of the masters. In 1813 he entered the "liberating" army as a volunteer; at the peace in 1815 he returned to his mastership; in 1817 he became co-rector of the gymnasium at Minden; in 1818 rector of that in Cleves; ansd in 1819 professor ordinarius of theology in the newly-founded University of Bonn. For this rapid success he was indebted to his Historisch-kritischer Versuch uber die Entstehung und die fruhesten Schicksale der schriflichen Evangelien (Historico-critical Essay on the Origin and earliest History of the written Gospels). In 1824 he began the publication of his Lehrbuch der Kirschengeschichte (Text-book of Church History), a further account of which is given below; and his studies were thenceforward almost wholly devoted to this science. In 1831 he accepted a call to the University of Gsttingen, where be spent the remainder of his life. The university repeatedly conferred on him the dignity of, protector, and he was almost uninterruptedly a member of one or more of the academical boards. He was devoted to the interests of the Göttingen Orphan House, of which he was curator, and which be visited almost daily. He also gave much time and labor to a masonic lodge of which he was a member. In these various offices his high administrative talent found full play. He died July 8, 1854. His Church History is the chief work on which his reputation rests. The 4th ed. of volume 1 appeared in 1844 and 1845; the 4th ed. of volume 2, carrying the history down to A.D. 1409, appeared in 1846-49; volume 3, reaching to 1648, appeared in two parts in 1840 and 1853. The 4th volume (16481814), the 5th (191A to the present time), and the 6th, containing Dogmengeschichte (History of Doctrines), were issued posthumously, 1855-1857. The history, as a whole, is, beyond question, the most learned, faithful, and impartial compendium of Church History that has ever appeared. Its most marked features are the judicious arrangement of the periods of history; the close, compact narrative in the text; and, most of all, the abundant sources of information given in the notes. In this last particular no other work resembles it; it does not merely give references, but on all difficult or controverted points the quotations bearing on the subject are given at length, thus enabling the reader who has not at command the treasures of a vast library, to consult, in no slight degree, the original sources for himself. It is true, however, that Gieseler moves through the field of Church History "with critical acumen and cold intellect" (Schaff), and not, like Neander, in the spirit of faith and devotion. The rationalism of the age in which he was educated leaves its traces, if not in his pages, at least between the lines. But his biographer, Redepenning, denies that he ever was a Rationalist in the ordinary sense of the term, and affirms that from the beginning to the end of his career he held fast the fundamental Christian doctrine of justification by faith alone. A translation of the first three volumes of the Church History, by Cunningham (Philadel. 1836, 3 volumes, 8vo), was made from the earlier editions, and has been superseded by a new one from the fourth edition by Davidson (Edinb. 1848-56), of which five volumes have appeared. A better edition still is the Amelican one, edited by Dr. H.B. Smith, of which four volumes have appeared (N.Y., Harper and Brothers, 8vo). Of his other works, we mention those on the disturbances in the Dutch Reformed Church between 1833 and 1839 (Unruhen in der nied.-ref. Kirche, etc., Hamb. 1840); on the Lehnin (q.v.) prophecy (Ueber d. Lehninsche Weissagung, Gotting. 1840; and Die Lehninsche Weissagung als ein Gedicht des Abts von Huysbruck nachgewiesen, Elberfeld, 1849); on the difficulty between the archbishop of Cologne and the Prussian government (Ueber die koln. Angelegenheit, Leipz. 1838). He was also one of the assistant editors of the Studien und Kritiken, one of the best theological journals of Germany. — Redepenning, in volume 5 of the Church History, translated in the
Journal of Sacred Literature, January 1856; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 5:152 sq.