1666–1714
portrait

September 5, 1666, Annaberg, Erzgebirge, Saxony.

May 30, 1714, Perleberg, Brandenburg, Germany.

Son of the local schoolmaster, Gott­fried in 1682 went to the Gym­na­si­um at Ge­ra, and three years later to the University of Wit­ten­berg. There he studied theology and history, and afterwards, through the influence of Phil­ip Ja­cob Spe­ner, the father of pi­e­tism, became a tutor in Qued­lin­burg.

His first work, Die Erste Lie­be zu Chris­to, appeared in 1696. It went through five editions before 1728, and gained Ar­nold a high reputation. In the year after its publication he was invited to Gie­ßen as professor of church history. But he disliked academic politics and academic life so much that he resigned in 1698, and returned to Wit­ten­berg.

The next year Arnold began to publish his largest work, his Un­par­tey­ische Kirch­en- und Ket­zer-his­to­rie (Impartial History of the Church and of Heresy) (Frank­furt: 1699–1700), two hefty volumes in which some thought he showed more sympathy towards heresy than towards any established Church, or especially the clergy. This book is described by Leo Tol­stoy (The Kingdom of God Is Within You, chapter 3) as remarkable, although little known.

In this major revision of church history, Ar­nold directed his sharpest criticism against those who wrote what he saw as biased apologetic orthodox histories instead of trying to understand where substantial religious differences actually came from. In his view, heresy making was usually the defensive reaction of those in authority, rather than a true indictment of unconventional thinkers. He thought that the worst calamity in Church history was its establishment as the accepted and orthodox faith by the Roman Emperor Con­stan­tine in the 4th Century. Ar­nold evinced a remarkable sympathy for a huge variety of heretics. His book exercised a wide influence on the German Enlightenment and won approval from such thinkers as Jo­hann Wolf­gang Goe­the in addition to Tol­stoy.

His next work, Ge­heim­niss der gött­lich­en So­phia, showed Ar­nold had developed a form of mysticism including a female image of wisdom as a kind of divinity. Soon afterwards, however, his marriage and his acceptance of a pastorate marked a sharp change of views, and he produced a number of noteworthy works on practical theology. He was a thoroughly learned and prominent Pi­e­tist Lu­ther­an, with a wide range of influence, and at least in his early career a radical Pi­e­tist, vehemently opposed to the unbending ecclesiastical structures of his time.

  1. Herzog uns­rer Selig­keiten
  2. Jesus ist mein Freu­den­licht
  3. O der al­les h’tt’ ver­lo­ren
  4. O Durch­brech­er all­er Bande
  5. Salb uns mit dein­er Liebe
  6. So führst du doch recht sel­ig, Herr, die dein­en
  7. Wer über­win­det, soll vom Holz ge­nies­sen
  8. Wie schön ist un­sers Kön­igs Braut!