1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gerhard, Johann

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GERHARD, JOHANN (1582-1637), Lutheran divine, was born in Quedlinburg on the 17th of October 1582. In his fifteenth year, during a dangerous illness, he came under the personal influence of Johann Arndt, author of Das wahre Christenthum, and resolved to study for the church. He entered the university of Wittenberg in 1599, and first studied philosophy. He also attended lectures in theology, but, a relative having persuaded him to change his subject, he studied medicine for two years. In 1603, however, he resumed his theological reading at Jena, and in the following year received a new impulse from J. W. Winckelmann (1551-1626) and Balthasar Mentzer (1565-1627) at Marburg. Having graduated and begun to give lectures at Jena in 1605, he in 1606 accepted the invitation of John Casimir, duke of Coburg, to the superintendency of Heldburg and mastership of the gymnasium; soon afterwards he became general superintendent of the duchy, in which capacity he was engaged in the practical work of ecclesiastical organization until 1616, when he became theological professor at Jena, where the remainder of his life was spent. Here, with Johann Major and Johann Himmel, he formed the “Trias Johannea.” Though still comparatively young, Gerhard had already come to be regarded as the greatest living theologian of Protestant Germany; in the numerous “disputations” of the period he was always protagonist, while on all public and domestic questions touching on religion or morals his advice was widely sought. It is recorded that during the course of his lifetime he had received repeated calls to almost every university in Germany (e.g. Giessen, Altdorf, Helmstädt, Jena, Wittenberg), as well as to Upsala in Sweden. He died in Jena on the 20th of August 1637.

His writings are numerous, alike in exegetical, polemical, dogmatic and practical theology. To the first category belong the Commentarius in harmonium historiae evangelicae de passione Christi (1617), the Comment, super priorem D. Petri epistolam (1641), and also his commentaries on Genesis (1637) and on Deuteronomy (1658). Of a controversial character are the Confessio Catholica (1633-1637), an extensive work which seeks to prove the evangelical and catholic character of the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession from the writings of approved Roman Catholic authors; and the Loci communes theologici (1610-1622), his principal contribution to science, in which Lutheranism is expounded “nervose, solide, et copiose,” in fact with a fulness of learning, a force of logic and a minuteness of detail that had never before been approached. The Meditationes sacrae (1606), a work expressly devoted to the uses of Christian edification, has been frequently reprinted in Latin and has been translated into most of the European languages, including Greek. The English translation by R. Winterton (1631) has passed through at least nineteen editions. There is also an edition by W. Papillon in English blank verse (1801). His life, Vita Joh. Gerhardi, was published by E. R. Fischer in 1723, and by C. J. Böttcher, Das Leben Dr Johann Gerhards, in 1858. See also W. Gass, Geschichte der protestantischen Dogmatik (1854-1867), and the article in the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.