Steudel, Johann Christian Friedrich

Steudel, Johann Christian Friedrich doctor and professor of theology at Tübingen, was born Oct. 25, 1779, at Esslingen, in Wurtemberg. He was received into the gymnasium at Stuttgart when in his sixteenth year, and while there began the study of Hebrew and laid the foundation for the Old Test. studies of his later days. In 1797 he was admitted to the theological institution at Tübingen, where Storr's tendency was then represented by Flatt, Susskind, and others. He afterwards served two years as vicar at Oberesslingen, and then returned to Tübingen as tutor. Schnurrer's lectures on the Arabic language now stimulated Steudel to prepare himself to teach Oriental languages, and he availed himself, in 1808, of the aid of the government and of viscount Von Palm to undertake the study of Arabic and Persian at Paris under the direction of De Sacy, Langles, Chezy, etc. On his return in 1810 he was, however, at first employed in the pulpit, being made deacon at Canstatt and Tübingen; but an academical career was opened for him by the opportunity of giving private tuition to backward students. In 1815 he became a member of the theological faculty, though he retained his position in the ministry. In 1822 he added the charge of the early service in the town church and an inspectorship in the seminary to his engagements, and in 1826 he became senior of the faculty and first inspector. His lectures at first were confined to the books of the Bible, particularly of the Old Test.; after a time he included the Oriental languages in his course; and from 1826 he delivered regular lectures on dogmatics and apologetics. He was likewise a diligent and fruitful writer, though not in the field of Old Test. literature where he was most at home. He preferred to write on systematic theology. A few academical essays, of which that of 1830, entitled Veterisne Testam. Libris Insit Notio Manifesti ab Occulto Distinguendi Numinis, is the most important, and several reviews and articles in Bengel's Archiv., and in the Tübinger Zeitschr. fur Theologie (founded by him in 1828), constitute all that he published in his own special line of work. His lectures on Old Test. theology were published after his death by Oehler, in 1840 (Berlin). His interest in systematic theology probably grew out of the importance he attached to questions relating to theological principles. In 1814 he wrote Ueber die Haltbarkeit d. Glaubens an geschichtliche, hohere Offenbarung Gottes. It was a matter of conscience with him not to ignore any important theological scheme, but rather to test it by the rule of unalterable truth; and he consequently fought his way from the beginning to the end of his career as a theologian. He broke a lance with nearly every prominent theologian of his time in the belief that controversy reveals the truth; but he was nevertheless essentially a man of peace. He. was unable to advance as rapidly as more recent thinkers, because he believed that the new theology was not doing, justice to many features of the -older supranaturalism; but he fought every new departure fairly and in its principles, so. that .he secured the respect of the better class among his opponents, e.g. Schleiermacher, in response to whom he wrote one of his best treatises (Ueber das bei Ellinger Anmerkennung des histor. Christus sich fur d. Bildung (c. Glaubens ergebende Verfahren [Tüb. Zeitschr. 1830]). He is generally regarded as the latest prominent representative of the older Tübingen school of which Storr was the head; but it is evident from his writings that he occupied an independent relation to that school from the beginning, and that he by no means ignored the progress of theological science. He retained the one-sided idea of that school concerning religion and revelation which defines religion as an aggregation of "opinions," etc., but he departed from the Storr method of demonstration, inasmuch as he taught that what the Bible reveals is simply a confirmation, completion, and rectification of man's natural consciousness of the truth (comp. for Storr's view, Storr's Dogmatik, § 15, note f). Steudel was certainly influenced to depart from the older supranaturalist view by both F.H. Jacobi and Schleiermacher. (On the whole subject, see his Glaubenslehre [1834]). In exegesis Steudel displayed the deficiencies of the Storr school; but it is certain that his hermeneutical theory was better than his exegetical practice. His works contain many sound arguments in support of the historico- grammatical method of interpretation as against Kanne, Olshausen, and Hengstenberg (see Behandlung d. Sprache d. heil. Schrift als eine Sprache d. Geistes [1822, etc.]). He clearly recognized a historical progression in revelation, and consequently different stages, and must be accorded the praise of having furnished valuable contributions towards the development of Biblical theology. (On this subject, comp. especially his articles entitled Blicke in d. alttestamentl. Offenbarung, in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1835, Nos. 1 and 2). Steudel also wrote on matters pertaining to the practical interests of the Church, e.g. ecclesiastical union, on which he published, in 1811, Ueber Religionsvereinigung, in opposition to a proposed amalgamation of the Protestant and Romish churches; in 1816, Beitrag zur Kenntniss d. Geistes gewisser Vermittlea d. Friedens; in 1822 he wrote against a proposed union of the Reformed and Lutheran churches of Würtemberg (Ueber-d. Vereinigung bei der evangel. Kirchen; comp. also Ueber Rucktritt zum Lutherthum, in the Tib. Zeitschr. 1831, 3, 125 sq.). He had no confidence in the value of experiments within the field of the Church, and hence opposed their application (comp. Ueber Heilmittel fur d. evangel. Kirche, in the Tib. Zeitschr. 1832, No. 1). His other writings were designed to promote interest for the educational institutions of his country, etc., and need not be mentioned here. So forceful a character as Steudel was not always favorably regarded by his superiors, and he was frequently made aware of the fact. But his principal troubles grew out of the hostility. of the new tendency, which was becoming all-powerful at Tübingen during his later days. The new school could not pardon his inability to keep wholly separate the scientific and the edifying" (Baur, in Klipfel's Gesch. d. Tüb. Universitat, p. 417); and when he ventured, a few weeks after the appearance of the first volume of Strauss's Leben Jesu, to issue a brief rejoinder, in which he opposed to the confidence with which Strauss had pronounced sentence of death upon supranaturalism an equally confident testimony, "drawn from the consciousness of a believer," to the vitality of supranaturalism, he was smitten with the full force of the anger of the enraged critic in the well-known tractate Herr Dr. Steudel, oder d. Selbsttauschungen d. verstandigen Supranaturalismus unserer Tage, a masterpiece of depreciatory polemics. Steudel responded quietly in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1837, 2, 119 sq., and with this effort closed his public career. He was obliged by physical ailments to submit to repeated and painful surgical operations, and died Oct. 24, 1837. With regard to his life and. character, see the memorial discourse by Dorner and the biographical sketch by Dettinger, both published in the Tub. Zeitschr. for 1838, No. 1. The latter article contains also a list of Steudel's writings; .

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