Wetzer, Heinrich Joseph

Wetzer, Heinrich Joseph chief editor of the Encyclopedia of Roman, Catholic Theology, was born in 1801 at Anzefahr, in Electoral,Hesse. His early instruction was obtained of pastor Kaiser, at Niederklein; thence he went to the Psedagogium, and subsequently (1820) to the University of Marburg. Under Arnold's and Hartmann's tuition, he devoted himself especially to the study of the Hebrew and Arabic languages. In 1823 he was at Tübingen, engaged in the study of Oriental languages, and in 1824 he received at Freiburg the doctorate of theology and canon law. He then visited Paris, and prosecuted the study of Arabic and Persian under De Sacy, and of Syriac under Quatremere. While in Paris he published from an Arabic manuscript The History of' the Coptic Christians down to the 14th Century (1828), as written by a learned imaum of Egypt, accompanying the Arabic text with a Latin version. He had already published A Latin Treatise on the Arian, Controversy, A.D. 325-350 (1827). In 1828 he became tutor and extraordinary professor, and in 1830 ordinary professor, of Oriental philology at Freiburg. In 1831 he married. He delivered interesting lectures on the grammar of the Hebrew and Arabic languages, and on the interpretation of Scripture and introduction to the Old Test. etc. In 1840 he published, in connection with L. Van Ess, the Sulzbach edition of the Bible. In the internal disputes which agitated the University of Freiburg, he held strictly Roman Catholic ground. When in 1844 a motion was made in the Chambers of Baden to discontinue that institution of learning, ho wrote an essay advocating its preservation. His principal importance, however, grows out of the assent he gave to the plan of publishing a cyclopedia of Roman Catholic theology, as conceived by the bookseller Herder. He was given the direction of the work, and industriously prosecuted it from 1846 until his death in November, 1853. The work is thoroughly Roman Catholic in tone and spirit, and has doubtless contributed greatly towards fixing the tendency of that theology of late years in Germany. Its treatment of Protestantism, the institutions growing out of it, and the men connected with it is naturally biased; but its polemics are never bitter or extreme. Significant are the brevity and superficial treatment accorded to Sailer (q.v.), and curious the mildness which Fenelon's mystical quietism receives in the article "Bossnet." The immaculate conception of the Virgin is not at all approved of, though it was not yet a dogma of the Church when the Encyclopaedia appeared. The entire work, including Supplement, consists of 12 volumes (1847-1856). A complete Index facilitates its use. A new edition is at this writing (1881) in course of publication. — Herzog, Real- Encyklop. s.v.

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