World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Philip Schaff

Article Id: WHEBN0000178188
Reproduction Date:

Title: Philip Schaff  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, Premillennialism, History of abortion, Mercersburg Theology, Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge
Collection: 1819 Births, 1893 Deaths, 19Th-Century Protestant Theologians, 19Th-Century Theologians, 19Th-Century Translators, American Christian Theologians, American People of Swiss Descent, Contributors to the Schaff–herzog Encyclopedia, Critics of Islam, German Protestant Theologians, Historians of Christianity, Historians of Religion, Humboldt University of Berlin Alumni, Humboldt University of Berlin Faculty, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg Alumni, People from Chur, Swiss Emigrants to the United States, Swiss Protestant Theologians, Translators of the Bible Into English, Translators of the Bible Into English Who Were Not Native Speakers, Union Theological Seminary (New York City) Faculty, University of Tübingen Alumni
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Philip Schaff

Philip Schaff
Philip Schaff (about 1880)
Born January 1, 1819
Chur, Switzerland
Died October 20, 1893
New York City

Philip Schaff (January 1, 1819 – October 20, 1893), was a Swiss-born, German-educated Protestant theologian and a Church historian who spent most of his adult life living and teaching in the United States.


  • Biography 1
  • David Schaff 2
  • Works 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Schaff was born in Chur, Switzerland, and educated at the gymnasium of Stuttgart. At the universities of Tübingen, Halle and Berlin, he was successively influenced by Ferdinand Christian Baur and Schmid, by Friedrich August Tholuck and Julius Müller, by David Strauss and, above all, Johann August Wilhelm Neander. At Berlin in 1841 he took the degree of Bachelor of Divinity and passed examinations for a professorship. He then traveled through Italy and Sicily as tutor to Baron Krischer. In 1842, he was Privatdozent in the University of Berlin, where he lectured on exegesis and church history. In 1843, he was called to become Professor of Church History and Biblical Literature in the German Reformed Theological Seminary of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, then the only seminary of that church in America.

On his journey Schaff stayed in England and met Edward Pusey and other Tractarians. His inaugural address on The Principle of Protestantism, delivered in German at Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1844, and published in German with an English version by John Williamson Nevin was a pioneer work in English in the field of symbolics (that is, the authoritative ecclesiastical formulations of religious doctrines in creeds or confessions). This address and the "Mercersburg Theology" which he taught seemed too pro-Catholic to some, and he was charged with heresy. But, at the synod at York in 1845, he was unanimously acquitted.

Schaff's broad views strongly influenced the German Reformed Church, through his teaching at Mercersburg, through his championship of English in German Reformed churches and schools in America, through his hymnal (1859), through his labours as chairman of the committee which prepared a new liturgy, and by his edition (1863) of the Heidelberg Catechism. His History of the Apostolic Church (in German, 1851; in English, 1853) and his History of the Christian Church (7 vols., 1858–1890), opened a new period in American study of ecclesiastical history.

In 1854, Schaff visited Europe, representing the American German churches at the ecclesiastical diet at Frankfurt am Main and at the Swiss pastoral conference at Basel. He lectured in Germany on America, and received the degree of D.D. from Berlin.

In consequence of the ravages of the American Civil War the theological seminary at Mercersburg was closed for a while and so in 1863 Dr. Schaff became secretary of the Sabbath Committee (which opposed the “continental Sunday”) in New York City, and held the position till 1870. In 1865 he founded the first German Sunday School in Stuttgart. In 1862-1867 he lectured on church history at Andover.

Schaff was a member of the Leipzig Historical Society, the Netherland Historical Society, and other historical and literary societies in Europe and America. He was one of the founders, and honorary secretary, of the American branch of the Evangelical Alliance, and was sent to Europe in 1869, 1872, and 1873 to arrange for the general conference of the Alliance, which, after two postponements on account of the Franco-Prussian War, was held in New York in October 1873. Schaff was also, in 1871, one of the Alliance delegates to the emperor of Russia to plead for the religious liberty of his subjects in the Baltic provinces.

Schaff became a professor at Union Theological Seminary, New York City in 1870 holding first the chair of theological encyclopedia and Christian symbolism till 1873, of Hebrew and the cognate languages till 1874, of sacred literature till 1887, and finally of church history, until his death. He also served as president of the committee that translated the American Standard Version of the Bible, though he died before it was published in 1901.

Schaff's History of the Christian Church resembled Neander's work, though less biographical, and was pictorial rather than philosophical. He also wrote biographies, catechisms and hymnals for children, manuals of religious verse, lectures and essays on Dante, etc. He translated Johann Jakob Herzog's Real-Encyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche (Encyclopedia in Real Terms of Protestant Theology and Church) into English.

Working with the Evangelical Alliance and the Chicago (1893) World's Parliament of Religions, and in Germany, through the monthly Kirchenfreund, Schaff strove earnestly to promote Christian unity and union. It was his hope that the pope would abandon the doctrine of infallibility and undertake the reunion of Christianity. He recognized that he was a “mediator between German and Anglo-American theology and Christianity.”

He died October 20, 1893, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.

David Schaff

His son, David Schley Schaff, was a Presbyterian clergyman and professor of church history. David wrote his father's biography in 1897.[1]


  • History of the Apostolic Church (in German, 1851; in English, 1853) 1874 English ed.
  • The Life and Labors of St. Augustine (1854)
  • History of the Christian Church (8 vols.) (1858-1890)
  • Slavery and the Bible (1861)
  • The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes (3 vols., 1877), vol. I, vol. II, vol. III
  • Through Bible Lands: Notes of Travel in Egypt, the Desert and Palestine (New York: American Tract Society, 1878)
  • A Library of Religious Poetry. A collection of The Best Religious Poems of all Ages and Tongues (with Arthur Gilman) (London: 1881)
  • The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Schaff edited the European Herzog encyclopedia for an American audience; this is a revision of that work. vol. IX
  • Philip Schaff's Letter book, private correspondence from June 2, 1868 to August 26, 1881.

See also


  1. ^


  •  Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Schaff, Philip".  

Further reading

  • Shriver, George H. (1987). Philip Schaff: Christian Scholar and Ecumenical Prophet. Mercer University Press. ISBN 0-86554-234-1
  • Pranger, Gary K. (1997). Philip Schaff (1819-1893): Portrait of an Immigrant Theologian. Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN 0-8204-2847-7
  • Graham, Stephen R. (1995). Cosmos in the Chaos: Philip Schaff's Interpretation of Nineteenth-Century American Religion. Wm. B. Eerdmans-Lightning Source. ISBN 0-8028-0841-7
  • Gross, Ernie. This Day in Religion. New York: Neil-Schuman Publishers, 1990. ISBN 1-55570-045-4.

External links

  • Quotations related to Philip Schaff on Luther's Bible at Wikiquote
  • Wikisource logo Works written by or about Philip Schaff at Wikisource
  • Works by or about Philip Schaff at Internet Archive
  • Works by Philip Schaff at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.