Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tholuck, Friedrich August Gottreu
THOLUCK, Friedrich August Gottreu (1799–1877), German theologian and preacher, was born at Breslau, March 30, 1799, in humble circumstances. He received his education at the grammar school and university of his native town, and early distinguished himself by wonderful versatility of mind, a phenomenal power of acquiring languages, and an omnivorous appetite for books. A romantic love of the East and its literature led him to exchange the university of Breslau for that of Berlin, that he might study Oriental languages to greater advantage, and there he was received into the house of the Orientalist Von Dietz. He was introduced to Pietistic circles in Berlin, and came specially under the influence of Baron Von Kottwitz, who became his "spiritual father," and of the historian Neander. Before deciding on the career of theological professor, he had in view that of a missionary in the East. Meanwhile he was feeling the influence to a certain degree of the romantic school, and of Schleiermacher and Hegel too, though he never sounded the depths of their systems. At length, in his twenty-first year, he finally decided to adopt the academical calling. From December 1820 to April 1826 he was "privat-docent" and "prof. extraordinarius" of theology in Berlin, though he was at the same time most active in the work of home and foreign missions. He lectured on the Old and New Testaments, theology, apologetics, and the history of the church in the 18th century. The first fruit of his Oriental studies and his introduction to his profession was his work Ssufismus, sive Theosophia Persarum Pantheistica (1821); following the same line of study he published Blütensammlung aus der morgenländischen Mystik (1825) and Speculative Trinitätslehre des späteren Orients (1826). His well-known essay on the nature and moral influence of heathenism (1822) was published by Neander, with high commendation, in his Denkwürdigkeiten; and his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1824) secured him a foremost place amongst the most suggestive, if not the most accurate, Biblical interpreters of that time. Another work, which was soon translated into all the principal European languages, Die Lehre von der Sünde und vom Versöhner (1823), the outcome of his own religious history, procured for him the position which he ever after held of the modern Pietistic apologist of evangelical Christianity. In 1825, with the aid of the Prussian Government, he visited the libraries of England and Holland, and on his return was appointed professor of theology at Halle, the centre of German rationalism. Here he made it his aim to combine in a higher unity the learning and to some extent the rationalism of Semler with the devout and active pietism of Francke; and, in spite of the opposition of the theological faculty of the university, he succeeded in changing the character of its theology. This he effected partly by his lectures, particularly his exegetical courses, but, above all, by his personal influence upon the students, and, after 1833, by his preaching. His theological position was that of a mild and large-hearted orthodoxy, which laid more stress upon Christian experience than upon rigid dogmatic belief. On the two great questions of miracles and inspiration he made great concessions to modern criticism and philosophy. The battle of his life was on behalf of personal religious experience, in opposition to the externality of rationalism, orthodoxy, or sacramentarianism. He fought this battle with weapons taken in the first instance from his own personal history, but also from the wide world of human culture, ancient and modern. Carl Schwarz happily remarks that, as the English apologists of the 18th century were themselves infected with the poison of the deists whom they endeavoured to refute, so Tholuck absorbed some of the heresies of the rationalists whom he tried to overthrow. As a preacher Tholuck ranked amongst the foremost of his time. He was also one of the prominent members of the Evangelical Alliance, and few men were more widely known or more beloved throughout the Protestant churches of Europe and America than he. He died at Halle, June 10, 1877.
After his commentaries (on Romans, the Gospel of John, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Epistle to the Hebrews) and several volumes of sermons, his best-known books are Stunden christlicher Andacht (1839, 8th ed. 1870), intended to take the place of Zschokke's standard rationalistic work with the same title, and his reply to Strauss's Life of Jesus (Glaubwürdigkeit der evangelischen Geschichte, 1837). He published at various times valuable contributions towards a history of rationalism,—Vorgeschichte des Rationalismus (1853–62), Geschichte des Rationalismus, i. (1865), and a number of essays connected with the history of theology and especially of apologetics. His views of inspiration were indicated in his work Die Propheten und ihre Weissagungen (1860), in his essay on the "Alte Inspirationslehre," Deutsche Zeitschrift für christliche Wissenschaft (1850), and in his Gespräche über die vornchmsten Glaubensfragen der Zeit (1846, 2d ed. 1867).
See Das Leben Tholucks, by L. Witte, 2 vols., 1884–1886; A. Tholuck, ein Lebensabriss, by M. Kähler (1877), and the same author's art. "Tholuck,"in Herzog's Real-Encyklopädie; "Zur Erinnerung an Tholuck," by C. Siegfried, Protestantische Kirchzeitung, 1885, No. 45, and 1886, No. 47; Carl Schwarz, Zur Geschichte der neuesten Theologie (4th ed., 1869); Nippold's Handbuch der neuesten Kirchengeschichte.