Harnack, Adolf von

born Adolf Harnack (1851-1930)
   theologian and church historian; first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society* (KWG) and renowned historian of Christianity. He was born in Dorpat (now Tartu in Es-tonia), where his father taught theology at the city's German university. He studied at Dorpat and Leipzig and earned his doctorate in 1873; he was already a full professor at Giessen in 1879. Occupying himself with the history of Chris-tianity and its dogma, he exerted a formative influence with respect to contem-porary Protestant* theology. Most significant was his three-volume history of church dogma, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (History of Dogma, 1886-1890). He helped found the journal Theologische Literaturzeitung in 1876; the liberal periodical Christliche Welt, with which he was closely associated, was founded by his students in 1886.
   Harnack's transfer to Berlin* in 1888 sparked a conflict between the Evan-gelical Church and state authorities, the Church Council vehemently opposing the move; with church historian Ernst Troeltsch,* Harnack was denounced as a champion of liberal Protestantism. Under pressure from Bismarck, the young Kaiser Wilhelm II overruled the council. Although Harnack remained at Berlin until his retirement in 1921, his tenure was marked by perpetual conflict with church authorities. The greatest controversy erupted in 1892 when he proposed replacing the Apostles' Creed with a shorter liturgy based on modern scholar-ship.
   Harnack's chief admirers were outside the church. In 1890 he was elected to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. He was named Generaldirektor of the Royal Library in 1905, and his organizational skill brought appointment as president of KWG in 1911; he retained the office until 1930. He assumed manifold other responsibilities, illustrated by his work as founder and first president (1903-1911) of the Evangelical-Social Congress, and was elevated to the hereditary peerage in 1914 (thereby adding von" to his name). He publicly opposed annexations in the war while favoring political reform. By urging support for the Republic after 1918, he prompted some friends to label him a traitor. He drew attacks in 1925 from the church and right-wing circles by campaigning against Hindenburg* in the presidential elections. That his influence was largely eclipsed was due not so much to his liberalism as to a decline in the progressive optimism that had distinguished Protestantism during the Kaiserreich.
   Harnack's abiding significance rests with his application of historical method to the critical interpretation of early church history. Although Karl Barth* re-jected his narrow definition of dogma, Harnack's standing as the premier student of early Christianity remains firm.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Encyclopedia of Religion; Johnson, Kaiser's Chemists; Pauck, Harnack and Troeltsch.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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  • Harnack, Adolf von — ( 1851 19 30 )    liberal German theologian and New Testament scholar    Adolph von Harnack, the leading German theologian and church historian of his time, was a powerful proponent of using historical methods to clarify the Christian message.… …   Encyclopedia of Protestantism

  • Harnack, Adolf von — (1851–1930)    Theologian.    Harnack was the son of a German Lutheran Professor of Theology. He was educated at the Universities of Dorpat and Leipzig and he subsequently taught at the Universities of Giessen, Marburg and Berlin. This last… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Harnack, Adolf von — (1851–1930) Professor at Berlin, and historian of the early Church. He wrote also on the Acts and maintained the traditional view of Lucan authorship. A Liberal Protestant, he believed the essence of Jesus teaching to be concerned with the… …   Dictionary of the Bible

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  • Adolf von Harnack — Karl Gustav Adolf Harnack, ab 1914 von Harnack (* 25. Apriljul./ 7. Mai 1851greg. in Dorpat, Gouvernement Livland; † 10. Juni 1930 in Heidelberg …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Adolf von Harnack — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Harnack. Adolf von Harnack Adolf von Harnack est né le 7 mai 1851 à Dorpat, dans la prov …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Adolf von Harnack — (May 7, 1851 ndash;June 10, 1930), was a German theologian and prominent church historian.He produced many religious publications from 1873 1912. Harnack traced the influence of Hellenistic philosophy on early Christian writing and called on… …   Wikipedia

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