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Johann Karl Ludwig Gieseler

Johann Karl Ludwig Gieseler (March 3, 1792-July 8, 1854), German writer on church history, born at Petershagen, near Minden, where his father, Georg Christof Friedrich, was preacher.

In his tenth year he entered the orphanage at Halle, whence he duly passed to the university, his studies being interrupted, however, from October 1813 till the peace of 1815 by a period of military service, during which he was enrolled as a volunteer in a regiment of chasseurs. On the conclusion of peace (1815) he returned to Halle, and, having in 1817 taken his degree in philosophy, he in the same year became assistant head master (Conrector) in the Minden gymnasium, and in 1818 was appointed director of the gymnasium at Cleves.

Here he published his earliest work (Historisch-kritischer Versuch über die Entstehung u. die frühesten Schicksale der schriftlichen Evangelien), a treatise which had considerable influence on subsequent investigations as to the origin of the gospels. In 1819 Gieseler was appointed a professor ordinarius in theology in the newly founded university of Bonn, where, besides lecturing on church history, he made important contributions to the literature of that subject in Ernst Rosenmüller's Repertorium, KF Stäudlin and HG Tschirner's Archiv, and in various university "programs."

The first part of the first volume of his well-known Church History appeared in 1824. In 1831 he accepted a call to Göttingen as successor to GJ Planck. He lectured on church history, the history of dogma, and dogmatic theology. In 1837 he was appointed a Consistorialrath, and shortly afterwards was created a knight of the Guelphic[?] order. He died on the 8th of July 1854.

The fourth and fifth volumes of the Kirchengeschichte, embracing the period subsequent to 1814, were published posthumously in 1855 by ER Redepenning (1810-1883); and they were followed in 1856 by a Dogmengeschichte, which is sometimes reckoned as the sixth volume of the Church History. Among church historians Gieseler continues to hold a high place. Less vivid and picturesque in style than Karl Hase, conspicuously deficient in Neander's deep and sympathetic insight into the more spiritual forces by which church life is pervaded, he excels these and all other contemporaries in the fulness and accuracy of his information. His Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte, with its copious references to original authorities, is of great value to the student: "Gieseler wished that each age should speak for itself, since only by this means can the peculiarity of its ideas be fully appreciated " (Otto Pfleiderer, Development of Theology, p. 284).

The work, which has passed through several editions in Germany, has partially appeared also in two English translations. That published in New York (Text Book of Ecclesiastical History, 5 vols.) brings the work down to the peace of Westphalia, while that published in "Clark's Theological Library" (Compendium of Ecclesiastical History, Edinburgh, 5 vols.) closes with the beginning of the Reformation.

Gieseler was not only a devoted student but also an energetic man of business. He frequently held the office of pro-rector of the university, and did much useful work as a member of several of its committees.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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