MacDonald on Paul, 'Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen als Theologe des hallischen Pietismus'

Matthias Paul
Gerald MacDonald

Matthias Paul. Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen als Theologe des hallischen Pietismus. Hallesche Forschungen Series. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014. viii + 512 pp. EUR 68.00 (paper), ISBN 978-3-447-10106-6.

Reviewed by Gerald MacDonald (Independent Scholar) Published on H-Pietism (June, 2016) Commissioned by Peter James Yoder

Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen as Theologian of Halle Pietism

Matthias Paul’s 2010 dissertation on Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen is the first monograph on Freylinghausen since August Walter’s biographical sketch, Leben Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen’s, Pfarrers in Halle (1864). Other than in a brief biography by Gustav Knuth, A. H. Franckes Mitarbeiter an seinen Stiftungen (1898), one encounters him primarily in short articles in all the major biographical, theological, and musicological German-language lexica through 2002. The four-volume Geschichte des Pietismus (1993-2004) has no part dedicated to him, and he is mentioned just briefly in several essays in those volumes. Paul’s biographical study of Freylinghausen is an attempt to correct what he—in my view—correctly sees as a historiography of Halle Pietism that has been too centered on August Hermann Francke.

The book is divided into eight chapters, and proceeds chronologically. Chapter 1 deals with Freylinghausen’s personal and scholarly development until he switched from the University of Jena to the University of Erfurt in 1691, a change that was precipitated by his “turn to Pietism” (p. 15), which is actually dealt with in chapter 2. The second chapter covers Freylinghausen’s time in Erfurt and his early period in Halle. Here Paul devotes considerable attention to Freylinghausen’s conversion experience, which stretched over several months in 1692. One difficulty in understanding Freylinghausen’s conversion, as Paul stresses, is that Freylinghausen’s recollection was first published in 1731, thirty-nine years after the event, and is told employing a strongly Franckian hermeneutic. At the end of the chapter, Paul discusses Ryoko Mori’s thesis that the large number of visions, ecstatic experiences, and chiliastically motivated events from 1689 to 1694 were ultimately replaced by the formalized scheme of conversion and institutional reforms, which were developed in Halle. Paul asks the question of whether these radical manifestations were actually overcome or whether they did not have more of an influence within the nascent institutions in Glaucha than has been previously appreciated.

Chapter 3 covers just two years, 1693-94, and deals mainly with Freylinghausen’s relationship to Francke, including Freylinghausen’s attendance of Francke’s exegetical lecture in the summer of 1693 and the former’s exegetical and hermeneutical studies of Genesis and the historical books of the Old Testament. Paul stresses Freylinghausen’s reading of Johann Wilhelm Petersen’s “Die Warheit Des Herrlichen Reiches Jesu Christi [...]” (1693) and his emphasis on the mystical meaning of the biblical text, especially where Old Testament passages anticipate events in the New Testament. It is thanks to Freylinghausen’s influence that Francke began paying attention to the mystical meaning of scriptural passages in 1701-2, even if he equated it with the spiritual or allegorical meaning of the text. Thus we have an example of “radical” ideas being assimilated in Halle Pietism, indeed by Francke himself.

Chapter 4 deals with Freylinghausen’s twenty-year period as Francke’s adjunct in Glaucha from 1695 to 1715. Paul examines their failed attempt to enforce church discipline in the small community as well as their limited success in establishing conventicles. The chapter concludes with the observation that Freylinghausen’s Grundlegung Der Theologie (1703) ultimately helped the cause of a church union between the Reformed and Lutheran confessions, even if that was not his intention. In the section of the book dealing with the Lord’s Supper, Freylinghausen refrained from emphasizing the differences between the two confessions’ understanding of the sacrament. This downplaying of theological incongruities helped pave the way for the eventual union that was to come.

Chapter 5 is a closer look at Freylinghausen’s theological development from 1695 to 1707. In contrast to the first four chapters, Freylinghausen’s theology, not his biography, is the focus. Paul’s attention here is on the concepts of repentance and conversion and what he calls horizons of expectations (Erwartungshorizonte, p. 126). His view of the future is generally optimistic, but he avoids making concrete eschatological predictions. He does, however, regard the reforming institutions at Halle as God’s instruments in improving society. Freylinghausen’s emphasis on religious perfectionism and ethical rigorism led him away from the Lutheran understanding of Augustine’s ecclesiology of a corpus permixtum. The individual has only a brief window of opportunity for conversion, and deathbed conversions are fundamentally suspect.

Chapter 6 deals with Freylinghausen’s involvement with Radical Pietism and Lutheran Orthodoxy between 1708 and 1714. Paul sees Freylinghausen distancing himself from the former and coming closer to the latter. In contrast to more radical interpretations of “signs and wonders” taking place in his time, Freylinghausen applied the term in a more limited fashion retrospectively, to the time of Jesus and his apostles. The hope for better times is fulfilled for him in the institutions at Glaucha themselves (as in chapter 5). Their success is proof of their divine approval. Paul sees Freylinghausen move closer to Orthodoxy in his increased emphasis on doctrinal purity, the objectivity of the means of grace, the pastoral office, and the sacraments. In addition, Freylinghausen rejected many opportunities to build alliances with more radical elements of the religious landscape.

In chapter 7, Paul continues his analysis of Freylinghausen’s theological and biographical development, which he began in chapters 5 and 6. From 1715 to 1739, Freylinghausen was mostly interested in establishing and defending the three preeminent institutions of Halle Pietism: the theological faculty at the university, the institutions at Glaucha, and the Lutheran church ministry in Halle. Paul presents his argument as he did in chapter 6. On the one hand, Freylinghausen distanced himself from radical elements in the religious scene, which in this case was personified by Christoph Victor Tuchtfeld, and on the other hand, he distanced himself from radical elements in the academic scene, which in this case was Christian Wolff. In addition, Paul presents Freylinghausen as a promoter of Halle in its power struggle with the Prussian court. Whereas Freylinghausen previously had espoused theological views pertaining to religious rites and the sacraments, which were implicitly supportive of a union between the Lutheran and Reformed confessions, he was now interested in maintaining the Lutheran church’s autonomy in the face of an overbearing Prussian state.

In the final chapter, Paul examines various controversies in Halle and Freylinghausen’s role in them. He concludes that Halle Pietism was not a monolithic movement. Paul identifies a conservative and a progressive faction and places Freylinghausen in the former. His position against August Gottlieb Spangenberg serves as an example of Freylinghausen’s conservatism. Spangenberg’s association with such radicals as Tuchtfeld, Inspirationists, and followers of Johann Georg Gichtel made him the very embodiment of the radicalism that Freylinghausen had rejected and viewed as a threat to Halle Pietism. Furthermore, Freylinghausen feared that in Halle Spangenberg was trying to implement the rival Herrnhut institutional model instead of the institutional model of Halle itself. A second controversy, in which Freylinghausen proved to be one of the “conservatives,” surrounded Siegmund Jacob Baumgarten and his integration of the philosophy of Wolff into his theology. Although he clearly disapproved of Baumgarten, Freylinghausen played down their differences in his letter to Friedrich Wilhelm I in October 1736, since it was not in his interest to portray a theological faculty in disarray and thus encourage a more active role on the part of the Prussian king. On the contrary, Freylinghausen wanted to buttress the autonomy of the Halle institutions.

In summary, Paul presents Halle Pietism as a “melting pot” of various socioreligious viewpoints (p. 409). He does not shy from a discussion of the term of “Pietism” itself, including its radical and churchly forms. Paul suggests that, historically speaking, Pietism should be understood as a social movement, which sought to change the institutional church. Since most radicals did not seek to reform the institutional church, Paul believes the term “radical Pietism” may become obsolete.

In his study, Paul makes thorough use of unprinted sources as well as Freylinghausen’s printed works. It is a refreshing contribution to the historiography of Halle Pietism, especially as it presents a detailed and nuanced picture of that movement, focusing on one of the leaders who had until now received little scholarly attention.

Printable Version:

Citation: Gerald MacDonald. Review of Paul, Matthias, Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen als Theologe des hallischen Pietismus. H-Pietism, H-Net Reviews. June, 2016. URL:

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