BLESSIG, JOHANN LORENZ: German Protestant; b. at Strasburg Apr. 15, 1747; d. there Feb. 17,1816. He studied at the university of his native city; traveled extensively in Italy, Hungary, and Germany; began to preach, and was continually promoted till he was in charge of the principal Protestant church of Strasburg; became professor in the philosophical faculty in 1778, and in the theological, 1787. He was three times rector; his lectures covered Greek literature, history of philosophy, Old Testament exegesis, dogmatics, and homiletics, and in them all he made the practical dominate. His activities carried him into the field of politics also, and he was elected to the city council. The French Revolution brought upon him exile, a fine, and imprisonment for eleven months. Robespierre's downfall restored his liberty and he returned to his labors. Church and school were reorganized, Blessig's influence being felt everywhere. He left no great work, but not less than forty minor writings, including several memorial addresses, which were highly esteemed in their time. Worthy of special mention are: Ueber Unglauben, Aberglauben und Glauben (Strasburg, 1786); De censu Davidico Pesteque hunc censum secuta (1788); and De evangeliis secundum Ebrœos, Ægyptios atque Justini Martyris (1807).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. M. Fritz, Leben Dr. J. L. Blessigs, 2 vols., Strasburg, 1819; A. Froelich, Dr. J. L. Blessig, Ein Vorkämpfer des religiösen Liberalismus im Elsass, in Schriften des protestantischen liberalen Vereins in Elsass-Lothringen, no. 36, ib. 1891.
Ethnic Conceptions (§ 1).
In the Old Testament (§ 2).
Higher and Lower View (§ 3).
The conception of blessing and cursing has a large
part in every religion. It refers to the supernatural or divine promotion or hindrance to human
action and welfare. Sometimes it is predicated of
man himself as possessing through his
connection with deity the ability to
exercise over another the power originally possessed only by deity (cf.
Within the Old Testament there are many traces
of the contact of Israel with such conceptions.
The prophetic religion was especially emphatic
in its opposition to witchcraft, necromancy, and
the like, and, especially in the Babylonian age,
was not successful in combating them.
Earlier examples are found in Saul's
resort to the witch of Endor and the
cases suggested by
In examining the cases presented in the Old
Testament, it becomes evident that use was made
both of the word of power and of an instrument.
The staff was used frequently, its use being attributed to Moses and Aaron and to the Egyptian
Blessing and cursing were often connected with
things holy, particularly with sacrifice. By means
of these a blessing or a curse were often bespoken.
This practise of seeking blessing or curse had
continuing vogue in the common religious ideas of
Israel, remaining in evidence down to prophetic
times. As elsewhere, so among the Hebrews,
superstition and the practise of magic never completely died out, and not only deity but the spirits
of the dead (I Sam. xxviii) and of ancestors were invoked to give effect to the invocation or the imprecation. The deity is in mind in Samuel's blessing
of the meal (
If it be asked who are the persons who may
bless or curse, it is always found that they are those
in especially close relation to deity, either seer or
priest or man of God. Of these Moses, Balaam,
Investigation into the way in which blessing and
cursing operate in the Old Testament shows a
lower and a higher view. Not infrequently the mere
vocal expression of the wish works out the fulfilment in a kind of blind compulsion such as takes
place in ethnic magic (cf.
While this inevitability is to be recognized in the
Old Testament as inherent by the mere formulation of
blessing and cursing or curse, the act takes on more
and more the character of the expression of a wish
to be fulfilled by Yahweh, and so it becomes distinguished in form and character from magic and
witchcraft. And while the method of operation
is thus transferred, the character of the blessing
sought changes from the material to the spiritual.
Thus in the priestly blessing of
As oracles were quoted among the heathen, so sayings attributed to Yahweh or spoken in his name were cited among the Hebrews, and blessings and curses appear almost in profusion in the Old Testament, derived from prophetic or ancestral authority. These take on often a cryptic character and anticipate the more extended apocalyptic writings of later times (cf. the sayings ascribed to Moses and to Jacob in Gen. xlix and Deut. xxxiii).
The uncertainty of the original significance of the practise is disclosed by an examination of the etymology of the words used. The technical Hebrew term for cursing is arar, the meaning of which was evidently to press heavily upon one. Alongside this was used for the curse a word derived from alah, connected with the word el, "God." This last implies a calling upon deity or a reference to him as agent, a meaning which recalls the idea in the German segnen, "to (make the) sign (of the cross over one)." But another root also used, kalal, had no inherent reference to the deity, meaning simply "to vilify." So the original sense of the word obscure meaning "to curse," is uncertain. Not less obscure is the original meaning of the word for blessing, berakhah. It has been referred to berekh, "knee," suggesting the meaning "to bow the knee." But that the idea of worship was originally connected with the word or that it meant "to pray" does not appear probable. It is possible to relate it to berekhah, meaning an accumulation of the growth and fruitfulness attributed to water and, then the attainment of prosperity.
A noteworthy expression is that which appears
quite frequently (e.g.,
BIBLIOGRAPHY: P. Scholz, Götzendienst und Zauberwesen bei den Hebräern, Regensburg, 1877; C. F. Keil, Biblical Archœology, ii, 457, Edinburgh, 1888; R. Smend, Alttestamentliche Religionsgeschichte, § 334, Freiburg, 1893; DB, i, 307, 534-535; EB, i, 591-592; JE, iii, 242-247. For ethnic parallels consult: E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, pp. 112-132, New York, 1877; I. Goldziher, Muhammidanische Studien, 2 vols., Halle, 1889-90; Wellhausen, Heidentum; F. T. Elworthy, The Evil Eye, London, 1895; F. B. Jevons, Introduction to Hist. of Religion, chaps. iii-iv, ib. 1896; G. B. Frazer, Golden Bough, i, 97, ib. 1900; S. I. Curtiss, Primitive Semitic Religion, New York, 1902.
Calvin College. Last modified on 05/10/04. Contact the CCEL.