Johann Heinrich Heidegger's Introduction to the OT (Prophetic Books)


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I am beginning a translation of Johann Heinrich Heidegger's (Scholastic) Handbook of the Old Testament: Wisdom and Poetical Literature.

If you are interested in following along, as portions are completed, I plan to post them to this thread.

But first...

...a little about Heidegger himself.

Johann Heinrich Heidegger was born to Johann Hartmann, dean of the chapter, and Magdalena Wagner, a pastor’s daughter, on July 1, 1633, at Bäretswil in the Canton of Zürich. Johann Heinrich began his theological studies at the Collegium Carolinum in Zürich, and proceeded to Marburg, where he lived with, and studied under, the celebrated Ludwig Crocius, one of the most prominent theologians of the German Reformed Church.[1] He finished his studies at the Heidelberg University, obtaining his doctorate in Theology (1659).

Even while he was wrapping up his studies, his teaching career was beginning. At Heidelberg, he became the assistant of Johann Heinrich Hottinger, the renowned Swiss Orientalist,[2] and received his first teaching appointment at Professor Extraordinarius of Hebrew, and later of Philosophy. Heidegger was translated to Steinfurt (Westphalia), where he filled the chair of Theology and Ecclesiastical History (1659-1665).

While stationed at Steinfurt, two important events transpired in Heidegger’s life. In 1661, he married Elisabeth von Duno, daughter of a Swiss businessman, shaping his domestic life: And, shortly thereafter, he took a study trip into Holland, where he made the acquaintance of Johannes Cocceius, and fell under the influence of his federal/covenant theology,[3] leading to a reshaping of his theological thought.

In 1665, Heidegger was elected Professor of Moral Philosophy at Zurich, and two year later he succeeded Hottinger, his former mentor, in the Chair of Theology. He had truly come home: Heidegger would continue in this post until his death in 1698, declining numerous offers from other prestigious institutions.

While at Zurich, Heidegger rose to become one of the most prominent Reformed Theologians of Switzerland (together with Francis Turretin[4]), and of his age, the period of High Reformed Orthodoxy. Although a man of international reputation and influence, Heidegger was first and foremost an educator. His Corpus Theologiæ Christianæ, and its two abridgements, were leading theological textbooks among the Reformed for half a century. He also produced instructional works on Biblical interpretation and church history. As part of the academic exercises in which he was constantly involved, he published an almost endless series of dissertations, disputations, and diatribes. The Heideggerian corpus is massive, and a monument to his indefatigable industry.

As an educator of theological students, Heidegger had occasion to speak to the controversies of the time. In speaking to the issues that were dividing those professing Christ, he certainly sought truth and precise accuracy of statement, but at the same time, as one longing for unity, he was ever gentle and moderate in his tone. In this way, Heidegger is a model of Christian irenicism. Nevertheless, he shows himself to be a capable polemicist in his writings against Roman Catholic theology and practice.

These qualities are illustrated in his involvement in the composition of the Formula Consensus Helvitica (1675). For more than a generation, the Reformed churches, especially those of France and Switzerland, had been agitated by the aberrant theology arising from the faculty of the Academy of Saumur, and spreading through the churches. Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) was teaching a hypothetical universalism, a modified form of Calvinism, in which God first decreed the salvation of humanity by Christ’s atonement, but, because fallen man cannot believe, a second decree was issued to bless certain individuals with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, enabling belief. Josue de la Place (1596-1665), denying the immediate imputation of the guilt of Adam’s sin to his posterity, was asserting that man’s guilt was based solely upon his own sin. Adam’s sin does negatively affect his posterity, but not immediately through the imputation of guilt, but rather mediately through the conveyance of a corrupt nature, which sinful and corrupt nature incurs guilt. Finally, Louis Cappel (1585-1658) denied the authenticity and authority of the Hebrew vowel points and accents, introducing a destructive criticism into Reformed theological thought.

In an effort to address these errors, and restore unity to the Reformed churches, it was proposed that a creed be drafted. Heidegger was selected to compose the draft of what would be the Formula Consensus Helvetica. Heidegger’s draft did indeed refute the three principal errors coming out of Saumur, asserting an efficacious redemption, particular and limited atonement, and the inspiration of the vocalization of the Hebrew text; but the entire production was tempered in multiple ways by Heidegger’s moderation. First of all, some of the Swiss theologians desired that the creed contain condemnations of the problematic elements of the Cocceian theology and of Cartesian philosophy; Heidegger passes by these in silence. Second, the tone of the document is moderate and restrained, so much so, that the condemnations of Saumur were actually made sharper before the creed was approved. Third, Heidegger addresses the theological issues, but he does not condemn anyone by name. In Heidegger, rigorous and precise Reformed Orthodoxy is found in a mild and gentle tone.

Although the intention in drafting the Formula was to bring unity to the Swiss Reformed Churches, it had the opposite effect, disquieting the churches and becoming itself an object of debate. The influence and official recognition of the Formula did not last long.

Johann Heinrich Heidegger went to his rest and reward in 1698. A story is told of Heidegger, that he, on his death bed, as he listened to the prayers of his friends, said, “Such prayers are real chariots of Elijah on which to ascend to heaven.”

[1] Ludwig Crocius (1586-c. 1653) was a German Reformed Pastor and Theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Bremen from 1610 to 1655, and was chosen as one of Bremen’s delegates to the Synod of Dort. Although caught up in the heated controversies of the age, Crocius is remembered for his gentleness and moderation.

[2] Johann Heinrich Hottinger (1620-1667) was a Swiss Reformed theologian and philologist. He served as Professor of Church History, Oriental Languages, and Rhetoric at Zurich (1642-1655), and later as Rector of the same (1661-1667), with a brief stay in Heidelberg as Professor of Oriental Languages (1655-1661).

[3] Johannes Cocceius (1603-1689) was born in Bremen, Germany, and went on to become Professor of Philology at the Gymnasium in Bremen (1630), held the chair of Hebrew (1630) and Theology (1643) at Franker, and was made Professor of Theology at Leiden (1650). He was the founder of the Cocceian school of covenant theology, bitter rival to the Voetian school.

[4] Francis Turretin (1623-1687) was a Genevan Reformed theologian of Italian descent. After studying at Geneva, Leiden, Utrecht, Paris, Saumur, and Montauban, he was appointed as the pastor of the Italian refugee congregation in Geneva (1648), and later Professor of Theology at the Genevan academy (1653). His Institutio Theologiæ Elencticæ has been heavily influential in Reformed circles, shaping Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology and Herman Bavinck’s Gereformeerde dogmatiek.
So the question may be asked, why undertake a translation of Heidegger’s Handbook of the Bible? Three reasons.

First, during the period of Protestant Scholasticism, generations of the greatest theological minds in history applied themselves to educational method. The goal was to provide a broad and deep theological education with the utmost efficiency. When one considers the theological luminaries that were produced by this method of education, and their theological attainments at relatively young ages, the goal was largely achieved. In succeeding generations, the educational methods of Protestant Scholasticism were set by, and then largely forgotten, much to the hurt of theological education in the present day. The translation of Heidegger’s Handbook is part of an effort to recover the powerful educational methods of Protestant Scholasticism.

Second, as part of Christian catechism (the training of Christians in the fundamentals of the faith), it is important to inculcate a general acquaintance with the Scriptures, their structure and teaching. Heidegger’s Handbook of the Bible is a powerful tool to that end, and a contribution to that literature.

Third and finally, modern Biblical scholarship has raised issues and multiplied theories with respect to matters of special introduction (matters of authorship, date, setting, etc., of the Biblical Books). Consequently, in modern theological education, almost all of the attention is given to issues of special introduction; comparatively little attention is given to the study of the Scriptures themselves. In other words, almost all of the time is spent studying issues “around” the Scriptures, but not so much the Scriptures themselves. Although Heidegger is certainly not unaware of the rising negative criticism of the Scripture (the theology of Saumur and the rising Cartesian Rationalism had already raised most of the issues, at least in germ), his Handbook is intended to give the student an introduction to the Bible and to the Biblical Books themselves. If the translation of Heidegger’s Handbook could contribute to a refocusing of theological education, even if in some small way, the effort will have been worth it.
Let's study the Old Testament Prophets together, beginning with Isaiah!

J.H. Heidegger whets our appetite for this Evangelical Prophet...

Isaiah? Sawn in half? What?!!

The Book of Isaiah is sometimes called "the Fifth Gospel", full of Christ.

J.H. Heidegger gives the perspective of the ancients...

How does Isaiah's Rhetorical Eloquence compare to that of the great Orators of Greece and Rome?

J.H. Heidegger weighs in...

The Book of Isaiah is sometimes called "the Fifth Gospel".

J.H. Heidegger meditates on the beauty of Christ, and the wonder of His salvation...

Isaiah is a prophet during the Assyrian Crisis, late 8th century BC: This fact makes it all the more remarkable that He prophesies of the coming Christ with such clarity and detail!

In the prophetic books, it is not always easy to see the rationale for the arrangement of the material.

J.H. Heidegger gives us a hint...

Isaiah is lengthy; it is helpful to have a guide.

J.H. Heidegger provides a helpful outline...

Isaiah is lengthy; it is helpful to have a guide.

J.H. Heidegger provides another even shorter one...

What are the best modern commentaries on Isaiah?

J.H. Heidegger gives us the best of the older...

[Note: Gataker's commentary in the old English Annotations is superlatively excellent.]

Who was Jeremiah?

J.H. Heidegger gives us a little on the prophet's background...

What do we know about the life and times of Jeremiah?

J.H. Heidegger provides a summary...

Jeremiah is a large and sprawling prophecy. Can it be summarized in a few words?

J.H. Heidegger has done so for us. Valuable!

The lessons of Jeremiah are suited to the use of the People of God in all ages.

J.H. Heidegger surveys them...

How does Jeremiah's manner of expression compare to...say...Isaiah's?

J.H. Heidegger shares a few thoughts...

The OT Prophets are not always easy to understand. It helps to know the historical context in which they preached.

Let's get familiar with Jeremiah's times...

The Book of Jeremiah is massive and sprawling. J.H. Heidegger provides an outline and overview!

Precious to every lover of God's Word...

Outlines for Biblical Books are quite valuable. They help us to learn the content, and remember where things are.

J.H. Heidegger provides a solid outline for Jeremiah...

What are the best modern commentaries on the Book of Jeremiah?

J.H. Heidegger gives us the best of the old...

Have you ever really studied the Book of Lamentations?

Here's your chance, with J.H. Heidegger as your guide!

He whets our appetite for this study...


Jeremiah offers up "Lamentation" over the ruin of his nation and people...

Upon what occasion did Jeremiah write the Book of Lamentations?

J.H. Heidegger explores history's testimony...

What is the Book of Lamentations about?

J.H. Heidegger provides a helpful just three sentences!

Although the matter of the Book of Lamentations is sorrowful, its poetic art is beautiful.

J.H. Heidegger describes it...