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Johann David° Michaelis

MICHAELIS, JOHANN DAVID° (1717–1791), German Bible scholar. Born in Halle, Michaelis was the son of the theologian and Orientalist Ch. B. Michaelis. In 1746 he was appointed professor of Oriental languages in Goettingen. While he was at first a pietist of the Halle school, after a stay in England (1741–42) he advocated, somewhat inconsistently, a moderately rationalistic orthodoxy. His Einleitung in die goettlichen Schriften des Neuen Bundes (1750; 1787–884) was the first textbook on the historical-critical approach to the New Testament. His early works included a Hebrew grammar textbook (Halle, 1745) and a compendium of Jewish marriage laws Ehegesetze Moses (Goettingen, 1755). In his Gruendliche Erklaerung des mosaischen Rechts (Frankfurt, 6 vols., 1770–75) he interpreted the laws of the Pentateuch as the work of the statesmanlike wisdom of Moses, whose aim was the separation of Israel from the heathens. He popularized the conclusions of biblical scholarship in a translation of the Bible with notes (13 vols., 1769–83). He also wrote an introduction to the Old Testament, Einleitung in die Schriften des Alten Bundes (1787). In 1761 he suggested to the king of Denmark that a scientific expedition be sent to Arabia. Through his extremely diverse academic and literary activities he enjoyed a worldwide reputation; however, in his later years, as a result of weaknesses of character and of scholarship, he became progressively isolated.


J.M. Hassencamp, Leben des Herrn J.D. Michaelis, von ihm selbst beschrieben (1793); R. Smend, Johann David Michaelis (Ger. 1898); R. Kittel, in: Realencyklopaedie fuer protestantische Theologie und Kirche, 13 (1903), 54ff.; E. Kutsch, in: RGG3, 4 (1960), 934–5 (incl. bibl.). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A.-R. Loewenbrueck, Judenfeindschaft im Zeitalter der Aufklaerung (1995).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.