Department of Church history

The department of Church History In Göttingen is represented by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Thomas Kaufmann, Prof. Dr. Peter Gemeinhardt, Prof. Dr. Tobias Georges and Prof. Dr. Jennifer Wasmuth. In their teaching, Prof. Dr. Thomas Kaufmann and Prof. Dr. Peter Gemeinhardt cover all aspects of church history; temporal and thematic priorities arise in departmental research, in research-related courses, such as e.g. special seminars, and, of course, in the supervision of academic work.

History of the Department

With Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (1747-1755) the chair of Church History goes back to the founding of the Georg-August University. For more than a century Church History was represented by a single church historian (C.W.F. Walch 1757-1784; Gottlieb Jakob Planck 1784-1830; J.K.L. Gieseler 1831-1854; J.G.L. Duncker 1854-1875). In 1861 the department of was permanently split into two; one department with focus on the Early Church (Patristic), the other with focus on the Reformation.

Since that time, the chairs of the department of Early Church history have been held by: Hermann Reuter (1876-1889); Nathanael Bonwetsch (1891-1921); Carl Mirbt (1912-1928); Hermann Dörries (1929-1963); Carl Andresen (1961-1977); Ekkehard Mühlenberg (1978-2006), and Peter Gemeinhardt (since 2007). The chairs of Reformation and Modern Church History have been occupied by: J.A. Wagenmann (1861-1890); P. Tschackert (1890-1911); Emanuel Hirsch (1921-1936); M. Gerhardt (1937-1945); Ernst Wolf (1947-1957); Bernd Moeller (1964-1999) and Thomas Kaufmann (since 2000).

Oriental Church History, with a focus on Syrian Church History, has long been a Göttingen tradition which is mainly connected with the names of Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791) und Paul de Lagarde (1827-1891). Chairs have been held by Werner Strothmann (1958-1972), Wolfgang Hage (1975-1981) and Jouko Martikainen (since 1984). In 2001 Martin Tamcke took over the administration and the institute was affiliated to the Institute of Ecumenical Theology.

In the recent past, Church History was distinguished by additional professorships, such as in Lower Saxony Church History (Hans-Walter Krumwiede, Inge Mager) and in the History of Ecclesiastical Law (Anneliese Sprengler-Ruppenthal).

Research Area: Ancient and Medieval Christianity

Peter Gemeinhardt (* 1970) has his field of research in the history of Christianity from the beginnings to the high Middle Ages as well as in denominational studies. In addition to the intra-theological discussion with the exegetical, systematic and practical theological subjects, the cooperation with disciplines of the Faculty of Philosophy (Classical Philology, History, Islamic Studies, Religious Studies) is in the foreground. One focus of research is in the area of the history of education, especially on religious education in late antique Christianity in the context of its environment, as well as on the history of preaching in late antiquity. Furthermore, Peter Gemeinhardt works on questions of dogma history (doctrine of the Trinity), ecclesiology (church as institution and organization), and hagiography (late antique monasticism, understanding of saints and holiness in historical and comparative perspective). In 2022 his textbook on the "History of Christianity in Late Antiquity" was published in the series "Neue theologische Grundrisse".

The department is connected with the department for Patristic Theology; close co-operation continues with the Göttingen Centre for the Patristic Commission of the Union of Academies (Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Mühlenberg) .

Tobias Georges (* 1972) also has his field of research in the church history of antiquity and the Middle Ages. His research is characterized by its cross-religious and cross-cultural perspective. He is particularly interested in the topics of higher education and schools in early Christianity as well as theology and education in the occidental Middle Ages, in connection with contemporary conflicts between Christians, Jews and Muslims. Another thematic focus is the history of Western monasticism, especially in the context of the monastic reforms of the 11th and 12th centuries.

Research Areas: Reformation and Early Modern Times

Professor Kaufmann (b. 1962) focuses his research on the church history of the Reformation and early modern period. At the centre of his work are the theological, educational and social history of Protestantism and the cultural and political effects of the Reformation in the confessional age and in more modern times, which are analysed in a European context. Special attention is paid to the journalistic mass media of the age (sermons, pamphlets, and broadsheets, etc.). A further research area is the history of Protestantism scholarship in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Research Area: Ecumenical Theology and Orthodox Christianity

The research of Jennifer Wasmuth (*1969) focuses on the history and present of the Ecumenical Movement as well as the Russian Orthodox Church. In addition, the entire spectrum of Orthodox Christianity is considered in teaching, the Byzantine Orthodox Churches as well as the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Current political and social issues (especially Christian-Islamic coexistence and migration) also play an important role. The combination of ecumenical and specific confessional issues makes this thematic focus unique in Germany.