Teller, Wilhelm Abraham

Teller, Wilhelm Abraham a leading theologian of the "enlightenment" party of Germany in the last century, was born in 1734 at Leipsic, where his father was then professor and pastor. In 1755 he was made catechist and bachelor of theology, and began with his earliest literary production to display his sympathy with the liberal school of theologians. He turned his attention more immediately to the criticism of the text of the Old Test. after the manner of Michaelis. In 1756 he published a Latin translation of Kennicott's dissertation on Hebrew text-criticism. In 1761 he was made general superintendent and professor at Helmstedt. In 1764 he issued his Lehrbuch des christlichen Glaubens, which revealed the advanced theological views to which he had attained, and alarmed the faculties and consistories. Its position was that of the first stage of rationalistic "enlightenment," and its most noticeable trait a revulsion against the authority of traditional beliefs. The excitement occasioned by its appearance was such that the whole edition was confiscated. in Electoral Saxony, and that he retained his position at Helmstedt with serious difficulty. 'From this unpleasant situation he was extricated by an appointment to Cologne on the Spree as' provost and member of the high consistory, where was the very heart of the party of progress, and where he-felt free to publish to the world his views without reserve. He did this in a Wörterbuch d. Neuen Testaments (1772, and afterwards in six editions), whose preface contained an appeal to preachers that they should expound not only the words, but also, and much more, the ideas, of Scripture, because the latter contains not only Hebrew and Greek forms of expression, but also Hebrew and Greek forms of thought. A further opportunity of showing his independence occurred in 1792 in connection with the trial of a preacher named Schulz, of Gielsdorf, for departure from the standards of the Lutheran Church. The opinion of the high consistory having been required, Teller voted for acquittal on the grounds that under the Lutheran form of Church government every person is constituted his own judge in matters pertaining to the faith, and that all such matters must be determined by Scripture. Schulz was acquitted, but the members of the chamber were afterwards fined and provost Teller was suspended for three months because of this action. The latter nevertheless proceeded, in the same year, to publish a more complete statement of his views in the work Die Religion der Vollkomomeneren, whose theme was the perfectibility of Christianity. In 1798 he received an address from Jews resident in Berlin demanding admission into the Christian Church without the imposition on them of a Christian creed; but the high consistory negatived the request, though with regret, and with a promise to impose on the petitioners no new disabilities. Teller died Dec. 9, 1804. His more important works have been mentioned above. He was not popular as a preacher, but his sermons were printed in a third edition as early as 1792. He published the Neues Magazin für Predier, whose tenth volume appeared in 1801, which was also well received, even among Roman Catholic clergyman. In addition to original work, he edited. Turretin's Tract. de Scipt. Sac. Interpretatione; and he was an important contributor to the Allemn. deutsche Bibliothek. See Nicolai, Geddchtnissschrift auf Teller (1807); Summarische Lebensnachr., appended to Troschel's memorial discourse; Herzog, Real Encyklop. s.v.; Hagenbach, Hist. of Church in 18th and 19th Cent. 1, 347, 366, 371, 499.

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