Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Karl Friedrich Bahrdt

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BAHRDT, Karl Friedrich, a German theologian, distinguished for his extreme rationalism and his erratic life, was born in 1741 at Bischofswerda, of which place his father, afterwards professor of theology at Leipsic, was for some time pastor. He was educated chiefly at the celebrated school of Pforta, and afterwards entered the university of Leipsic, where he studied theology, and at first attached himself to the strongly orthodox party headed by Crusius. After graduation he Lectured for a time as adjunct to his father, and then with the rank of catechist proceeded to Leipsic, where he became exceedingly popular as a preacher, and was appointed extraordinary professor of Biblical philology. During this period of his life he pub lished a popular book of devotions, called the Christian in Solitude. In 1768 the notorious irregularity of his conduct necessitated his resignation and his departure from Leipsic. By some influence he obtained a professorship of Biblical antiquities ia the philosophical faculty of the new univer sity of Erfurt, and having procured a theological degree from Erlangen, he again began to read theological lectures. His orthodoxy had by this time completely vanished ; he was an avowed rationalist of the extreme school, and with great diligence and ability sought to popularise the prin ciples of his creed. At the same time his bitter and quarrelsome disposition embroiled him with his colleagues, and in 1771 he left Erfurt, but obtained another professor ship at Giessen. Here also the bold expression of his opinions cut short his tenure of office; in 1775 he resigned and became director of Von Salis s educational establish ment, the philanthropin at Marschlins, a post he held for only one year. For a brief period he acted as general superintendent at Diirkheim, and then endeavoured, but unsucessfully, to set up an educational institution at Heidesheim. He had now become most obnoxious to the German Government, who prohibited him from lecturing or publishing any work on theology, or from holding any professorial office. In 1779 he took refuge in Halle, where he resided for ten years, lecturing in the forenoon on moral philosophy, and officiating in the afternoon as land lord of a public-house which he had opened at the gate of the town, and which was largely patronised by the students. In 1789 he was arrested, partly on account of a pasquinade he had written upon the Prussian religious edict, and was condemned to two years 1 imprisonment. The period of his confinement, reduced by the king to one year, was employed by Bahrdt in writing memorials of his life and opinions. After his release he continued his former course of life, and died after a severe illness, 23d April 1792. His numerous works, including a translation of the New Testament, are comparatively worthless, and are written in an offensive tone. He has been well called by Herzog a caricature of the rationalism of the 18th century.