Heinrich Ewald
Georg Heinrich August Ewald (November 16, 1803 – May 4, 1875) was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

Oriental studies
Oriental studies is the academic field of study that embraces Near Eastern and Far Eastern societies and cultures, languages, peoples, history and archaeology; in recent years the subject has often been turned into the newer terms of Asian studies and Middle Eastern studies...

 and theologian
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...



Ewald was born at Göttingen
Göttingen is a university town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Göttingen. The Leine river runs through the town. In 2006 the population was 129,686.-General information:...

 where his father was a linen weaver. In 1815 he was sent to the gymnasium
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

, and in 1820 he entered the University of Göttingen, where he studied with J.G. Eichhorn
Johann Gottfried Eichhorn
Johann Gottfried Eichhorn was a German Protestant theologian of Enlightenment and early orientalist.-Education and early career:...

 and T. C. Tychsen, specialising in oriental languages. At the close of his academic studies in 1823 he was appointed to a mastership in the gymnasium at Wolfenbüttel
Wolfenbüttel is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany, located on the Oker river about 13 kilometres south of Brunswick. It is the seat of the District of Wolfenbüttel and of the bishop of the Protestant Lutheran State Church of Brunswick...

, and made a study of the oriental manuscripts in the Wolfenbüttel library. But in the spring of 1824 he was recalled to Göttingen as repentant, or theological tutor, and in 1827 (the year of Eichhorn's death) he became professor extraordinarius in philosophy and lecturer in Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

. Heinrich Ewald married in 1830 Wilhelmina (1808-1846), daughter of C.F. Gauss
Carl Friedrich Gauss
Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss was a German mathematician and scientist who contributed significantly to many fields, including number theory, statistics, analysis, differential geometry, geodesy, geophysics, electrostatics, astronomy and optics.Sometimes referred to as the Princeps mathematicorum...

. Of all of Gauss' children, Wilhelmina was said to have come closest to her father's talent, but regrettably, she died young. In 1831 Heinrich Ewald was promoted to professor ordinarius in philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

; in 1833 he became a member of the Royal Scientific Society, and in 1835, after Tychsen's death, he entered the faculty of theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, taking the chair of Oriental languages.

Two years later occurred the first important episode in Ewald's studious life. In 1837, on November 18, along with six of his colleagues
Göttingen Seven
The Göttingen Seven were a group of seven professors from Göttingen. In 1837 they protested against the abolition or alteration of the constitution of the Kingdom of Hanover by Ernest Augustus and refused to swear an oath to the new king of Hanover...

 he signed a formal protest against the action of King Ernst August
Ernest Augustus I of Hanover
Ernest Augustus I was King of Hanover from 20 June 1837 until his death. He was the fifth son and eighth child of George III, who reigned in both the United Kingdom and Hanover...

 in abolishing the liberal constitution of 1833, which had been granted to the House of Hanover
House of Hanover
The House of Hanover is a deposed German royal dynasty which has ruled the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , the Kingdom of Hanover, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 by his predecessor William IV
William IV of the United Kingdom
William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death...

. This bold procedure of the seven professors led to their speedy expulsion from the university (December 14). Early in 1838 Ewald received a call to Tübingen, and there for upwards of ten years he held a chair as professor ordinarius, first in philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and afterwards, from 1841, in theology. To this period belong some of his most important works, and also the commencement of his bitter feud with F.C. Baur
Ferdinand Christian Baur
Ferdinand Christian Baur was a German theologian and leader of the Tübingen school of theology...

 and the Tübingen school. In 1847, "the great shipwreck-year in Germany," as he has called it, he was invited back to Göttingen on honourable terms--the liberal constitution having been restored. He gladly accepted the invitation.

In 1862-1863 Ewald took an active part in a movement for reform within the Hanoverian Church, and he was a member of the synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 which passed the new constitution. He had an important share also in the formation of the Protestantenverein
The Protestantenverein was a society in Germany the general object of which was to promote the union and progress of the various Protestant established Churches of the country in harmony with the advance of culture and on the basis of Christianity.It was founded at Frankfurt am Main in 1863 by a...

, or Protestant association, in September 1863. But the chief crisis in his life arose out of the Austro-Prussian War
Austro-Prussian War
The Austro-Prussian War was a war fought in 1866 between the German Confederation under the leadership of the Austrian Empire and its German allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia with its German allies and Italy on the...

 of 1866. His loyalty to King George V of Hanover
George V of Hanover
George V was King of Hanover, the only child of Ernest Augustus I, and a grandchild of King George III of the United Kingdom. In the peerage of Great Britain, he was 2nd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, 2nd Earl of Armagh...

 (son of Ernst August) would not permit him to take the oath of allegiance to the victorious King William I of Prussia
William I, German Emperor
William I, also known as Wilhelm I , of the House of Hohenzollern was the King of Prussia and the first German Emperor .Under the leadership of William and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the...

, and he was therefore placed on the retired list, though with the full amount of his salary as pension
In general, a pension is an arrangement to provide people with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment. Pensions should not be confused with severance pay; the former is paid in regular installments, while the latter is paid in one lump sum.The terms retirement...


This degree of severity might have been held by the Prussian authorities to be unnecessary, had Ewald been less hostile in his language. The violent tone of some of his printed manifestoes about this time, especially of his Lob des Königs u. des Volkes, led to his being deprived of the venia legendi (1868) and also to a criminal process, which, however, resulted in his acquittal (May 1869). Then, and on two subsequent occasions, he was returned by the city of Hanover as a member of the North German and German parliaments. In June 1874 he was found guilty of a libel on Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

, whom he had compared to Frederick the Great
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 in "his unrighteous war with Austria and his ruination of religion and morality," to Napoleon III in his way of "picking out the best time possible for robbery and plunder." For this offence he was sentenced to undergo three weeks' imprisonment. He died in his 72nd year, of heart disease.


In his public life Ewald displayed characteristics such as simplicity and sincerity, moral earnestness, independence, absolute fearlessness. As a teacher he had a remarkable power of kindling enthusiasm; and he taught many distinguished pupils, including August Schleicher
August Schleicher
August Schleicher was a German linguist. His great work was A Compendium of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-European Languages, in which he attempted to reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European language...

, Ferdinand Hitzig
Ferdinand Hitzig
----Ferdinand Hitzig , was a German biblical critic.He was born at Hauingen , Baden, where his father was a pastor....

, Eberhard Schrader
Eberhard Schrader
Eberhard Schrader , was a German orientalist primarily known for his achievements in Assyriology.-Biography:He was born at Braunschweig, and educated at Göttingen under Ewald. In 1858 he won a university prize for a treatise on the Ethiopian languages, and in 1863 became professor of theology at...

, Theodor Noldeke
Theodor Nöldeke
Theodor Nöldeke was a German Semitic scholar, who was born in Harburg and studied in Göttingen, Vienna, Leiden and Berlin....

, Diestel and Christian Friedrich August Dillmann. His disciples were not all of one school, but many eminent scholars who apparently have been untouched by his influence have in fact developed some of the many ideas which he suggested.

Ewald's Hebrew Grammar inaugurated a new era in biblical philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

. Subsequent works in that department were avowedly based on his, and to him will always belong the honour of having been, to quote Hitzig, "the second founder of the science of the Hebrew language." As an exegete and biblical Critic no less than as a grammarian he has left his abiding mark. His Geschichte des Volkes Israel, the result of thirty years' labour, was epoch-making in that branch of research. While in every line it bears the marks of intense individuality, it is at the same time a product highly characteristic of the age, and even of the decade, in which it appeared. If it is obviously the outcome of immense learning on the part of its author, it is no less manifestly the result of the speculations and researches of many laborious predecessors in all departments of history, theology and philosophy.

Taking up the idea of a divine education of the human race, and firmly believing that to each of the leading nations of antiquity a special task had been providentially assigned, Ewald felt no difficulty about Israel's place in universal history
Universal history
Universal history is basic to the Western tradition of historiography, especially the Abrahamic wellspring of that tradition. Simply stated, universal history is the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit.-Ancient authors:...

, or about the problem which that race had been called upon to solve. The history of Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, according to him, is simply the history of the manner in which the one true religion really and truly came into the possession of mankind. Other nations, indeed, had attempted the highest problems in religion; but Israel alone, in the providence of God, had succeeded, for Israel alone had been inspired. Such is the supreme meaning of that national history which began with the exodus and culminated (at the same time virtually terminating) in the appearing of Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...


The historical interval that separated these two events is treated as naturally dividing itself into three great periods,--those of Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

, David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 and Ezra
Ezra , also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra. According to the Hebrew Bible he returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem...

. The periods are externally indicated by the successive names by which the chosen people were called--Hebrews, Israelites, Jews. The events prior to the exodus are relegated by Ewald to a preliminary chapter of primitive history; and the events of the apostolic and postapostolic age are treated as a kind of appendix. The entire construction of the history is based, as has already been said, on a critical examination and chronological arrangement of the available documents. So far as the results of criticism are still uncertain with regard to the age and authorship of any of these, Ewald?s conclusions must of course be regarded as unsatisfactory. But his work remains a storehouse of learning and?is increasingly recognized as a work of rare genius.


Of Ewald's works the more important are:
  • Die Composition der Genesis kritisch untersucht (1823), an acute and able attempt to account for the use of the two names of God without recourse to the document-hypothesis; he was not himself, however, permanently convinced by it.
  • De metris carminum Arabicorum (1825)
  • Des Hohelied Salomo?s übersetzt u. erklärt (1826; 3rd ed, 1866)
  • Kritische Grammatik der hebr. Sprache (1827)--this afterwards became the Ausführliches Lehrbuch der hebr. Sprache (8th ed., 1870)
  • Hebr. Sprachlehre für Anfänger (4th ed., 1874)
  • Über einige ältere Sanskritmetra. Ein Versuch (1827)
  • Liber Vakedu de Mesopotamiae expugnatae historia (1827)
  • Commentarius in Apocalypsin Johannis (1828)
  • Abhandlungen zur biblischen u. orientalischen Literatur (1832)
  • Grammatica critica linguae Arabicae (1831-1833)
  • Die poetischen Bücher des alten Bundes (1835-1837, 3rd ed, 1866-1867)
  • Plan dieser Zeitschrift. In: Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 1 (1837), pp. 3-13.
  • Die Propheten des alten Bundes (1840-1841, 2nd ed., 1867-1868)
  • Geschichte des Volkes Israel (1843-1859, 3rd ed., 1864-1868)
  • Alterthümer Israels (1848)
  • Die drei ersten Evangelien übersetzt u. erklärt (1850)
  • Über das äthiopische Buch Henoch (1854)
  • Die Sendschreiben des Apostels Paulus übersetzt u. erklärt (1857)
  • Die Johanneischen Schriften übersetzt u. erklärt (1861-1862)
  • Über des vierte Esrabuch (1863)
  • Sieben Sendschreiben des neuen Bundes (1870)
  • Das Sendschreiben an die Hebräer u. Jakobos' Rundschreiben (1870)
  • Die Lehre der Bibel von Gott, oder Theologie des alten u. neuen Bundes (1871-1875).
  • Commentary on the book of Job. (translated from German by J. Frederick Smith) (1882) ISBN 0-8370-3085-4

The Jahrbücher der biblischen Wissenschaft (1849-1865) were edited, and for the most part written, by him. He was the chief promoter of the Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, begun in 1837; and he frequently contributed on various subjects to the Götting. gelehrte Anzeigen. He was also the author of many pamphlets.

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