More Gerhard Goodness: On God and the Holy Trinity
I have good news! The second volume of Johann Gerhard’s Loci Theologici, which for the first time is being published in English translation, is now available. You may view an excerpt from the volume, and read more about it
on the CPH web site. Simply put there is no theological resource that lays out Lutheran doctrine this extensively in English. I’m pleased and proud to report that Concordia Publishing House has become the single best source for the works of Johann Gerhard. We carry nearly every English translation of his works available and with the publication of the Loci we are the best "one stop shop" on the Internet for the works of Gerhard. The same holds true for English translation of the works of Martin Chemnitz. Here is the information on the book from the CPH web site.
The Theological Commonplaces series presents the first-ever
English translation of the 16-volume Loci Theologici of Johann Gerhard.
Gerhard addresses the Christian faith doctrine by doctrine in an
accessible style. Gerhard interacts with the writings of the Church
fathers, Luther and his contemporaries, and the Catholic, Reformed, and
Unitarian theologians of his day. This series remains a classic of
Lutheran theology and offers contemporary church workers and
researchers a wealth of material on the distinctives of Lutheran
On the Nature of God and on the Trinity, translated by
Richard J. Dinda, addresses God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as
Gerhard explores the divine names, the natural knowledge of God, the
divine essence, and the mystery of the Trinity. As Gerhard makes the
argument for the Trinity, he turns repeatedly to Holy Scripture and
interacts with the writings of the ancient Church fathers as they
sought to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity. He specifically
addresses the arguments of the Socinians (Unitarians) concerning the
On the Nature of God and on the Trinity is the second volume in the Theological Commonplaces series.
Who is Johann Gehard? I’m glad you asked. Read the extended entry for a very well done mini-biography.
Johann Gerhard lived during a time when the Lutheran Church was in
great need of discipline and an orthodox leader. Our gracious God
lovingly provided for these needs of his Church through this man.
“Gerhard is the third (Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard) in that series of
Lutheran theologians in which there is no fourth” (Gerhard,9).
Johann Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Upper Saxony, on Wednesday,
October 17, 1582. His parents, Bartholomaeus and Margareta, took him to
be baptized on the following Sunday.
His early education began at the public school in Quedlinburg, where
he learned literature from three faithful and suitable teachers until
1598. During his attendance there, he composed a Gospel history in
Latin verse. At age 15, he contracted consumption and dropsy, and for a
whole year he was tormented by sickness and temptation. He wrote a
prayer book for himself, which he often drenched with his own tears.
The pastor in Quedlinburg, Johann Arndt, comforted and consoled him,
and it was due to his influence that Gerhard vowed to study theology,
if God should ever permit him to recover. God did provide him a
A horrible epidemic ran through Quedlinburg in 1598, affecting 3,300
people. The disease also took hold of Gerhard very fiercely, so that he
thought he might die. His mother detected the disease immediately and
gave him a dose of the only antidote available. She then immediately
summoned a physician who, unaware of the dose Johann’s mother had given
him, gave him another dose. In just a few hours, he was well again
In 1599, he spent a semester of school in Halberstadt, where he
wrote a Passion history in Greek verse, before enrolling at the
University of Wittenberg. He began to study philosophy at Wittenberg,
and he attended two lecture courses in theology later in the year. From
1600 to 1601, he applied himself to medical science, and even began to
practice medicine and give prescriptions. He headed to the academy at
Jena in February, 1603, where his conscience reminded him of his former
vow. He took up a curriculum in theology and philosophy. He also
started reading the Scriptures and the church fathers day and night,
praying ardently beforehand and afterwards. His studying paid off, and
he received his master’s degree in philosophy in June of the same year.
During Christmas of that year, he became very ill and thought he
surely was going to die. On December 29 he wrote his will, which also
contained a beautiful, orthodox confession of faith in all essential
points of doctrine. However, God was not finished with him yet, and he
recovered three weeks later.
He went to the university of Marburg in May, 1604, to further
advance his theological education. In addition to attending three
lecture classes (Genesis, Person of Christ and Justification,
Proverbs), he also started two classes of his own, one in philosophy
and the other in theology. On August 10, 1605, he left Marburg as a
result of the uprising and controversy that was taking place there.
Duke Johann Kasimir of Coburg called Gerhard to be the bishop of
Heldburg in 1606. Gerhard accepted the call, provided that he would be
able to finish his doctorate at Jena first. The duke consented to this.
As part of this pursuit, Gerhard gave a dissertation on Ephesians 4
in July, which 300 students attended. On August 15, he gave his
inaugural discourse on the Lord’s Supper, and three days later he
underwent a rigorous examination. The theological faculty at Jena made
him a doctor of theology on November 11.
He fulfilled his office of bishop at Heldburg faithfully, not only
preserving the truths of Scripture in his own teaching, but also making
visits to churches in Thuringia and Franconia to examine what was being
taught and to exercise discipline if necessary. During this time he
also held weekly disputations at Duke Kasimir’s univesity preparatory
school in Coburg. In 1615, Kasimir “called” Gerhard (“forced” might be
closer to reality) to be Coburg’s pastor and superintendant-general.
The duke was very possessive of Gerhard. He refused to release him even
when Gerhard expressed his desire to accept a call extended to him by
the academy at Jena in 1611.
Kasimir finally dismissed Gerhard at the end of April, 1616, but
only after the academy at Jena had repeated the call through the
Elector of Saxony. So Gerhard went to the academy at Jena to be a
professor of theology. He had longed for an academic profession, and
the academy had long desired that he teach there. He arrived there in
May, where he was cordially greeted by the faculty. From 1616 to the
end of his life, he taught quite a variety of courses in dogmatics and
exegesis. For instance, in 1631 Gerhard taught a course on theological
topics, a course on his own book Loci Theologici (more on that
later), exegetical courses on 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and
Philippians, and a Bible class on the Gospel of John. He loved the
academy for its reputation and sound doctrine, and although he received
many other calls, even to the prestigious university at Upsala, Sweden,
he remained at Jena until he died. Many men became outstanding Lutheran
pastors and professors under his guidance.
When Gerhard was 27 years old, he had married Barbara Neumeier, who
was two months shy of 14 years old at the time. Although she was quite
young, she was known for her charm, beauty, and devotion to the Lord.
When she was 16, she bore Johann a son, Johann Georg, who died 17 days
later. From that time on, she became sick and caught a horrible fever.
On May 30, 1611, she uttered her last words, “Come, Lord Jesus”
(Fischer,217), and died. Her death wounded her husband deeply.
Three years later, Gerhard remarried, this time Maria Mattenberg.
They were devoted to each other as long as they were married. She bore
him 10 children, three of whom died just days after they were born.
Their names were, in order, Georg Sigismund, Margaret, Elisabeth,
Johann Ernst, Johann, Maria, Polycarp, Johann Friedrich, Johann
Andreas, and Anna Christina (Fischer,221-222).
Gerhard suffered many hardships throughout his life. At various
times he suffered asthma, rheumatism, dry fever, a thin voice
(especially before his call to Jena), kidney trouble, and weakness of
his entire body and its functions. Death constantly surrounded him and
everyone living in those days. His father had died when he was 16 years
old. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) raged during a large part of his
life. During this war, Gerhard was under threat of imprisonment several
times. Once he and his colleague, Johann Major, went out to the city
gates of Jena to dissuade Count Tilly from destroying the entire city.
When the count covered his ears, “Gerhard ran off to the side and
shouted excitedly: ‘I don’t want you to listen to me now; I want you to
listen to God!’” (Fischer,95). In this way he did affect the count, and
the city suffered only minor pillaging.
In spite of all this, Gerhard was well known for his godliness,
piety, kindness, agreeableness, gentleness, sobriety, thankfulness,
humility, patience, generosity, imagination, and steadfastness in
unfavorable situations. He was devoted to his family; after his
children reached their teens, he held devotions with his family twice a
day, every day (Fischer,129). He gave immensely of his time, talents,
and treasures for the benefit of the Church; he acquired two estates
for the academy by his favor with the nobility. His religious enemies
could find no blemishes on him with which to accuse him or ruin his
reputation. That which he wrote was in harmony with the life that he
lived. Even when Gerhard wrote against Calvinists, Papists, and
Photinians, while he thorougly denounced their errors, it could hardly
be said that he had written harshly (Fischer,121). (This could not be
easily said of Lutheran theologians before him.)
He was a prolific writer. “His colleague Johann Himmel said of him
that he had written many excellent works in his life, his hand moving
as fast as his thoughts, without ever revising any book once written”
(Scharlemann,42). His greatest work by far was his Loci Theologici
(Topics of Theology) in nine volumes, which took him 11 years to write.
In it he outlined and explained comprehensively all points of
Scriptural doctrine, together with extensively detailed refutations of
error. His most popular work by far was his Meditationes Sacrae
(Sacred Meditations), which he wrote at age 22. Since its first
publication in Latin, it has been translated into almost every major
language. Some of his other excellent works include Harmoniae evangelicae Chemnitio-Lyserianae continuatio (A Continuation of the Gospel Harmony by Chemnitz and Leyser), Confessio catholica (The Universal Confession), Exercitium pietatis quotidianum (The Daily Exercise of Piety), Die Passions-Historie nach den vier Evangelisten (The History of the Passion According to the Four Evangelists), and Von der heiligen Taufe und dem heiligen Abendmahl (Concerning Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). Some of these have been recently published in English by Repristination Press.
Gerhard’s writings, while certainly not infallible, attest to the
outstanding knowledge and wisdom with which the Lord endowed him. His
enemies were forced to remain silent while he was alive, due to the
thoroughness he employed in refuting them from Scripture. He was
certainly an unsurpassed benefit to the academy at Jena at that time
and through his writings is still very beneficial today to the
Christian Church as a whole.
On August 12, 1637, Gerhard contracted an inner burning and weakness
of his bodily powers. On August 15, with his colleagues Johann Major
and Johann Himmel at his side, he committed his children to the Lord in
prayer. Thereafter he confessed his faith, and asserted that he still
held firm to the holy doctrine he had always taught. Following this, he
named three theologians who would be worthy of succeeding him. Then he
extended his hand to the two great theologians by his side, who wept
greatly at this gesture. After bidding them farewell, he confessed his
sins and received the Lord’s Supper from his pastor, Adrian Beier,
archdeacon of Jena. For the next two days, he spoke very little and
slept much. On August 17, “his eyesight began to fail, his hearing
weakened, and his breathing became heavy. Johann Gerhard, therefore, in
the presence of his two colleagues, John Mayor (Johann Major) and John
(Johann) Himmel, of Master Adrian Beyer (Beier) and very many of his
friends, amid their very ardent prayers … gave up his life around three
in the afternoon with these words: ‘Come, come, Lord, come’”
His funeral took place on August 20. His body was taken to St.
Michael’s church, where this epitaph, written by Ludwig Fidler, was
imposed upon him: “Here lies Godliness, Uprightness, Frankness and John
(Johann) Gerhard. Such praise befits him, and that is enough”
We do well to praise and thank our Lord for the people he has used
in the past to preserve and strengthen his church. He certainly does
not need humans to help him in this task, but he has nevertheless
bestowed upon many people that high privilege and responsibility.
Johann Gerhard was certainly not among the least of these.
Fischer, Erdmann Rudolph. The Life of John Gerhard. Richard Dinda and Elmer Hohle, 2000. (Published: Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 2001.)
Scharlemann, Robert P. Thomas Aquinas and John Gerhard. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1964.
Gerhard, Johann. Sacred Meditations. (Printed: Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 2000.)