Wertheim Bible

Wertheim Bible designates a German version of the Pentateuch, which excited great interest at the time of its first appearing (Easter, 1735), but has now lost whatever importance it may have heretofore possessed. It has not even the merit of being rare. It is, as its title indicates, the first volume of an intended issue of the whole Bible, and contains a preface of fortyeight pages, followed by ten hundred and forty pages of subject-matter, in small quarto. The preface sets forth the purpose of the author to show that the questionings of the human mind with respect to the divine authority of the Scriptures are to some extent warranted, and that the current conception of their authority rests largely upon prejudice and unscientific notions; and his further purpose to conform the statements of the Scriptures to the requirements of the human understanding, aided in this work by the light of history and the evidence of sound reason, and also to popularize the language of the Bible more than was done by Luther's version. The work is a simple product of vulgar rationalism, evincing in its features the marks of a half-educated mind and of zealous though private study on the part, of its author, who was Johann Lorenz Schmidt, in 1725 and afterwards tutor in the family of Count Lowenstein, and a graduate of Jena. He spent years in the preparation of the book, and submitted it, with varying result, to different scholars. It was printed in secret and published anonymously, and on its appearance excited a controversy which led to the issue of an imperial mandate, January 15, 1737, ordering its confiscation and the apprehension of its author. Schmidt was imprisoned a whole year before the authorities would admit him to bail, and was soon afterwards arrested again. His trial, however, does not appear to have been carried forward to a conclusion. Schmidt disappeared from view, though it was rumored that he had fled to Hamburg, assumed the name of Schroeder, and found employment as a translator from the English (Tindal), Spanish (Spinoza), and French (Cantimir), and afterwards as chamberlain at Wolfenbiittel, where he died in 1750. Schmidt published in 1738 a collection of writings in support of or in opposition to the Wertheim Bible, which contains reviews, polemical pamphlets, and his own replies (528 pages, 4to). A similar collection, augmented with documents bearing on the trial, is that of Sinnhold (Erfurt, 1737 sq., 3 pamphlets containing 217 pages, 4to). See also Walch, Streitigkeiten in d. lath. Kirche, part 5; Baumgarten, Nacchrichten von einer Holl. Bibliothek, part 8; Schrockh, Neuere Kirchengesch. 7:598 sq.; Herzog, Real-Encyclop. s.v.

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