Born: Sep­tem­ber 5, 1666, An­na­berg, Erz­ge­birge, Sax­ony.

Died: May 30, 1714, Per­le­berg, Bran­den­burg, Ger­ma­ny.

Pseudonym: Chris­to­pho­rus Iren­ae­us.


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. Aft­er­ward, through the in­flu­ence of Phil­ip Ja­cob Spe­ner, the fa­ther of pi­e­tism, he 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 pub­lish­ing his larg­est work, his Un­par­tey­ische Kirch­en- und Ket­zer-his­to­rie (Im­par­tial His­to­ry of the Church and of Her­e­sy) (Frank­furt: 1699–1700).

In its two hef­ty vol­umes some thought he showed more sym­pa­thy to­wards her­e­sy than tow­ards any es­tab­lished Church, or es­pe­cial­ly the cler­gy. Leo Tol­stoy (The Kingdom of God Is With­in You, chap­ter 3) des­cribed the book 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.

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 af­ter­ward, though, 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.