Adolf von Harnack

Carl Gustav Adolf von[1] Harnack (born Harnack; 7 May 1851 – 10 June 1930) was a Baltic German Lutheran theologian and prominent Church historian. He produced many religious publications from 1873 to 1912 (in which he is sometimes credited as Adolf Harnack). He was ennobled (with the addition of von to his name) in 1914.

Adolf von Harnack
Carl Gustav Adolf Harnack

7 May [O.S. 25 April] 1851
Died10 June 1930(1930-06-10) (aged 79)
NationalityBaltic German
Other namesAdolf Harnack
Occupationtheologian and church historian
Spouse(s)Amalie Thiersch (1858–1937)
ChildrenAnna (20 May 1881–1965)
Margarete (1882–90)
Agnus(19 June 1884 – 22 May 1950)
Karl Theodosius (19 January 1886 – 14 April 1922)
Ernst (15 July 1888 – 5 March 1945)
Elisabet (1 January 1892 – 27 July 1976)
Axel (12 September 1895–1974)
Parent(s)Theodosius Harnack (3 January 1817 – 23 September 1889)
Marie Harnack, née Ewers (22 May 1828 – 23 November 1857)
RelativesAnna (sister; 1849  ?)
Axel (brother; 7 May 1851 – 3 April 1888)
Erich (brother; 10 October 1852 – 23 May 1915)
Otto (brother; 23 November 1857 – 23 March 1914)
Arvid Harnack (nephew)

Harnack traced the influence of Hellenistic philosophy on early Christian writings and called on Christians to question the authenticity of doctrines that arose in the early Christian church. He rejected the historicity of the Gospel of John in favor of the Synoptic Gospels, criticized the Apostles' Creed, and promoted the Social Gospel.

In the 19th century, higher criticism flourished in Germany, establishing the historical-critical method as an academic standard for interpreting the Bible and understanding the historical Jesus (see Tübingen school). Harnack's work is part of a reaction to Tübingen, and represents a reappraisal of tradition.

Besides his theological activities, Harnack was a distinguished organizer of sciences. He played an important role in the foundation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft and became its first president.

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