The Controversy Between Lessing and Goeze

1. The Herzog-August-Bibliothek is a historic library where Leibniz once served as director. Cf. Eric John Aiton, Leibniz: A Biography (Bristol and Boston: Adam Hilger Ltd., 1985), chap. 7.

2. The Reimarus manuscripts, part of which Lessing had published as Fragments from an Unnamed Author, were first published in their entirety in 1972. Cf. Hermann Samuel Reimarus, Apologie oder Schutzschrift für die vernünftigen Verehrer Gottes., edited by Gerhard Alexander, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1972).

3. For the life and thought of Goeze, the following writings are of some help: Heimo Reinitzer, ed., Johann Melchior Goeze, 1717—1786. Abhandlungen und Vorträge, Vestigia Bibliae, no. 8 (Hamburg: Friedrich Wittig Verlag, 1986); Heimo Reinitzer and Walter Sparn, eds., Verspätete Orthodoxie: Über D. Johann Melchior Goeze, Wolfenbütteler Forschungen, vol. 45 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1989); and Gerhard Freund, Theologie im Widerspruch: Die Lessing-Goeze-Kontroverse (Stuttgart-Berlin-Cologne: Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1989).

4. LM 18, 287 (Letter to Elise Reimarus of 6 September 1778); B 12, 193 (no. 1398).

7. Goeze was one of the most avid collectors of various versions of the Bible. His collection, handed down to the present, attests to his extraordinary collecting mania. Cf. Heimo Reinitzer, ed., Johann Melchior Goeze, 1717—1786. Lessing himself acknowledges Goeze's thoroughgoing knowledge of German versions of the Bible, saying, "So it might be rather difficult, for example, to prove that my unnamed author had as broad and fundamental a knowledge of all the Low German Bibles as the Hauptpastor has. Even the various versions of Luther's translation of the Bible itself can hardly have been so thoroughly well-known to him as they are to the Hauptpastor, who has made the extraordinary discovery that he can come within a hair of telling the extent to which the orthodox faith of the deceased matches up with each version" (LM 13, 195; G 8, 292 [Anti-Goeze, 9]).

8. B 9, 777. The Bahrdt mentioned here, incidentally, is Karl Friedrich Bahrdt (1741-1792).

9. With regard to this affair, Goeze, in Lessing's Weaknesses (in German), wrote as follows:

So I wrote to Mr. Lessing. With my letter I enclosed a sheet on which I had entered various unmistakable differentia of the copy in my hands, with references to page numbers and columns. I requested him to compare these differentia with the copy in the ducal library and, if they agreed, as I surely believed they would, simply to write at the bottom of the sheet the word "Concordat," to sign his name, and send it straight back to me. I held the greatest hope that my request would be fulfilled, all the more because I had had the pleasure of making his acquaintance in person during his stay here in Hamburg. During that time, he did me the honor of visiting me several times, and I spent some truly pleasurable hours in his company. . . . But my hope was in vain. No answer was forthcoming. (Erich Schmidt, ed., Goezes Streitschriften gegen Lessing, 94)

11. See Th. W Danzel and G. E. Guhrauer, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Sein Leben und seine Werke, 2d ed., vol. 2 [of 2] (Berlin: Verlag von The odor Hofmann, 1881), 434—35.

12. Cf. Franklin Kopitzsch, "Politische Orthodoxie: Johann Melchior Goeze 1717—1786," in Profile des neuzeitlichen Protestantismus, edited by Friedrich Wilhelm Graf, vol. 1, Aufklärung-Idealismus-Vormärz (Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1990), 72-79; Bernhard Lohse, "Johann Melchior Goeze als Theologe des 18. Jahrhunderts," in Reinitzer, ed., Johann Melchior Goeze, 1717—1786, 43.

13. Lessing made friends with the silk dealer Engelbert König (1728-1769) and his family during his Hamburg period (1767-70). Engelbert, however, died an unexpected death on a business trip to Venice in December 1769. He is said to have asked Lessing, who accompanied him halfway on his trip, to take care of his wife and children if the worst should happen to him. After Engelbert's death, Lessing therefore lent a helping hand to the young widow. In the course of time, love grew between them, and they were engaged in September 1771. But Lessing continued to be poor even after obtaining his post at the ducal library. And it took Eva a considerable time to liquidate her deceased husband's business. As a result, they had to wait over five years from the time of their engagement until they could marry.

14. The first half of Goeze's Something Preliminary against Court Counallor Lessing's Direct and Indirect Malevolent Attacks on Our Most Holy Religion, and on Its Single Foundation, the Bible (in German) was published on 17 December 1777. The second half was published on 30 January 1778. For Lessing, who had just lost his newborn baby and had been attending his dying wife day and night, Goeze's Something Preliminary, sent by his friend Eschenburg, must have been galling. In a reply to Eschenburg, he makes the ironical remark, "Thank you for sending me Goeze's treatise. These materials are now truly the only ones that can distract me" (LM 18, 261 [Letter to Johann Joachim Eschenburg of 7 January 1778]; B 12, 119 [no. 1336]).

15. Schmidt, ed., Goezes Streitschriften gegen Lessing, 13.

16. LM 12, 428-29; G 7, 458 (Gegensätze des Herausgebers).

17. Schmidt, ed., Goezes Streitschriften gegen Lessing, 13.

20. Ibid. To illustrate his own assertion, Goeze sets forth an example that is altogether characteristic of his argumentative style. "We want to call the will of the Lord, in accordance with which subjects should comport themselves, the rule for the country. But the book in which the Lord has his regulations drawn up may be called the constitution for the country. Now if a subject, in order to deprive the latter of its high reputation, were to raise an objection to it and argue to the judge that 'the constitution for the country is not the rule for the country, so objections to the former are not objections to the latter,' would such a counterargument have the power to justify him?" (Ibid., 15-16).

31. LM 12, 428; G 7, 458 (Gegensätze des Herausgebers). See the remark appended to note 36 in chapter 1.

32. Albert Schweitzer, in his The Quest of the Historical Jesus, refers to an apologue by Johann S. Semler in which this neological theologian ridiculously compared the editor of the Fragments from an Unnamed Author to a madman arrested on a charge of arson. See Albert Schweitzer, Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung, vol. 1 (Hamburg: Siebenstern Taschenbuch Verlag, 1972), 58. What Schweitzer referred to is the Anhang zur Beantwortung der Fragmenten des Ungenanten (Halle, 1779, pp. 10-15), published as an appendix to Semler's refutation of the Fragments from an Unnamed Author (B 9, 1346-50). It has been shown, however, that this apologue was written not by Semler himself but by a professor of medicine, physics, and mathematics at Halle, Johann Peter Eberhard. Lessing, though somewhat doubtful as to whether Semler was the author of this piece (cf. LM 16, 492; G 7, 681

[Sogenannte Briefe an verschiedene Gottesgelehrten]), seems to have been bitterly resentful of the author who had disparagingly compared the editor of the fragments to a madman, who "is not a criminal, only a little weak in the head" and would have had him sent to the "madhouse" (Tollhaus). He intended, therefore, to write a refutation of this piece, but his polemic was left incomplete and therefore unpublished (cf. G 7, 663; B 9, 719 [Gegen Johann Salomo Semler]).

36. Schmidt, ed., Goezes Streitschriften gegen Eessing, 24.

44. LM 13, 103; G 8, 127 (Eine Parabel). Italics in original.

45. Henry Chadwick, "Introduction," in Lessing's Theological Writings (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957), 24.

56. Schmidt, ed., Goezes Streitschriften gegen Lessing, 3: "I understand the publishing of the fragments that he organized, and the advocacy of the author that he took on himself, in terms of his indirect attack on our religion and on the Holy Scripture."

67. Albrecht Schöne, "In Sachen des Ungenannten: Lessing contra Goeze," in Text + Kritik 26/27 (1975): 3.

68. LM 12, 430; G 7, 460 (Gegensätze des Herausgebers).

70. See Lothar Steiger, "Die 'gymnastische' Wahrheitsfrage: Lessing und Goeze," Evangelische Theologie 43 (1983): 430-45.

71. William Boehart, Politik und Religion: Studien zum Fragmentenstreit (Reimarus, Goeze, Lessing) (Schwarzenbek: Verlag Dr. Rüdiger Martienss, 1988), 200.

72. Hermann Timm, "Eine theologische Tragikomödie: Lessings Neuinszenierung der Geistesgeschichte," Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 34 (1982): 5.

73. It is for this reason that Goeze has been ridiculed as a representative of "political orthodoxy" (politische Orthodoxie). See Franklin Kopitzsch, "Politische Orthodoxie: Johann Melchior Goeze 1717-1786." Cf. also Schmidt, ed., Goezes Streitschriften gegen Lessing, 24 and B 9, 754, 789-91.

74. LM 13, 128; G 8, 150 (Axiomata); cf. Freund, Theologie in Widerspruch, 157-220.

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