Christian Biblical critic and theologian; born at Ulla, near Weimar, Jan. 12, 1780; died in Basel June 16, 1849. He took his doctorate in Jena, where he became privat-docent in 1806. The following year he was appointed professor of theology at Heidelberg, and in 1810 was called to the new University of Berlin, where he worked in harmony with Schleiermacher. A public expression of sympathy for Sand, the murderer of Kotzebue, occasioned his dismissal from the university (1819). After remaining three years in Weimar he was called (1822) as professor of theology to Basel, where he passed the rest of his life.

De Wette ranks among the foremost Old Testament scholars of the nineteenth century. His dissertation on Deuteronomy (1805) and his "Beiträge zur Einleitung in das Alte Testament" (1806-7) may be said to have laid the foundation (in conjunction with Vater's works) for the subsequent development of Old Testament criticism. In his commentary on the Psalms (1811) he called in question a number of the Davidic titles and the Messianic character of certain of the Psalms. His translation of the Old Testament (1809-11) had a wide circulation in Germany and elsewhere. In 1814 he published his "Lehrbuch der Hebräisch-Jüdischen Archäologie," which went through a number of editions. De Wette's critical work on the Old Testamentwas summed up in his "Lehrbuch der Historisch-Kritischen Einleitung in die Kanonischen und Apokryphischen Bücher des Alten Testaments" (1817), which was translated into English by Theodore Parker (1843), and was edited in revised form by Schrader (1869). Though later critics have departed in some points from his positions, his fundamental principle of historical development in the Old Testament has been the basis of all succeeding work. Besides the books mentioned above he wrote much on the New Testament, and on theology and ethics.

  • Herzog, Real-Encyc.;
  • Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie.
J. T.
Images of pages