Johann Albrecht Bengel

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Johann Albrecht Bengel

Johann Albrecht Bengel (born June 24, 1687 in Winnenden , † November 2, 1752 in Stuttgart ) was a Swabian Lutheran theologian and a main exponent of German Pietism .


Bengel studied from 1703 to 1706 at the University of Tübingen as a scholarship holder of the Evangelical Monastery, first the Septem artes liberales , in German seven liberal arts and then theology.

He became repetitee at a time when the pen was strongly influenced by radical pietism . Although Bengel never parted with the Church, but made a career there, this stamping had a strong impact, especially in his intensive study of the Revelation of John . The young man became vicar - among others in Metzingen  - and after a study trip to Halle (Saale) entered 1713 as a teacher in the Protestant monastery Denkendorf (Württemberg).

In Denkendorf, he influenced two generations of students who appeared as pietistic pastors and who developed a considerable effect within the regional church . In 1741 he became prelate of Herbrechtingen and in 1749 abbot of Alpirsbach .

He had a dispute with Zinzendorf for 18 years, which led to a break between the Moravian Brethren and the direction of Württemberg Pietism represented by Bengel. In this dispute, Bengel, with his clear, systematic insight into the divine plan of salvation, dogmatically opposed the dynamic ecumenical missionary endeavors of Zinzendorf, which embraced everything systematic. Bengel did not shy away from chronological manipulation of historical calendars, which Zinzendorf dismissed as a superstitious "sign-deuterey".

Bengel joined the state parliament in 1747 and became Dr. theol. H. c.


Of the 12 children he and his wife, Johanna Regina Bengel, geb. Seeger had, six reached adulthood. Ernst Bengel (1735–1793), a son of Johann Albrecht, later embarked on a theological career as did his father. Johann Albrecht Bengel's pupil Philipp David Burk (1714–1770) became his tutor, later his son-in-law, and published an extensive book on justification.


Bengel is considered the most important pietist from Württemberg of the 18th century and particularly distinguished himself in the exegesis of the New Testament and its chiliastic end-time theories. He is one of the founders of textual criticism of the New Testament , as he devoted a considerable amount of his research to examining the reading variants transmitted through the various manuscripts. He came to the principle, still used in textual criticism, that “the more difficult reading is preferable to the easier”. This principle is based on the recognition that when copyists consciously changed their texts, this usually happened because they were trying to improve or harmonize the text. In order to be able to recognize the older and thus possibly more original text, the "more difficult" reading is usually preferable. Bengel also used the method of textual criticism to divide the documents into closely related groups. This will develop a master line of documents.

In 1734 a text-critical edition of the New Testament appeared , where he stuck to the verbal inspiration , which he justified with the sentence going back to Luther ("scriptura sui ipsius interpres"): "The Holy Scriptures are interpreted more securely by nothing than by themselves".

In 1740 the Declared Revelation Johannis appeared , in which he calculated the beginning of the first eschatological millennium (a period of a thousand years) for June 18, 1836 in a chiliastic and post- millennial manner from Rev 20  EU . Bengel represented a dissiliasm in eschatology, i. H. the view that the personal return of Christ and the Last Judgment should be preceded by a period of two thousand years ( Greek "dís") (cf. Greek "dischília éte" = 2000 years). In 1742 he published the Latin Gnomon Novi Testamenti , a commentary on the New Testament that sought to be precise and was intended to reveal the true meaning of the text. " Gnomon " means "pointer", originally the shadow pointer on the sundial ; With this emblematic (symbolic) choice of terms, Bengel points to his interest in what he believes is a chronologically comprehensible, predictable history of salvation.

Stamp issue for Bengels 300th birthday

Bengel's thoughts continued to have an effect in Württemberg long after his death. For example, Johann Tobias Beck was also influenced by him. Beck, for his part, influenced a son of his pupil Fritz Barth , the world-famous theologian Karl Barth , in his early days. Admittedly, Bengel's ideas were heavily reinterpreted by some of his followers. Following Revelation 19  EU , the emphasis was placed on the judgments that preceded the beginning of the first millennium, and, in contrast to Bengel, they assumed a personal return of Christ in 1836. As in the early 19th century, crop failures and errors autumns occurred and Württemberg plunged into a serious crisis, such expectations seemed to be met. Therefore, in 1816/17 there was a strong emigration to the Caucasus , what was then southern Russia (see also Caucasian Germans ). Since Palestine was not accessible because of the Ottoman rule, they wanted to at least move a little towards the coming Christ. But in 1836 the expected return did not materialize.


Bengelstüble in Denkendorf Monastery with empty showcases

The Albrecht Bengel House in Tübingen is a study house for pietistic theology students who want to complete their studies at the University of Tübingen in this spirit. Bengel's hometown of Winnenden has a Bengelplatz and the Café Bengel located there. In Kloster Denkendorf was in villain's former office a small memorial that "Bengelstüble" set. The showcases have been empty since the regional church training center was closed. The Evangelical Church in Germany commemorates the boy with a memorial day in the Evangelical Name Calendar on November 2nd.

See also


  • Oskar Wächter: Johann Albrecht Bengel, outline of life, character, letters and sayings. Samuel Gottlieb Liesching, Stuttgart 1865.
  • Gottfried Mälzer: Bengel and Zinzendorf: On the biography and theology of Johann Albrecht Bengels. Witten, Luther-Verlag, 1968.
  • Gottfried Mälzer: Johann Albrecht Bengel: life and work. Calwer Verlag, Stuttgart 1970.
  • Ulrich Gäbler : Johann Albrecht Bengel and its aftermath. In: Martin Brecht: History of Pietism. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2000, ISBN 3-525-55349-8 , pp. 33-36.
  • Friedrich Hauß : Fathers of Faith - Pictures of Life by Johann Albrecht Bengel, Ludwig Hofacker , Aloys Henhöfer , Elias Schrenk and others, Hänssler Verlag , Neuhausen 1992, ISBN 978-3-7751-1836-1 .
  • Johann Christian Friedrich Burk: Dr. Johann Albrecht Bengels life and work. Steinkopf Verlag , Stuttgart 1831.
  • Friedhelm Groth: The return of all things in Württemberg pietism. Studies in the history of theology on the eschatological universalism of salvation of Württemberg Pietists of the 18th century. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1984, pp. 61–88 (= work on the history of Pietism, volume 21).
  • Karl Hermann: Johann Albrecht Bengel. The monastery prefector of Denkendorf. Stuttgart 1937 (Reprint: Stuttgart 1984).
  • Martin H [erbert] Jung: "I'm not a prophet ..." Johann Albrecht Bengel. Theologian - teacher - pietist. Stuttgart 2002. (Like Johannes Wallmann before him, Jung refers to the fact that Bengel did not expect Christ to return personally in 1836.).
  • Werner Raupp : Art. Bengel, Johann Albrecht (1687–1752). In: Heiner F. Klemme, Manfred Kuehn (Ed.): The Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century German Philosophers. Volume 1. London / New York 2010, pp. 92-95.
  • Harmann, Hauck:  Bengel, Johann Albrecht . In: Realencyklopadie for Protestant Theology and Church (RE). 3. Edition. Volume 2, Hinrichs, Leipzig 1897, pp. 597-601.
  • Martin Brecht:  Bengel, Johann Albrecht . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 5, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1980, ISBN 3-11-007739-6 , pp. 583-589.
  • Alexander Freiherr von der Goltz:  Bengel, Albrecht . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1875, pp. 331-333.
  • Karl Hermann:  Bengel, Albrecht. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 47 ( digitized version ).
  • Werner RauppBengel, Johann Albrecht. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 22, Bautz, Nordhausen 2003, ISBN 3-88309-133-2 , Sp. 84-110. (with extensive bibliography).

Web links

Wikisource: Johann Albrecht Bengel  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Johann Albrecht Bengel  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. Cf. also Johann Albrecht Bengel: Outline of the so-called Brethren Community, in which the doctrine and the whole matter examined, good and evil differentiated, and in particular the Spangenberg Declaration is explained. First part. Metzler, Stuttgart 1751. ( digitized and full text in the German text archive )
  2. Bart Ehrman : Copied, misquoted and misunderstood: How the Bible came to be what it is. 2008, ISBN 3-579-06450-9 , p. 130
  3. hermeneutics #Impulse the Protestant Reformation
  4. Reinhard Breymayer : Gnomon typusque vitae Christianae. On the emblematic background of the “gnomon” term in Heinrich Oraeus (1584–1646) and Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687–1752). In: Leaves for Württemberg Church History. Vol. 88 (1988). Festschrift for Gerhard Schäfer. Edited by Martin Brecht . Stuttgart [1989], pp. 289-323.
  5. ^ Johann Albrecht Bengel in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints