Martin Kähler

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Martin Kähler (around 1905)

Karl Martin August Kähler (born January 6, 1835 in Neuhausen near Königsberg , † September 7, 1912 in Freudenstadt in the Black Forest ) was a German Protestant theologian .


Martin Kähler was born the son of the senior consistory councilor Siegfried August Kähler (1800–1895). Grandfather Ludwig August Kähler had already worked as a preacher and professor in Königsberg, who was strongly committed to rationalism . Martin Kähler's older brother was Major General Otto Kähler . Among his children are Minna Kähler (1867–1934), superior of the Diakonissenhaus Elisabethenstift in Darmstadt, Anna Kähler (1869–1956), painter and writer, Siegfried August Kähler (1885–1963), professor of modern history in Göttingen, Wilhelm Kähler , Professor of economics, DNVP politician and Prussian Reich Commissioner, and Walter Kähler , Protestant theologian and most recently general superintendent in the church province of Pomerania.


Martin Kahler attended in Elbing and Konigsberg school, then began to place the latter the study of rights , but soon, promoted by a number of diseases, for theology.

He began studying Protestant theology at the University of Heidelberg , which he soon left for Halle (Saale) and Tübingen . In the Halle faculty , he was particularly influenced by August Tholuck . During his studies in Halle he became a member of the Halle Wingolf . After receiving his doctorate in 1860, he helped found the Silesian Konvikt , and became its first study inspector. After an interlude as an associate professor in Bonn in 1864, he returned to Halle as an associate professor in 1867. In 1878 he received a full chair for systematic theology and the New Testament at the theological faculty there .

Kähler, who in addition to Tholuck was also influenced by Johann Tobias Beck and through exchanges with Hermann Cremer , Julius Müller and Richard Rothe , saw himself as a biblical theologian for whom history (opinion about) God did not influence but God set history and ruled (see Reconciliation , 365) . Following this, the theologian had to be a Christian rather than a scientist. It is in this sense that Kähler's differentiation between (purely factual) "history" or "historicity" and "history" lived (in faith) (and infused with faith) is to be understood.

The work The Conscience , published in 1878, was written from this perspective. But great effect obtained only the so-called historical Jesus and the historical, biblical Christ from 1892, a critical examination of the life of Jesus research , and his dogmatic design The doctrine of the atonement of 1898. Also of note is its overall presentation of the Science of Christian Doctrine (1883) in which the entire doctrine of Christianity is developed from the article of justification . In 1962, grandson Ernst Kähler published the long-locked transcripts of lectures from the estate, some of which Martin Kähler had corrected himself, but marked with the note “May not be printed like this!” Under the title History of Protestant Dogmatics in the 19th century Century .

Kähler's students and supporters included a. Julius Schniewind , Ernst von Dobschütz , Karl Heim , Wilhelm Lütgert , Rudolf Hermann and Hans Emil Weber as well as the Swedish theology professor and Bishop Einar Billing . His demand for a doctrine that was permeated by faith, for a "church of character" based on the creed, had an effect well into the time of National Socialism . Not only Karl Barth , under whose leadership the Barmen Theological Declaration against the Nazi dictatorship and the German Christians committed to it arose, but almost all members of the Confessing Church that was constituted thereupon were pupils of Kähler or at least shaped by him or his pupils.

Kähler died on September 7, 1912, at the age of 77, during a spa stay in Freudenstadt in the Black Forest. He was buried in Halle's Laurentiusfriedhof , where his tomb was repaired a few years ago on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death.

Basic theological positions

In The so-called historical Jesus and the historical, biblical Christ (1892), Kähler criticizes historical research on the life of Jesus. He can see from her that she contrasts the biblical Christ with the dogmatic. However, the image of Jesus of historical research is “just as arbitrary” as the image of Jesus of the dogmatic Christ.

"The historical Jesus of modern writers hides the living Christ from us."

Kähler is bothered by the fact that the Bible is being "cut around", which is not expedient for him. The decisive factor is the resounding effect that Jesus left behind in the faith of his disciples. Hence Kähler speaks of the historical Christ of the Bible. The real Christ is the preached Christ, that is, the one believed. We imprint the image of this Jesus, from whose features the person of the living Savior looks at us.

Fonts (selection)

  • Sententiarum quae de conscientia ediderint theologi per ecclesiae secula florentes brevis enarratio Dissertation, 1860
  • Paul, the disciple and messenger of Jesus of Nazareth. A picture of life and character . 1862
  • The scriptural doctrine of conscience . 1864
  • The strong roots of our strength. Reflections on the founding of the German Empire and its first crisis . 1872
  • D. August Tholuck, born March 30th, 1799, passed away June 10th, 1877. An outline of life . Hall 1877
  • Julius Müller, the dogmatist from Halle . 1878
  • The conscience. Ethical investigation. The development of his name and his concept . 1878 (reprint Darmstadt, Scientific Book Society, 1967)
  • The science of Christian doctrine from the basic evangelical article . 1883
  • The so-called historical Jesus and the historical, biblical Christ . 1892; new ed. v. Ernst Wolf , (= Theological Library. Reprints and reports from the 20th century 2), 2nd exp. Ed., Munich (Chr. Kaiser) 1956; new ed. and with an afterword by Sebastian Moll , Berlin (Berlin University Press), 2013
  • Dogmatic questions of time. Old and new remarks on the science of Christian teaching .
1st issue . Leipzig 1898
2. Booklet: On the Doctrine of Reconciliation . Leipzig 1898
Volume 2: Applied Dogmas , Leipzig 1908
Volume 3: Time and Eternity , Leipzig 1913
  • Theologian and christian. Memories and Confessions of Martin Kähler , ed. v. Anna Kähler, Berlin 1926
  • Born Again through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ , ed. v. Martin Fischer, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1960
  • History of Protestant Dogmatics in the 19th Century. 2nd ext. Edition, R. Brockhaus, Wuppertal / Zurich 1989, ISBN 3-417-29343-X .
  • Essays on the Bible Question . (= Theological Library. Reprints and reports from the 20th century 37), Munich 1967
  • Scriptures on Christology and Mission . (= Theological Library. Reprints and reports from the 20th century 42), Munich 1971

Remembrance day

September 7th in the evangelical name calendar .


Web links

Commons : Martin Kähler  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Kähler as Wingolfit (contribution to the study day on the 100th anniversary of death) , accessed on January 19, 2013.
  2. Martin Kähler: The so-called historical Jesus and the historical, biblical Christ. In: Wilfried Härle (Hrsg.): Basic texts of the newer Protestant theology . 2nd Edition. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2012, p. 60 .
  3. Martin Kähler in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints