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Herder, Johann Gottfried (1744–1803)


Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


Extract

German poet and critic. A writer and collector of poetry, folk songs and legends, and an early student of comparative literature, he was a significant influence on J.W. Goethe and, with G.E. Lessing, was influential in the literary movements of the German Enlightenment. For most of his life a Lutheran preacher at Weimar, he combined rationalist views and traditional religious belief. Although he applied critical methods to biblical interpretation, his conclusions were surprisingly conservative. In Vom Geist der hebräischen Poesie of 1782–3 he analysed the Psalms as literature (stressing, for example, the primacy of the poetry's setting) whilst holding that the Psalter represented the greatest poetry given to man by God; whilst in Die älteste Urkunde des Menschengeschlechts (1774–6) he argued for an allegorical interpretation of Genesis 3, but then went on to attach historical truth to the story of the fall and original sin. His study of human history as a natural science, Ideen zur Philosophic der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784–91, trans. 1800) anticipates later evolutionary theories and prefigures developments in the social sciences. 1969 : Herder, His Life and Thought . Berkeley , Ca . 1980 : J.G. Herder . Berlin . 1982 : J.G. Herder, Innovator Through the Ages . Bonn . ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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