Recherche – Detailansicht








Wellhausen, Julius


Briefe. Hrsg. v. R. Smend in Zus.-Arb. m. P. Porzig u. R. Müller.


Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2013. XI, 887 S. Lw. EUR 79,00. ISBN 978-3-16-152518-6.


Peter Machinist

This substantial and imposing volume has long been awaited. And it was definitely worth the wait. It offers a treasure trove of sources on the life and achievements, the opinions and world views, the friends, colleagues, and family, the professional and personal sides of Julius Wellhausen, arguably the most prominent and most influential academic scholar of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible of the modern era, and one almost equally distinguished in Islamic Studies and the New Testament. Anything new about the man, therefore, is to be welcomed, all the more when it involves as much quantity and variety of material as this volume. The volume has clearly been a labor of love of its editor, Rudolf Smend, himself a major figure in Old Testament and the prime authority – the Nestor – for the history of Old Testament scholarship especially in the German-speaking world. It is so far the most formidable of his many publications on the work of W., drawing not only on his mastery of the Old Testament field, but on his intimate knowledge of W. descending from his grandfather, the first Rudolf Smend, who was W.’s student and then his Göttingen Old Testament colleague. Based on his own unpublished and several smaller published collections, Smend the grandson greatly adds to them from several decades of hunting in a variety of unpublished private and public archives; along the way, he has made available in published articles a number of excerpts. The final tally in this volume reaches 1092 letters, and this is not, as Smend cautions, definitive. In any case, the number is counterbalanced, he sadly notes, by the poor survival of letters to W. – none included in this volume – because no Wellhausen Nachlass exists: as a rule W. did not save the letters written to him, and his wife, after his death, apparently burned or had burned some of those that did exist.
The corpus represented in the present volume has been meticulously edited by Smend with the assistance of Porzig and Müller, two younger colleagues. The letters are given in chronological order, grouped according to the successive university periods in which W. studied and taught (Göttingen, Greifswald, Halle, Marburg, and back to Göttingen), and provided with the dates and places from which they were written. This allows a reader to follow the development of particular episodes, issues, and personal relation-ships in W.’s life often in a very close way. The annotations to the letters, while not an elaborate commentary, are yet concisely focused on essential items to be clarified, and include in this regard cross-references to other letters in the corpus. The annotations thus go a long way toward compensating for gaps in understanding created by the absence of letters sent to W. But Smend and his associates contribute much else besides. Eight appendices ( Beilagen) offer three early and previously unpublished essays of W. connected with the conclusion of his theology licentiate studies at Göttingen; another unpublished essay produced while a Privatdozent at Göttingen on emendations to the text of Isaiah; lists of courses that he took as a student at Göttingen and that he gave as Privatdozent and then professor at Göttingen, Greifswald, Halle, Marburg, and Göttingen again; a complete bibliography of his publications; and a list of all the obituaries of him. The bibliography is particularly important, because it updates and corrects the one that was published in his Festschrift of 1914, listing, for example, his brilliant essay of 1876 on the decipherment of cuneiform (819 ad 9a), which was absent in the earlier bibliography, and providing substantial, if not comp-lete listings of the reviews, translations, and editions of his books. But there is yet more. A generous selection of photographs of many of the colleagues, but also of friends and family to whom the letters are addressed brings these addressees into lively focus. And the indices to the volume are unusually full and detailed: they comp-rise all the addressees and the collections in which the letters to them are now located, and all the persons mentioned in the letters with brief biographies of each. The only index missing that would have been useful is of subjects discussed. As a last, but by no means unimportant, point, one must commend the publisher, Mohr Siebeck, for this latest example of their very high quality work. The printing is clear and very easy to read; the fonts for foreign lang-uages, principally Hebrew and Arabic, are precise and sharply de-fined; and the binding is firm and elegantly simple. There are, so far as I see, just a few minor slips: thus, pp. 660 ad 40:2 should be Erman, not Ehrmann; 663 ad 63:2 should refer to 543, not4; 666 ad 84:1 should be 1879, not 1779; 670 ad 107 should mark its last paragraph as n. 6; 694 ad 299:2 should be Leipzig, not Leizig; 732 ad 626 is missing n. 2; 672 ad 121 should note that this letter was previously published by A. Jepsen, »Wellhausen in Greifswald. Ein Beitrag zur Biographie Julius Wellhausens,« reprinted in idem, Der Herr ist Gott (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1978), 266–267: Anlage 5; 874 ad Olshausen, Detlef should be 1794, not 1994; and 887 ad Zimmern, Friedrich should be Zimmern, Heinrich.
The letters in this volume make too many contributions to the understanding of W. to be treated in full. But here are a few examples of the richness on display. We observe first the great number and variety of correspondents and others mentioned in the letters. The majority are academic colleagues and administrators, but there are also publishers of W.’s books and his family. This cohort grows in number and variety as W.’s reputation develops, particularly from the end of the 1870’s after the publication of his famous book, Geschichte Israels I (1878), revised as Prolegomena zur Ge­schichte Israels and translated then into English (1883/85). The most prominent, and most frequent, correspondents include the schol-ars, representing Bible, Islamics, Semitics, Church history, and Iran-ian studies, Paul de Lagarde, August Dillmann, Justus Olshausen, Abraham Kuenen, William Robertson Smith, Adolf Jülicher, Theodor Mommsen, Rudolf Smend (senior), Ferdinand Justi, Theodor Nöldeke, Adolf Harnack, Eduard Schwarz, and Enno Littmann; the government educational administrator, Friedrich Althoff; the publishers Georg and son Ernst Reimer and Walter de Gruyter; and W.’s in-laws, Charlotte and Heinrich Limprecht. Noticeably missing are W.’s parents; his wife, Marie, with one brief exception (No. 1080); his Doktorvater and powerful presence at Göttingen, Heinrich Ewald; and his close colleague at the Universities of Greifswald and Göttingen, the Classicist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. Their absence is doubtless, at least in part, due to the accidents of preservation. In the case of Marie, we could easily suppose that as she destroyed or stipulated the destruction of the letters to W. that she found (No. 1080 to her, written in 1916, toward the end of his life, gives her, it appears, legal disposition of his estate), so she may have done the same for his letters to her. For Wilamowitz, it is likely, as Smend notes, that W.’s letters were probably lost in the destruction of a part of Wilamowitz’s Nachlass during World War II. On the other hand, the absence of Ewald may perhaps be ex-plained as relating in some way to his very difficult personality and W.’s difficult relationship with him, even if it was to Ewald that W. dedicated his Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (a hint of this difficulty in Nos. 10, 65).
W. makes a vigorous appearance in this correspondence: honest, direct, keenly observant, and acutely sensitive to others. He is strik­ingly articulate, but in a style that is concise, even at times abbreviated, and to the point; moments of rhetorical expansiveness are rare and dictated by particular situations, as in requests to su-per­iors (e. g., Nos. 10, 16, 163). W. is not afraid to criticize the personalities and talents of his contemporaries, whether those of his own generation or his elders, and while at points he strives for a balanced view of positive and negative (so, e. g., for Dillmann in Nos. 136, 451), elsewhere he can be very blunt and even caustic (e. g., Nos. 76 [on Ahlwardt], 156 [on de Lagarde], 462 [on Gunkel and Meyer]) – his criticisms, in any case, always given in letters to others, never to the persons at issue (see his remark at the end of No. 108). And yet he is also ready to praise, when it is for him appropriate, commending his addressees forthrightly or writing to them about others, say, for a solid piece of scholarship from which he has learned much, even when it is critical of his own work (e. g., Nos. 25, 89, 122 [to and about Wilhelm Vatke], 199 [to Kuenen], 274 [to Robertson Smith], 94, 171 [to Jülicher]). The letters also show W.’s capacity for concern and s ympathy for the plights of colleagues (e. g., Nos. 169, 172 [about Friedrich Giesebrecht], and especially 972, 978–979, 983–986 [on Smend’s final depression and suicide]), and of his wife, whose constant illnesses are a prominent leitmotif throughout (e. g., Nos. 78, 84, 102, 103, 170, 374, 497). W., in sum, comes forth from these letters as someone who can appreciate approval as well as just criticism. He is not innately shy or self-effacing; but neither can he accept praise that looks like rhetoric and flattery (e. g., No. 257). He is a man, in other words, with an increasing sense of himself, hard-won in the highly charged environment of his Göttingen master, Ewald, and through the tribulations especially in the first half of his career, as he changed focus from Old Testament to Arabic, Islam, and Semitic philology, and university from Greifswald to Halle and beyond.
On this last point, which has been frequently discussed, espe-cially by editor Smend in his other publications on W., these letters have much to contribute.
Several of them, two of which were previously published, inform us about W.’s misgivings over the proper relationship of scholarship to theology (No. 32), about his own gradual recognition that while he remained intensely interested in the scholarly study of the Bible, it was not as a theologian, and so not as someone fit to teach Old Testament in a theological faculty (Nos. 121). The letters go on to illuminate his decision to try for the related area of Semitic philology in a philosophical faculty, and how he came to choose within that area, Islam and Arabic (Nos. 65, 67, 121). They then chronicle his developing turn, already at Greifswald, to this new field in teaching and research (e. g., Nos. 75, 76, 84, 87, 128–129, 133), and his concerns about his limitations in it, about whether he would be taken seri-ously (Nos. 107–108), as well as about public reaction to his leaving Old Testament and Greifswald (No. 133).
To take up one further matter, the letters also contribute to the understanding of W. toward Judaism and Jews – a subject on which he has often been accused of rank prejudice, manifest in his admittedly negative view of the priestly and legal portions of the Old Testament. The letters do offer examples of his view of »the Jews« as »other« – as a separate and different group (Nos. 139, 165, 177, 445), with different behavior: clannish (e. g., No. 165), occasionally contemptuous of non-Jews working in what they regard as their arena (No. 69), and calculating (No. 139). But such an attitude, if it would now be labelled as a mild anti-Semitism, was, as Reinhard Kratz observes ( Journal of Theological Studies NS 60 [2009], 396–400), virtually everywhere in Europe, not to mention elsewhere, during W.’s lifetime, and W. as a Christian intellectual could not have avoided it. Nonetheless, these letters do not show him as a rabid anti-Se-mite on the order of his predecessor at Göttingen, Paul de Lagarde. Indeed, Kratz explains, W. had positive relationships with Jewish colleagues, foremost among them the Hungarian Islamist and Semitist, Ignaz Goldziher, who is a not infrequent correspondent in this volume. He had also at least one Orthodox Eastern European Jewish student, Jacob Lauterbach (No. 415), who became a major scholar of rabbinics, and who always felt indebted to his teacher for his supervision (oral communication from Lauterbach’s student, Lou H. Silberman). And in a late letter (No. 1058), written during World War I (28.12.1915), we can feel W.’s sharp, even sarcastic reaction to the journalist Houston Stewart Chamberlain, whom he calls »ein fanatischer Judenhasser«. In all of this, did W. make any effort to acquaint himself with classical rabbinic literature and thought? The usual answer has been »no,« but the letters do suggest some interest, largely earlier in his career, during the 1870’s (Nos. 20, 22, 29, 51, 65), which, however, was never really developed, because the sustaining motivation was not there, blocked at least in part by his ambivalence toward Judaism as a »legalistic« religion (Nos. 67, 97). Lauterbach recalled that while W. did supervise his dissertation on a medieval Jewish commentary on the psalms, he said to him expressly that he could only really help him with the Judaeo-Arabic in which the text was written, not with the rabbinic argument and references (oral communication from Silberman).
Julius Wellhausen Briefe, in sum, stands as a major scholarly achievement – a model for how such correspondence should be collected and edited. Warmest congratulations are due, therefore, to Rudolf Smend, with Peter Porzig and Reinhard Müller, as well as the hope that the next stage of Wellhausiana, a full biography of the man, will not be far behind.