Philip Schaff

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Philip Schaff

Philip Schaff (January 1, 1819-1893), was a Swiss-born, German-educated theologian and a historian of the Christian church, who, after his education, lived and taught in the United States.

He was born in Chur, Switzerland, and was educated at the gymnasium of Stuttgart, and at the universities of Tübingen, Halle and Berlin, where he was successively influenced by Baur and Schmid, by Tholuck and Julius Müller, by David Strauss and, above all, Neander. He then traveled through Italy and Sicily as tutor to Baron Krischer. In 1842 he was Privatdozent in the University of Berlin, and 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 he 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 J. W. 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.

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 in New York City, and held the position till 1870. He 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, till his death.

His 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.

His son, David Schley Schaff (born in 1852), was professor of church history in Lane Theological Seminary from 1897 to 1903, and after 1903 in Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, Pa.. He wrote a Commentary on the Book of Acts (1882) and a Life of Philip Schaff (1897).

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