Lecture by Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Matejka on the occasion of the Zahn ́schen Familientag in St. Gallen from 03. - 05. 10. 2014


Revival, rebirth, pardon, awakening, revival

The term "revival" appears only in the early 20th century, until then: pietism, late pietism.

Revival movements exist in the 18th and 19th centuries in a l l Protestant countries, first in England: Methodist Church from the 1740s.

USA: 1734 - 44 The Great Awakening, later several revival movements with charismatic preachers at "camping meetings" 1800, 1826-30, 1857-58.
Today we speak of evangelical Christians and fundamentalist churches.

Roots and antecedents of revival:

  • Spanish and French mysticism (Catholics)

  • Pietism (Philip Jakob Spener, August Herrmann Francke)

  • Herrnhut Church of the Brethren (Nikolaus Rudolf Reichsgraf von Zinzendorf) - Basel Christianity Society as of 1780

The awakened (about 8,000 people around 1820) are:

  • Pietists of the Romantic period;

  • radically subjective;

  • cultivate friendship cult;

  • produce extensive epistolary literature;

  • produce extensive epistolary literature;

  • experience the "rebirth from the Spirit" (John 2:5);

  • egalitarian and elitist at the same time;

  • Kingdom of God work, active love: Bible, diakonia, mission, pedagogy

  • interdenominational, all people are equally creatures of God

  • Lifestyle ascetic: fasting, see casteism, simple clothing

  • alcohol, gambling, dancing, taverns, theaters, train rides for pleasure, finery, vanity, singing and making music (secular!) are frowned upon.

  • Countermovement: Joy in divine creation, nature, drives ect., life orientation

Revival Theology

Religion as Submission to God's Word. Theology of Romanticism
Private conventicles with tendency to separatism Opponents: rationalism, materialism, idealism

Revelation = Christianity = fully rational;
Task of reason: to hear the Word of God, to prove the divine authority and credibility of the Bible.
Tholuck: "only the hell of self-knowledge enables the heaven of God-knowledge".

Bible: authentic document of divine revelation, inerrant, literally true; verbal inspiration; rejection of historical-critical method, instead daily Bible reading.

Historical events are interpreted religiously (= in terms of salvation history): e.g. Kingdom of God, eschatology, Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20,6).

Sin, guilt, grace, justification, redemption, all-reconciliation are central themes.

"To be pious is to pray" (Friedrich Schleiermacher).

Jesus: Redeemer from the guilt of sin, sole mediator ("mesites") of God's fullness of grace.

Jesus discipleship through constantly lived relationship with the Son of God Christology, Christ mysticism (wounds, blood, stigma).

Rationalistic theology

Religion without metaphysics
Theology of the Enlightenment
Official religion of the national churches
Opponents: revivalism, materialism, idealism

Revelation corresponds to natural religion, but needs purification. Primacy of reason: only what exists before common sense is valid.

Bible: written by humans, therefore not free of errors; demand for historical-critical Bible research.

Historical understanding of the Bible, religion, church doctrine and dogmatics.

Original sin and traditional doctrine of justification are rejected.

Pious is replaced by "believing".

Jesus is not a savior/savior for his devotees, but a teaching regent, sent by God out of love for mankind.

Following Jesus through virtuous, moral living by free choice. He who acts morally is pious.

No Christological dogmas, not even Trinitarian ones

historical events, considered as "awakening evidences


French Revolution;

In particular, the "Great Terror" was interpreted as a devastating consequence of the Enlightenment, which had brought darkness into the world. (Where the kingdom of God is not, the devil has free course).

1792 – 1809

5 Coalition wars devastate Europe; famine, pestilence, devastation, plunder. An age of fear: question of God's punishing and saving hands.


The Imperial Deputation of 25 February radically changes the German map, including the dissolution of the previous church system; this fundamental upheaval makes conventicles very attractive to believers.


Disastrous defeat of Prussia by Napoleon at the Battle of Jena and Auerstedt; God's judgment on King Frederick William III and "godless" Prussia.


Wars of liberation; great admiration for Russian soldiers going into battle with icons: "riding church". Russia: new hope for the Kingdom of God, efforts to emigrate there because closer to the "New Jerusalem".


Battle of the Nations at Leipzig; considered a "judgment of God".


Battle of Waterloo;
Napoleon's defeat appears once again as God's judgment, is hailed as the "end of Satan's reign".


"Holy Alliance" between Russia, Prussia and Austria; term originates from the "prophetess" Juliane von Krüdener (1764 - 1824).


Hunger winter, experienced as "punishment of God


Abundant harvest in the year of the 300th anniversary of the Reformation; reinforcement of faith in Providence.

Central personalities of the revival


August Herrmann Francke (1663 – 1727)

Archfather of Pietism alongside Spener. Converted in Lüneburg in 1687. In 1689 the faculty in Leipzig forbids his teaching. 1691 Professor through the mediation of Spener
for Greek and Herbrew in Halle/S., from 1698 professor of theology. Founds the F ́sche Stiftungen (Foundations) in Halle/S. from 1695, first a school for the poor, then also an orphanage, bookshop, publishing house, printing house, pharmacy, East Indian Missionary Society.

Gerhard Terstegen (1697 – 1769)

The saint in Protestantism. Writes a letter to Jesus with his blood on Holy Thursday 1724: "Command, reign, reign in me!" Mysticism for him is "exercise of godliness." His sermons gather many followers, in 1740 his conventicles are banned. Only in the 19th century do his hymns enter the Protestant hymnbook.

Matthias Claudius (1740 – 1815)

"We believe the Bible on its word. He is the "Wandsbeker Bote", since 1787 in contact with Sailer, friends with v. Kottwitz.

Johann Heinrich Jung-Stilling (1740 – 1817)

Founding father of the revival, physician, polyhistor, professor of almost everything, writer. Awakened on 11.7.1762: "He saw a light cloud; then an unknown power pervaded his soul, he trembled all over and made a firm and irrevocable covenant with God." 1777 autobiographical novel "Henrich Stillings Jugend" edited and published by J.W. v. Goethe. Visits the Herrnhut Brethren Church in Neuwied in 1789: "An important institution for the preparatory establishment of the Kingdom of God." Travels to Switzerland in 1801 and 02: godfather of Anna Schlatter's daughter Henriette.

Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741 -1801)

Physiognomists: the likeness of man to God is reflected in the facial features. "Piece by piece all persons are individual sides of the image of God, whole it is Jesus Christ." That is why in 1773 he asks Goethe to describe the face of Jesus Christ - which Goethe does not do. Meets Jung-Stilling and Goethe in 1774, befriends Sailer for 20 years, appreciates the Christology of the Herrnhuters. His daughter Nette: most important friend of Anna Schlatter-Bernet.

Sailer Circle

Matthias Claudius (1740 -1815)

German poet, Protestant, associated with Sailer since 1787. "Even I hate the headache of religious secrets; for I think they are secrets for the very reason that we are not to know them - until it is time."

Johann Michael Sailer (1751 – 1832)

Catholic priest, writer, educator, Bishop of Regensburg.
1794 removed from his professorship of moral and pastoral theology, accused of being an enlightener, secret ally, false mystic. 1796 Allgäu revival: his students

Feneberg, Boos and Gossner play an important role in this. Suspicion: aftermysticism. 1800 - 21 Prof. for moral and pastoral theology at the Bavarian State University of Landshut. In 1816 he distanced himself from the enthusiastic revival in the Allgäu, in 1820 also formally from all accusations made against him. 1829 Bishop of Regensburg. Spiritual mentor of Anna Schlatter-Bernet, several visits to St.Gallen.

Johann Michael Feneberg (1751- 1812)

Jesuit, friend of Sailer since 1770. Since 1793 pastor in Seeg near Füssen/Allgäu. Boos, his cousin, and Gossner were temporarily chaplains in his parish. Has to answer to the Bishop of Augsburg for aftermysticism. In 1797 he recanted 10 sentences which he had not taught at all.

Martin Boos (1762 – 1825)

"Preacher of justice that is valid before God". Catholic priest, ascetic - sleeps on the floor, self-flagellation. Converted to Lutheran doctrine of justification by dying peasant woman, sola fide (Rom 3:28) In Seeg his sermons trigger a revival movement: "Boos is a true apostle, a Paul, and all the miracles of faith renewed in his congregation." 1797 Sentenced in Augsburg to imprisonment in a priest's prison. 1806 parish priest in Gallneukirchen/Diocese of Linz,
Great revival there in 1810. Deprived of his office in 1815, he ended up in a monastery prison in Linz, from which he smuggled out letters through a mouse hole, among others to Anna Schlatter. In 1816 he is allowed to emigrate, but in Bavaria he is again and repeatedly accused of pernicious mysticism. In 1817 he finds employment as a teacher and pastor in the Prussian Rhineland.

Johannes Evangelista Gossner (1773 – 1858)

Catholic priest, acquainted with Sailer since 1797. In 1802 sentenced to several weeks in priest's prison in Augsburg despite recantation. Later in Tyrol and Munich: enormous attendance at his sermons. From 1820 at the Maltese Church in St.Petersburg - his services are overcrowded. "Here is a great people seeking the Lord." All preachers - except the Herrnhutern - pursue his overthrow, expelled by Tsar Alexander I in 1824. 23.7.1826 : Converts to the Lutheran Church in Silesia, in the castle of a nobleman who is a close friend of Kottwitz.
<Fortsetzung siehe Gossner/Kottwitz-Kreis>

Kottwitz Circle

Matthias Claudius (1740 – 1815)

Author of the first poem in German against Negro slavery: "Der Schwarze in der Zuckerplantage" (1773):
Far from my fatherland/Must I languish and perish here,/Without consolation, in toil ́ and shame;/Oh the white men !!! Wise and beautiful!/And I have ́done nothing to the men without ́pity./You in heaven! Help me poor/Black man!

Ernst von Kottwitz (1757 – 1843)

Patriarch of the Berlin revival, "the pious baron".
From Silesian nobility, page at the court of Frederick II. As a young man, a Freemason, later fascinated by the Herrnhut Brethren congregation of Count Zinzendorf. From 1806 he founded one diaconal and missionary institution after another in Berlin, always anxious not to let the revivalist orientation be diluted by state support/supervision. In 1816 the Bavarian revival (Boos, Gossner) jumps over to the Kottwitz circle. Clemens von Brentano: "The revivals to living Christianity there are so touching. A lot of possessed and spirit-seeing people show up. It is the very picture of apostolic times." Enormous correspondence. Mentor of many theologians such as Adolph and Franz Ludwig Zahn. String-puller in appointments and parish appointments due to his access to the Prussian king. Acquainted with Sailer since about 1800. Takes care of the Schlatter daughters Cleophea and Anna as educators at Groeben and Stolberg.

Johannes Evangelista Gossner (1773 – 1858)

"Old birth is old birth. A life from above, from God, must be awakened. Rebirth does it alone."
23.7.1826 Converts to the Lutheran Church in Silesia.
In 1829, Frederick William III gave him the pastorate of the Bethlehem Church in Berlin, Baron Kottwitz's favorite church. Highly successful preacher. In 1833, he and his parish founded the Men's Hospital Association, the Women's Hospital Association, in 1834 the first infant care center, and in 1837 the Elisabeth Hospital with training of nurses, the first non-governmental hospital. Also in 1837, the first delegation of missionaries to Australia. 1842 Frederick William IV confirms the "Protestant Missionary Society for the Propagation of Christianity among the Natives of the Heathen Lands."

August Neander (1789 – 1850)

"The heart makes the theologian". Born David Mendel, he called himself Neumann=Neander after his baptism. From 1813 teacher of church history in Berlin, specializing in the history of piety. Writes biographies of pious Christians as teaching examples of successful discipleship to Christ. One of his students is named Franz Ludwig Zahn from Thalleben/Schwarzburg-Sondershausen: "The village chronicler also sat at the feet of this great teacher in the years 1822-25. He owes much to him. He was an intimate friend of Baron Kottwitz."

Adolph Zahn (1795 – 1866)

"Whoever does not have Christ's Spirit is not His."
Revived pastor, son of the rationalist pastor of Wasserthaleben Gottlieb Zahn (1762 - 1845), married to Cleophea Schlatter (1797 - 1860). As a theology student in Jena in 1818 awakened by Sailer's student Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert (1780 - 1860), influenced by the Kottwitz circle in Berlin. In 1825 Kottwitz arranges for him to come as pastor to Mützenow/Pomerania, where the radically awakened Below ́sche movement threatens to drift into separatism. In this he fails. In 1832 he asks for his transfer. Later superintendent in Neustettin.

Franz Ludwig Zahn (1798 -1890)

"How highly does the Word of God place and how deeply does it establish the education of man. Knowledge and faith - not against each other, but in each other." (1850) Lawyer, awakened theologian, pedagogue, writer, landowner, married to Anna Schlatter (1800 - 1853).
1817 -20 Law studies in Jena, then actuary at a patrimonial court and advocate: dissatisfied with this. Encouraged by his brother Adolph, he began to study theology in Berlin in 1822, having "a kind of domiciliary right with Baron Kottwitz", who called him his "dear Franziskus" in many letters.
1825 Head of the school teachers' seminar in Weißenfels
1827 - 32 Head of the Fletcher ́sche Seminary in Dresden. His superior is Count Dohna, a grandson of the Imperial Count Zinzendorf.
From 1832 in Moers as Diesterweg's successor. Pedagogue in the spirit of revival theology.

Friedrich August Gotttreu Tholuck (1799 – 1877)

"Does the funeral bell of your conscience ring loud enough the memory of past follies into your heart tired of fighting ?"
Revival theologian, scholar, edification writer, pastor.
Already masters 19 languages at the age of 17, including several oriental languages. Comes to Berlin at the age of 18, studies theology, is fascinated by Baron Kottwitz and his Herrnhut piety. At the age of 21 he habilitates on oriental pantheism (Sufi), at the age of 23 he receives the honorary degree of Dr.phil. honoris causa from the University of Jena for his Persian studies and becomes a professor of Old Testament. At the age of 24 he wrote the autobiographical epistolary novel "Guido und Julius. Die Lehre von der Sünde und vom Versöhner, oder: Die wahre Weihe des Zweiflers" (The Doctrine of Sin and the Reconciler, or: The True Consecration of the Doubter), the program of the revival movement. In 1825, against the unanimous vote of the faculty, the Prussian king confirms his appointment to the university in Halle/S. There he works for 51 years with great resonance among the students. Known throughout the city as "der Herr Rat". Friend and mentor of F.L.Zahn.