GESENIUS, ge-si'ni-us or gb-zb'nf-us, JUSTUS: Lutheran theologian of the seventeenth century, known for his catechisms; b. at Esbeck (near Elze, 20 m. s. of Hanover), in the principality of Kalenberg, July 6, 1601; d. at Hanover Sept. 18, 1673. His father was preacher at Esbeck. Having received his early education at the Adreanum in Hildesheim, he went in his eighteenth year to Helmstedt, where he studied under Georg Calixtus and Conrad Hornejus. In 1628 he took his degree of master of philosophy in Jena and was called as pastor to the church of St. Magnus in Brunswick. After seven years of beneficent activity there, he received a call to Hildesheim, the seat of George, duke of Brunswick, as court chaplain and preacher in the cathedral. After the duke's death (1641), he, as well as the whole consistory, removed to Hanover, where he became chief court chaplain and general superintendent of the principality of Kalenberg; later (1665) he was general superintendent of Grubenhagen as well. He received the degree of doctor of divinity in 1643 for a dissertation, De igne purgatorio.

Gesenius' importance lies chiefly in the services he rendered in the production of good hymnals and catechisms. With his friend David Denicke, he brought out a hymnal containing 222 hymns (Hanover, 1646), which was later enlarged and arranged for use in the churches. The compilers did not confine themselves to collecting and arranging the hymns, but also adapted many of the older ones and probably added a few of their own composition. To correct the prevailing ignorance in regard to Christian doctrine, Gesenius, in 1631, brought out his Kleine Katechismussehule, or "Brief Instruction as to how the Catechism Should be Taught to the Young and the Simple" (often reprinted). Later, by order of Duke George and of the consistory, he issued an abridgment of this work under the title Kleine Catechismusfragen caber den kleinen Catechismum Lutheri (1639 and many times republished). This work constitutes the celebrated catechism of Gesenius, which was introduced into all the schools of the principality of Kalenberg and gained great repute in many parts of Lower Saxony. Notwithstanding the praise which was accorded the author, he was violently


attacked, especially by Statius Buscher in his Cryptopapismus novce theologise Helmstadiensis (Hamburg, 1638). Although Gesenius justified himself in a Grundliche Widerlegung (Ldneburg, 1641) and although his innocence was established through an investigation by impartial theologians, it must be admitted that, carried away by his zeal for a lively faith and for better knowledge, he al lowed himself to wander from the straight path of Lu theran doctrine. Of the charge that he was secretly a Roman Catholic he clears himself in his last important work, Warum uillst du nicht römisch katholisch werden, wie deine Vorfahren ware n? (4 parts, Hanover, 1669-72). The strife concerning his Catechismus fragen was renewed in the eighteenth century, when King George I., in 1723, sought vainly to introduce Gesenius's catechism into the duchies of Bremen and Verden (cf. Unschuldige Nachrichten, 1724). In addition to the other serv ices rendered by Gesenius to the cause of religious education, he published, in 1656, a manual of in struction in Biblical history, BIiblische Historien Alten and Neuen Testaments.

Carl Bertheau.

Bibliography: P. J. Rehtmeier, Braunechweigische Kirchengeschichte, iv. 458 sqq., Brunswick, 1715; J. K. F. Schlegel, Kirchen- and Reformations-Geschichte von Norddeutschland, vols. ii. iii., passim, Hanover, 1829-32; F. Ehrenfeuchter, Zur Geschichte des Katechiemue, pp. 7982 and supplement pp. 62-67, Göttingen, 1857; E. Koch, Geschichte'des Kirchenliedes, iii. 230-237, Stuttgart, 1867; C. A. G. von Zezschwits, System der . . . Katedutik, II., ii. 1, pp. 93 sqq., Leipsic, 1874; ADB, ix. 87 sqq.; W. Bode, Quellennachweis über die Lioder des hannoverieden . Gesangbuchea, Hanover, 1881; Julian, Hymnology,

p. 419.


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 08/11/06. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely