Johann Wilhelm Petersen (theologian)

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Johann Wilhelm Petersen, copper engraving from 1717

Johann Wilhelm Petersen (born July 1, 1649 in Osnabrück , † January 31, 1727 on the Gut Thymern (Thümern) near Lübars (Möckern) ) was a German theologian , mystic and chiliast . He is assigned to radical pietism .


Caricature of Petersen and Johann Friedrich Mayer

Johann Wilhelm Petersen's father Georg Petersen († 1691) came from Tönning . As a notary, from 1643 to 1649 he was part of the legation of the Lübeck Syndicus David Gloxin during the negotiations for the Peace of Westphalia in Osnabrück . There he married Magdalene Praetorius, the daughter of the pastor there.

Johann Wilhelm Petersen grew up in Lübeck and attended the Katharineum in Lübeck . Even as a schoolboy, Petersen wrote a wedding poem for Dietrich Buxtehude in 1668 . He later set Petersen's O how blessed are those who are called to the Lord's Supper in a cantata ( BuxWV 90). It has recently been assumed that Petersen also wrote the libretto for Buxtehude's evening music from 1678, The Marriage of the Lamb .

He studied theology in Gießen , Rostock , Leipzig , Wittenberg and Jena . In November 1671 he came to the University of Rostock , where he - after his promotion to Master in Giessen in the spring of 1672 in absentia and his inclusion in the Faculty of Arts in Rostock - also chaired at disputations. In Gießen, where he returned at the turn of the year 1672/73, he also gave lectures on rhetorical and natural law. Since 1675 he was friends with Philipp Jakob Spener in Frankfurt am Main . Through him he gained access to pietism .

In 1677 Petersen received a poetry professorship in Rostock and was then pastor at the Aegidienkirche in Hanover , but was appointed court preacher and superintendent of the prince-bishopric of Lübeck in Eutin the following year . In 1686 he received his doctorate in Rostock. From 1688 to 1692 he was superintendent in Lüneburg .

In 1680 he married the noble Johanna Eleonora von Merlau, crossing the barriers of class . The two were married by Philipp Jakob Spener . Together with her, he developed an independent, radical spirituality in affinity with extravagant forms pietistic mysticism, which published in 1685 for the first time saying catechism came to light. Later he came into conflict with his colleagues in office because of his advocacy of chiliasm and his connections to the visionary Rosamunde Juliane von der Asseburg . He was removed from office in January 1692 and had to leave Lüneburg.

He spent the rest of his life as a theological writer, in close collaboration with his wife, on his estates in Niederndodeleben near Magdeburg, from 1724 in Thymern (Thümern), which no longer exists, near Groß Lübars, and made several trips to his followers.


Petersen's teaching was radicalized based on Spen's pietism. From 1695 he came to a doctrine of apocatastasis through chiliasm . Accordingly, for a thousand years, evil was refined and overcome not just in one but in the three realms of repentance, grace and glory. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz assessed this approach as an interesting theological draft of the theodicy question .

“The restoration of all things” was the reason for many journeys for Petersen: He wanted to spread this knowledge as far as possible, which God had given him and his wife in his grace. However, there were also Pietists who explicitly distanced themselves from this doctrine (e.g. Johann Friedrich Corvinus). Spener did not take a position on the "restoration of all things" in sermons or scriptures. Spener promised Petersen not to write anything against it, because he also hoped that God would save the whole world in the end. Nevertheless, this doctrine of universal reconciliation can be seen as a substantive separation from church pietism (Spener, Francke), even if personal contacts continued. His committed advocacy for visionary ecstatic Rosamunde Juliane von der Asseburg led to the loss of his ecclesiastical office. Overall, he campaigned for the right of women to publicly interpret the Bible.

Works (selection)


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Marcus Matthias: Johann Wilhelm and Johanna Eleonora Petersen: a biography up to Petersen's impeachment in 1692 . Göttingen 1993; P. 21
  2. Entry of the matriculation in the Rostock matriculation portal
  3. Entry of the reception in the Rostock matriculation portal
  4. Entry of the exam in the Rostock matriculation portal
  5. ^ A b Johannes Wallmann : Petersen, Johann Wilhelm. In: Religion Past and Present . 4th edition, Vol. 6, 2003, Col. 1154. Accessed online on June 6, 2019 [1]
  6. ^ Douglas H. Schantz: Radical Pietist Migrations and Dealings with the Ruling Authorities as seen in the Autobiographies of Johann Wilhelm Petersen and Johann Friedrich Rock. In: Wolfgang Breul et al. (Ed.): The radical Pietism . 2010, p. 211-227 .