Johann Lorenz Schmidt,
Die göttlichen Schriften vor den Zeiten des Messie Jesus
nach einer freyen Ubersetzung,
welche durch und durch mit Anmerkungen erläutert und bestätiget wird,
The Wertheim Bible
When the emotional mysticism of the Pietists gave way to the prosaic, commonplace conceptions of the age of Enlightenment, attempts were made to replace the older commentaries by works conceived in the new spirit. The Wertheim Bible (1735) aroused great excitement in its day, both in Church and State, though its interest now is purely historical. This was only the first part of a projected whole, and contained merely the Pentateuch. The gist of the long, involved preface is that the traditional ideas about the Scriptures rested on prejudice and unscientific conceptions, and that the attempt was now made to found an exposition of their real meaning on adequate grounds of reason and historical evidence. It proposes to give a free translation, adapted to modern comprehension, though faithful in substance, and supplemented by the necessary explanations. The translation is hopelessly bald and common place to our taste; the editor showed some originality, however, as for example in venturing to discard the traditional division of chapters and verses. The general philosophical principles, as well as the critical and historical, are those of Wolf[f]; in spite of many blunders, a fair knowledge of Hebrew is displayed. The editor's name is not given, but it was soon known. He was Johann Lorenz Schmidt, a graduate of Jena, personally much respected, who was then tutor to the young Count von Löwenstein at Wertheim in Franconia. He was arrested at the beginning of 1737 and the book was confiscated by the imperial authorities. After a year's close imprisonment, he was allowed more liberty, and escaped to Holland. The literary war which raged around the Wertheim Bible was fierce and not uninteresting. In 1738 Schmidt published a collection of reviews and polemical pamphlets, with his own replies. His work found imitators; another of a similar nature, with modern deistic explanations, appeared in 1756, but had little success; and the excitement over the frankly rationalistic commentary of Nicolaus Funk (Altona, 1815) was not wide-spread (cf. J. N. Sinnhold, Ausführliche Historie der Wertheim Bibel, Erfurt, 1739).
* The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge,
“Bibles, Annotated, and Bible Summaries”.