Johann Arndt

Johann Arndt

Johann Arndt (or Arnd) (December 27 1555 – May 11 1621) was a German Lutheran theologian who wrote several influential books of devotional Christianity.

He was born at Ballenstedt, in Anhalt, and studied in several universities.He was at Helmstedt in 1576 and at Wittenberg in 1577. At Wittenberg the crypto-Calvinist controversy was then at its height, and he took the side of Melanchthon and the crypto-Calvinists. He continued his studies in Strasbourg, under the professor of Hebrew, Johannes Pappus (1549-1610), a zealous Lutheran, the crown of whose life's work was the forcible suppression of Calvinistic preaching and worship in the day, and who had great influence over him.

In Basel, again, he studied theology under Simon Sulzer (1508-1585), a broad-minded divine of Lutheran sympathies, whose aim was to reconcile the churches of the Helvetic and Wittenberg confessions. In 1581 he went back to Ballenstedt, but was soon recalled to active life by his appointment to the pastorate at Badeborn in 1583.

After some time his Lutheran tendencies aroused the anger of the authorities, who were of the Reformed Church.Consequently, in 1590 he was deposed for refusing to remove the pictures from his church and discontinue the use of exorcism at baptism. (Anhalt would become Calvinist in 1596.) He found an asylum in Quedlinburg (1590), and afterwards was transferred to St Martin's church at Brunswick in 1599. He later worked in Eisleben, and until 1621 as "Generalsuperintendent" in Celle.

Arndt's fame rests on his writings. These were mainly of a mystical and devotional kind, and were inspired by St Bernard, Johannes Tauler and Thomas Kempis.His principal work, "Wahres Christentum" (book 1: 1605; books 1-4: 1606-1610), which has been translated into most European languages, has served as the foundation of many books of devotion, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. Arndt here dwells upon the mystical union between the believer and Christ, and endeavours, by drawing attention to Christ's life "in" His people, to correct the purely forensic side of the reformation theology, which paid almost exclusive attention to Christ's life "for" His people. Like Luther, Arndt was very fond of the little anonymous book, "Theologia Germanica". He published an edition of it and called attention to its merits in a special preface. After "Wahres Christentum", his best-known work is "Paradiesgärtlein aller christlichen Tugenden", which was published in 1612. Both these books have been translated into English: "Paradiesgärtlein" with the title "the Garden of Paradise", and "Wahres Christentum" as "True Christianity". Several of his sermons are published in R. Nesselmann's "Buch der Predigten" (1858).

Arndt has always been held in very high repute by the German Pietists. The founder of Pietism, Philipp Jakob Spener, repeatedly called attention to him and his writings, and even went so far as to compare him with Plato.


*Collected edition of his works (Leipzig, 1734)
*C. Aschmann, "Essai sur la vie, etc., de J. Arndt"
*Herzog-Hauck, "Realencyklopädie"
*Karl Scheele, "Plato and Johann Arndt, Ein Vortrag, &c.", 1857
*George S. Spink, "John Arndt's Religious Thought: A Study in German Proto-Pietism" (Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 1970)

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