Walther Zimmerli

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Walther Theodor Zimmerli (born January 20, 1907 in Schiers , Canton of Graubünden , Switzerland ; † December 4, 1983 in Oberdiessbach , Canton of Bern , Switzerland) was a Swiss Reformed theologian and Protestant Old Testament scholar .


Zimmerli was the son of Jakob Zimmerli, pastor and director of the Protestant educational institution in Schiers, and the first child of Lilly Frey, his father's second wife, who had a total of eleven children and died in 1918. He attended high school in Schiers, then studied theology at the universities of Zurich , Berlin and Göttingen . After the practical examination at the end of April 1930, he worked at the Göttingen Theological Faculty as an assistant to Professors Johannes Hempel and Alfred Rahlfs and received his doctorate in September 1932 as lic. theol.

After the National Socialists came to power, he returned to Switzerland, where he became a pastor in Aarburg , Canton Aargau, in August 1933 . But in 1935 he was appointed associate professor by the University of Zurich and in 1938 full professor of the Old Testament, the history of religion and oriental languages . After teaching assignments in Berlin and Montpellier , in 1951 he accepted an appointment as full professor for the Old Testament at the University of Georgia Augusta in Göttingen, where he was rector from 1964 to 1966 and remained until his retirement. 1964–65 he was the initiator and president of the first European Rectors' Conference in Göttingen.

In active service during the Second World War , Zimmerli was field preacher in the Swiss Army from 1940 , an office that he held until 1951. He did over 300 days of active service. In 1940 he founded the Reformed Theologians' House in Zurich and, from 1945, other Reformed student houses for students from all faculties.

At Zimmerli in Zurich, the German Old Testament scholar Claus Westermann received his doctorate in theology in 1949 with his work The Praise of God in the Psalms .

Zimmerli was a member of the scientific field of the Council of Europe , in the board of the World Rectors' Conference , in the Senate of the German Research Foundation, 1970 to 1978 President of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen , President of the West German Academies of Sciences . From 1974 to 1977 he was President of IOSOT .


Zimmerli was an internationally respected representative of his subject because of his scientific achievements, for which visiting professorships at Yale , as well as numerous honorary doctorates , the award of the Burkitt Medal by the British Academy in 1972 and honorary doctorates from the universities of Göttingen, Zurich, Strasbourg and Edinburgh testify.


During his time as a student in Göttingen, he married Irmgard von der Ropp, with whom he had 6 children. One of his sons is the philosopher Walther Christoph Zimmerli .


The importance of Walther Zimmerli lies first of all in his scientific work. He wrote basic commentaries on Genesis and the preacher Solomon. An important work by Walther Zimmerli is a two-volume commentary on the prophet Ezekiel, whose understanding he placed on a completely new basis, in the series Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament (1955–69). He presented a summary of his science in the outline of the Old Testament theology , which has seen numerous editions since its publication.

But Walther Zimmerli's personality is also outstanding. From the beginning he faced National Socialism with irreconcilable aversion. He fought against Swiss neutrality in World War II and, from his home country, took a decisive position on the persecution of the Jews and on euthanasia. Nevertheless, after 1945 he was one of the first scientists to seek contact with Germany again, and in 1951 accepted the call to Göttingen without hesitation. Zimmerli was one of the most popular academic teachers in the Göttingen theological faculty in the 20th century.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Thomas K. Kuhn : Walther Zimmerli. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  2. ^ Klaus Grünwaldt:  Zimmerli, Walther. In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (Eds.): The Scientific Biblical Lexicon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff.